About those dialect maps making the rounds…

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably already seen Business Insider's "22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other." (Or, as it was originally titled, "22 Maps That Show the Deepest Linguistic Conflicts in America.") The piece has truly gone viral, garnering more than 21 million views, according to Business Insider. But there's been some confusion about the origins of the dialect survey data.

As Business Insider's Walter Hickey explains, the maps were generated by Joshua Katz, a PhD student in statistics at North Carolina State University. Katz's heat-map visualizations of dialectal variants are attractive and eye-catching, but they're based on a resource that's been readily available for about a decade now: the online dialect survey conducted by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder in the early aughts. The survey dates back to Vaux's time at Harvard — he later taught at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (which continues to host the survey results), and he is now at Cambridge University, where he and Marius L. Jøhndal are conducting the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes.

Vaux and Golder's survey was based entirely on the self-reporting of students and online participants, with questions given in multiple-choice format. The survey covered phonological variation (e.g., caramel, grocery), lexical variation (e.g., soda/pop/coke), and even some syntactic variation (e.g., Are you coming with?). Now, clearly this type of online elicitation is less than ideal for a dialectological study, particularly when it comes to the phonological variants. But in a relatively short amount of time Vaux and Golder were able to amass a sizable amount of data from around the country, without requiring an army of researchers making field recordings, as the Dictionary of American Regional English did with its famous Word Wagons.

The fact that Katz's maps are based on a decade-old survey has been lost in the media attention generated by the Business Insider piece. (When the piece first went up, after Katz's mapping project was posted on the linguistics subreddit on Reddit, it didn't even mention Vaux and Golder, but that was eventually rectified.) See, for instance, this segment on the Today Show:

This is hardly the first time that Vaux and Golder's survey has been repurposed with its provenance lost in the process. As Vaux writes on his website,

In 2011 or so, people started posting on youtube videos of themselves performing their answers to some of the questions on my old Harvard Dialect Survey. This internet phenomenon normally goes under the name "(Regional) Dialect Meme", "Accent Tag", or "(Tumblr) Accent Challenge".

Vaux posts links to a selection of the hundreds of videos that have been created. The Regional Dialect Meme also popped up recently in a WBEZ piece on varieties of African American English in Chicago and around the country. Even though the writer was conscientious enough to interview such sociolinguistic experts as Richard Cameron, Dennis Preston, John Baugh, and Walt Wolfram, Vaux and Golder again go unmentioned.

It's heartening to see so much public interest in dialectal variation, but it would also be nice to give credit where credit is due.

(The voracious public appetite for dialect maps makes me hopeful that the forthcoming digital edition of DARE, complete with more maps than you can shake a stick at, will be a raging success.)

[Update: More thoughts on the maps from Asya Pereltsvaig on GeoCurrents.info.]

[Update #2: More on Katz's maps from North Carolina's News & Observer, and more on what digital DARE has in store on the Harvard University Press blog.]


  1. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 6, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

    As long as you're giving credit, how do you pronounce "Vaux"? When I first saw the name of the bird Vaux's Swift, I guessed it was /voʊ/, but it turned out to be /vɔks/.

    Katz's maps are very nice, and normalizing the results to population density makes them much easier to understand, unless you happen to be deuteranomalous or something. Grrr…

    And to hijack the thread, I'm not suffering from the recency allusion: "short amount of time" really is recent.

  2. AJD said,

    June 6, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

    /vɔks/ is correct. Apparently it's from a southwestern-England variant of 'fox'.

    I'm also glad they changed the title from "the Deepest Linguistic Conflicts in America", because most of the features these maps illustrate are pretty superficial.

  3. Dave K said,

    June 6, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

    Jerry —

    It's /vɔks/. Bert and I were fellow linguistics students at the University of Chicago back in 1989-90, he as a fourth-year undergrad, I as a first-year Ph.D student, and have stayed sporadically in touch over the years. (A feat now made much easier by Facebook, where Bert is a prodigious poster.)

  4. Pia said,

    June 6, 2013 @ 11:32 pm

    I so do agree! Firstly, those data show no real difference between 'how we speak English'. Then I must admit: the different way of pronouncing 'caramel' our 'Mary', 'marry', 'merry' thing is old stuff and no, it doesn't highlight any particular lexical variation, despite the title promising an enormous variation in how Americans speak English.
    For real variation I'll wait for the next two centuries. Too bad I probably won't make it!

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 6, 2013 @ 11:34 pm

    Thanks to AJD and Dave K for the pronunciation and the interesting origin.

    And of course "totally differently from each other" isn't that much more accurate than "linguistic conflicts", though at least it's less sensational.

  6. Lazar said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 12:00 am

    I had known of Vaux's survey for some time, but these new maps are an improvement over the originals, where individual datapoints are piled on top of each other. Overall the questions are good, but I would have gone for a closer examination of phonology – for example, the "father-bother", "serious-Sirius" and "hurry-furry" distinctions are only indirectly dealt with in the questions on "crayon", "syrup", "miracle" and "flourish", in which things are obscured by the existence of three or more common variants.

  7. John F said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 3:49 am

    Ah, like Vauxhall.

  8. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 4:18 am

    I'd love to know what was going on with Are you coming with? – there seems to be little significant geographical difference there.

    As I mentioned under another LL post a while back, a not very scientific survey of my friends in London showed that it was only the Jewish ones who had this expression. If this is some sort of calque from Yiddish and/or German, you might expect a distribution with high concentrations in areas with lots of Jewish and German-origin people, but lots of other ethnicities who don't use it living in the same areas too. Not sure if that's what we have here, though.

    Also, I'm a bit surprised by the use of [ɒ] in the keys to these maps, for the vowel in words like saw (presumably as pronounced in a mid-American accent?). Is that vowel really used much?

  9. Lazar said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 5:01 am

    @Pflaumbaum: Oh, it's used a lot – more so than a true [ɔ], let alone the mid [ɔ]~[o] of southern British English. Outside of a few conservative pockets (notably a corridor extending from Baltimore to Rhode Island), the historical /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ are either distinguished by roundedness and frontness or merged entirely. /ɔː/ has become sufficiently differentiated from /ɔɚ/ that some speakers, like me, use it to maintain echoes of the mostly extinct horse-hoarse distinction (e.g. "Lara" [ˈlɑɚ.ǝ], "Lauren" [ˈlɒː.ɹǝn], "Laura" [ˈlɔɚ.ǝ]). When Americans do a bad British accent, one of the most common signs is that they'll use a too open /ɔː/, unaware that words like "caught" and "court" need to have the same vowel.

  10. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 5:35 am

    Thanks, Lazar. I didn't realise LOT was rounded in most Americans' speech, I tend to hear it as /ɑː/. Someone needs to tell Wikipedia… its IPA for English Dialects page does give "ɒ~ɔ" for those without the cot-caught merger, but its English Phonology page has no /ɒ/ for General American.

    Geoff Lindsey had a good post a while back on what you call "the mid [ɔ]~[o] of southern British English".

  11. Lazar said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 5:47 am

    @Pflaumbaum: No, LOT is unrounded in most Americans' speech – it's merged into PALM with [ɑː]~[a:], although CLOTH merges into THOUGHT. The historical checked /ɒ/ phoneme is totally extinct in North America. But THOUGHT has become sufficiently opened (and divergent from the vowel quality of NORTH-FORCE) that it's arguably better transcribed as /ɒ:/.

  12. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    Ah okay, I'm with you.

    A rounded /ɔ/ was very notable in Rosamund Pike's LOT in Jack Reacher, it really cut through her attempted American.

  13. Ellen K. said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    I find the different shadings (dark and light) on the maps very interesting. There's no explanation with the maps, but it seems to mean the darker areas have a stronger preference for the word that matches the color than the lighter areas do. It gives more nuance than if the maps just had lines separating areas with different preferences.

  14. Geoff Nathan said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 8:04 am

    In response to Pflaumbaum's comment about 'coming with'–I have it natively.

    I grew up in Toronto, but my parents spoke British English (London, Leeds) and were Jewish. I'd never noticed British connection. It's traditionally attributed to Pennsylvania Dutch influence but I've never believed that because it's in my dialect.

    FWIW neither of my parents spoke Yiddish (except for the usual catchphrases), and neither did their parents–the usual second generation rejection syndrome.

  15. D-AW said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 8:05 am

    Even the maps with near solid colouring can be interesting: see e.g. #112 at
    http://spark-1590165977.us-west-2.elb.amazonaws.com/jkatz/SurveyMaps/ (the background for which may be a certain nickname given to Vaux by some of his Harvard students in the late 90s)

  16. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    @ Geoff Nathan –

    It's the same with me and my London contemporaries – we don't speak Yiddish and our parents generally only have a smattering. The Jewish thing may be a red herring – perhaps it's a North London thing, and there just happen to be lots of Jews from North London?

    It would be interesting to know if there are American speakers who have two other objectless expressions – Do you want? and Did you enjoy?. I think that among my friends these are also exclusive to the Jewish ones (though only a few of them use these, unlike Are you coming with).

  17. Ben said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:12 am

    @Pflaumbaum: You don't see significant geographical difference in the "coming with" map? It's unmistakably a calque from German, and it predominates in the most heavily German areas: SE Pennsylvania and the northeastern Great Plains. For what it's worth, I don't know any Yiddish verb that's cognate with German mitkommen. You'd be understood if you said it, but it would sound pretty clunky.

    General protip: The individual maps (as opposed to the composite ones) sometimes reveal more.

  18. Bill W said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    "Are you coming with" also matches Scandinavian languages, e.g., Danish "Du komst med?", and maybe Norwegian, too. (Of course, in those languages, it's also probably a calque on German or Plattdeutsch). In my anecdotal, non-scientific experience, it shows up in parts of the US where Scandinavian heritage (as well as German) is widespread, e.g., Wisconsin, Minnesota.

  19. Rowland said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:23 am

    I'm studying Linguistics at Cambridge starting October and Bert is the professor at the college I'm going to. It's kinda weird reading all this indirect stuff about his work.

  20. Bill W said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:24 am

    Focusing on the soda/pop/coke map, what happened to "tonic" in New England?

    And there should be a map for "tea — hot or cold?". Again, an anecdote: I once visited a New York delicatessen restaurant with some friends from the deep south, who were utterly baffled when they ordered "tea" and got hot tea.

    [(bgz) Katz noted on Reddit that he has thus far only mapped the top four variants for each set. "Tonic" is #5 (results here).]

  21. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:27 am

    I seem to recall first frequently encountering the "coming with" construction when I started college, where I associated it with people who'd grown up in or near NYC, from which I inferred it was likely a Yiddishism (although none of this involved rigorous data collection and analysis). Of course it could equally well be a Germanism — people focus on the Pennsylvania Dutch because they're the ones whose ancestors arrived first and the ones who didn't have their distinctive linguistic culture stomped out by Woodrow Wilson, but the 19th century German immigration was massive and even unto this day "German" is the most commonly-given answer to the US Census open-ended questions about ethnicity/ancestry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:German1346.gif is a map of the geographical distribution (in terms of percentage concentration) of people who self-identified as having German ancestry in the 2000 census; I think if you were able to supplement that map by adding the distribution of those with Yiddish-speaking ancestors (more challenging because the federal government does not keep stats on religion and for census purposes does not view Ashkenazic-Americans as an ethnic group), you might get something approximating the "coming with" distribution.

  22. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:34 am

    Of course, New York City had lots and lots and lots of goyische German-speaking immigrants and until well into the 20th century lots of distinctively German neighborhoods. For a variety of reasons those have all been assimilated into oblivion (although there's still a Steuben Day parade on 5th Avenue . . .) but now I'm wondering if that recent invisibility might lead one to underestimate the influence of German (as compared to e.g. Italian/Yiddish/IrEng, where the ethnicities associated with those ancestral languages are still very visibly present) on NYC-area regionalisms.

  23. Ben said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 10:04 am

    @Bill W: Good point. In fact, the Upper Midwest "coming with" area tracks Scandinavian settlement even better than German. Perhaps that's why we Chicagoans say it; after all, Chicago was at least 10 percent Scandinavian in the late nineteenth century. Interesting, though, that people think of this as an NYC thing; perhaps New Yorkers do say "coming with," but my impression from over a decade in that city is that they don't say "bringing with," "taking with," "having with," etc., the way Chicagoans do. There's a nice moment in the movie version of American Buffalo where the character played by Dennis Franz says "I don't want it with," and it sounds perfectly natural, and the character played by Dustin Hoffman responds, "Well, I want it with," and it sounds terrible, perhaps because you can hear Hoffman's internal resistance to the phrase.

  24. Dave K said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    I have "are you coming with?" natively — it's the most natural thing in the world to me, and in fact it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that there are people who don't/can't say it. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs from the age of two, but was born in Cincinnati to German Catholic parents. I've heard people identify this construction with the heavy Scandanavian population in the upper Midwest (Minnesota/Wisconsin), but it seems to be standard in the Chicago area too.

  25. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 11:38 am

    @ Ben –

    Yiddish may not use mitkommen, but the question is whether it strands mit in this way.

    You don't see significant geographical difference in the "coming with" map? It's unmistakably a calque from German, and it predominates in the most heavily German areas: SE Pennsylvania and the northeastern Great Plains.

    Well it looks like NYC and much of New England too, plus chunks of California… in fact, to this foreigner it looks like pretty much everywhere where there are people there's a fair number of comingwithers.

    Looking back at the previous discussion I asked about this in, one commenter said the construction was also common in Australia, and credited it to a calque of Kom jy saam. Maybe we have convergence of multiple calques here?

  26. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    Sorry, I meant South Africa, not Australia.

  27. markonsea said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    @ J. W. Brewer: you wonder "if that recent invisibility might lead one to underestimate the influence of German", and you may be right.

    As a Brit wot speaks German, I've noticed more and more confirmation of German influence on American English: there are countless examples, of which I can only bring one to mind, and I plead a foreigner's ignorance if I've got it wrong.

    "What was that?" has sentence stress on the final word in British but on the second word in American, right? Second word in German, as well. German influence goes well beyond the lexical and syntactical.

  28. richard said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    Yahey to the prevalence of "come with" in Wisconsin, along with many other similar constructions. One that struck me the other day was a diner menu listing side dishes as "go withs," which I don't recall seeing before (but I don't spend a lot of time in diners these days, more's the pity).

  29. Amy Stoller said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 11:58 am


    Hardly. In American English you can stress any of those three words, and achieve a different meaning, or at least a different nuance, depending on which stress pattern you've chosen. Stressing the first word is probably rarer, as there are other expressions we'd be likelier to use, such as "WHAT did you say?" or "Say WHAT?" or "WHAT was that, now?" – all of which can have a non-literal meaning like "I can't believe my ears/your gall."

    It's harder for me to pin down the difference between second-word and third-word stress (perhaps it's very slight, or maybe I merely imagine it), but I think I might use them in different circumstances, and I'm pretty sure I'd use third-word stress most often. Perhaps the difference is not one of nuance, and more of regional or individual speech pattern.

  30. Ron said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    @Bill W:

    I'm from New York, so there was not only "tea" vs. "iced tea", there was "skiing" vs. "water skiing". When I moved to Nashville I was surprised to find "tea" vs. "hot tea" and "skiing" vs. "snow skiing".

    I was at Vanderbilt to become a "lawyer", which was definitely pronounced "law-yer", with the second syllable unstressed but definitely not swallowed. When I moved back, however, I was at least in some neighborhoods a "loyuh".

  31. LC said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    Re "Are you coming with?" Definitely related to construction of Germanic languages (including Scandinavian variants). The same thing shows up in northern France, along the Belgian border ("Tu viens avec?")–the towns most immediately on the other side of the border are Flemish-speaking. But interestingly you don't typically hear it in Haute Savoie, whose nearest Swiss neighbors are French-speaking.

  32. Ben said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    @Pflaumbaum: Yiddish may not use mitkommen, but the question is whether it strands mit in this way. Yes, that's right; good point. Yiddish does essentially do that (or rather, it has mit- as a separating verbal prefix, and these behave in Yiddish for the most part as they do in German). But now that my brain's been directed toward Scandinavian, I think it's worth noting that here Scandinavian is more like English than German and Yiddish in these matters, with true verbal complement stranding, in distinction to separating prefixes. So it looks like this feature may be polygenetic in origin, and perhaps diverse in realization: that is, it could be that "come with" developed in Dutchy English as a calque of German, and a more general "with" stranding developed in the Scandinavian parts of the Upper Midwest (and Chicago). As to the question of geography, though: Are you sure you're looking at the right map? The one I see has a very clear geographic distribution. It could be the server is being hinky and showing you the previous map you'd looked at while claiming to be showing the "come with" one (there does seem to be a fair amount of server hinkiness going on).

  33. Walter Burley said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

    Peter DeVries's New Yorkerish story "Different Cultural Levels Eat Here" (hard to excerpt but available in full at http://archive.org/stream/withoutastitchin013471mbp/withoutastitchin013471mbp_djvu.txt) offers a potentially relevant sociolinguistic data point.

    The piece features an urban short-order cook who routinely asks customers whether they want their hamburgers "mit or mitout" [onions]. He's offended when four theatergoers stop off at his diner and one of the women finds his phrase charming. "'She said I was wonderful,' the counterman [complained to his boss], pointing. 'And I don't see that I have to take it from people just because they're customers, Al.'" Things go downhill from there.

  34. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    I'm interested in the 'The City' map. The question gave only three cities as possible choices: New York, Boston and Chicago. But the results for 'other' show some notable splodges which must represent specific other cities, including a particularly large one around San Francisco.

  35. Greg Malivuk said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: "unless you happen to be deuteranomalous or something. Grrr…"

    Yeah, it's no walk in the park with protanomaly, either. It was a lot clearer to just look at the sets of three or four separate heat maps you can see on the page for the complete set of questions.
    – – –
    I had been vaguely aware of the original data before seeing these new visualizations of it, in that I'd seen the raw maps for soda/pop and the pronunciation of "aunt". While it's too bad so few of the popular reports have explained where it came from originally, I agree that the with the new maps it's a lot easier to see what's going on.

  36. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    Updating DeVries, when ordering a cheese steak in Philadelphia one traditionally specifies "wit" or "witout" (the object of the preposition is grilled onions, but everyone knows that from context and only a clueless tourist would make it explicit); if you don't take the initiative, you may be prompted "wit or witout?" by the ordertaker.

  37. Mario said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    It would be useful for the Mary-merry-marry question to ask about Murray as well. My understanding is that many in the Philly to Maryland area merge merry to Murray, but keep Mary and marry distinct.

  38. Gene in L.A. said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

    Amy Stoller: I understand the difference between second and third word stress. It's harder to explain than to use or to hear. Second word stress seems to impart a feeling of awe toward the object, while third word stress is a more straightforward questioning. I would ask "What WAS that" of a sound whose nature or source I was unsure; "What was THAT" is a more direct request for someone to repeat a word or phrase I hadn't quite caught. Second word stress seems more emotional. I apologize if that's not clear.

  39. Keith Ivey said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    Lazar, isn't "father-bother" dealt with more by the "cot-caught" map than by "crayon"? The "crayon" question seems poorly designed, since it relies on a distinction between "ahn" and "awn" that most of the western US doesn't make and may not even be aware of.

  40. Keith Ivey said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    Well, "dealt with" is wrong, since it's a different distinction, but maybe "related to". At any rate, I don't think "crayon" helps.

  41. JR said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    His color scheme works well for some words, but for others it confuses people. People from the "bubbler" area of Wisconsin were saying, "That's weird. I don't call it a bubbler." On the original maps, it is clear that not everyone from that region calls it a bubbler.

  42. Bill Walderman said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

    I think "tu viens avec?" is fairly widespread in the Francophone word, and isn't limited to just the Franco-Belgian border. Maybe Marie-Lucie could set us straight on that.

  43. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

    I think that for me, "WHAT was that?" is angry; it's like "I beg your pardon!" meaning "You'd better tell me you didn't say what I feel sure you said." "What WAS that?" emphasizes my complete inability to guess. "What was THAT?" emphasizes the strangeness of the object.

    Greg Malivuk: Solidarity, brother! But I have to admit these data are hard to show in a way that works for you and me. Separate maps are better.

  44. Greg Ralph said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

    On the "wit – witout' question, in Dutch cafes (in the Netherlands) you can be asked "met of met zonder" i.e. with or with without, to establish whether you want milk in your coffee, not the "met of zonder' that logic would seem to expect.

  45. Lazar said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

    @Keith Ivey: The cot-caught question isn't really suitable here – it can identify people who definitely don't have the father-bother distinction (because no one in North America makes both), but among the respondants who merge cot-caught it tells us nothing of whether they distinguish father-bother.

    I should note, I have a bit of an issue with the way these mergers are described in AmEng, with eastern New England and the West both characterized as cot-caught merged, and father-bother regarded as a secondary concern. In my mind, eastern New England has more in common with the middle of the country than it does with the West – both eastern New England and General American maintain /ɑː/ (PALM) and /ɒ:/ (THOUGHT) phonemes, with the only difference being that LOT merges with THOUGHT in ENE, and with PALM in GA. This, to me, is fundamentally different from the "cot-caught merger" of California, where all of these phonemes are merged into one. That, I would refer to as a true low-back merger.

  46. Lance said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

    I guess I've been living under a rock.

  47. Thomas Stuart said,

    June 7, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

    @ Lazar: I've read that (PDF p. 107) a few older people from near the border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts make a three-way distinction between PALM, LOT and THOUGHT. I also remember that in the New York City chapter of the Atlas of North American English there was 1 speaker whose speech they analyzed who may have had a 3-way distinction. I write "may have" because it didn't seem like the researchers were 100% sure about it. I'm not disagreeing with your overall point though. I just thought you might want to know that.

  48. Anthony said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    If I say the sentence "I thought the palm trees were in the parking lot", the vowel in "palm" sounds slightly different to my ear than the other two, but that may just be coloring caused by the following 'l', similar to (but weaker than) the coloring caused by 'r's.

  49. Alex Blaze said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    "self-reporting of students and online participants"

    I participated in some of these while in school – students aren't representative of the population generally. And self-reporting? Even if it's not multiple choice it still makes the results unreliable.

    Cute, but that army of researchers was actually doing good work.

    BTW, I'm old enough to remember when journalists would cite online polls that anyone could vote in any number of times. Real research is hard but the media can't tell the difference, so fake research's ability to put out cute results quickly garners people's attention.

  50. Suburbanbanshee said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    Why would crayon be just ahn/awn? People say "crayun" and "cray'n" too.

  51. Ellen K. said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

    Suburbanbanshee, your question fits with something I was thinking about [pi:'ka:n] pee-KAHN and [pɪ'ka:n] pick-AHN. Which is that this likely more reflects how people THINK about the words rather than how they come out in fluent speech. I really have to question how many people really truly regularly say [pi:'ka:n], rather than some sort of reduced vowel in the unstressed first syllable. But I can see people thinking of the word that way, answering a survey that way, but when the speak it tends to come out as a reduced vowel. I hadn't thought of it till reading your post, but the crayon pronunciations have that same issue. Though it does include the version (how I say it) that has no second syllable at all.

  52. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    @ Anthony –

    Are you talking about a historical process that resulted in different vowels, or do you actually pronounce the 'l' in palm?

  53. Lazar said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

    @Ellen K.: I agree, I was also surprised by the reported prevalence of /piː'kɑːn/. I'm not sufficiently familiar with pecans to be loyal to any particular pronunciation (I vacillate between /'piːkæn/ and /pǝ'kɑːn/), but on an intuitive level /piː'kɑːn/ strikes me as unlikely for American English – I'd only expect to hear it from the sort of person who produces a Michigan-style /diː'lɪvɚ/ for "deliver".

    Speaking not of the respondants but of the maps themselves, I noticed that map 15 shows all of the New England states being firmly in the "sub" camp, even though Vaux's data indicate that "grinder" is the most common term in Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In this case, Katz may have made an error assigning data into his own broader "other" category.

  54. Larry said,

    June 8, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

    @ Lazar: In my experience, there are people from all over the country who occasionally don't reduce the unstressed vowel in some words where there is "supposed" to be a reduced vowel.

  55. Paul Johnston said,

    June 9, 2013 @ 1:53 am

    That NY speaker with a 3-way distinction could have had an allophonic difference (as I do) between a central LOT vowel and a back PALM one, conditioned (among other things) by whether the next consonant is voiceless or voiced. THOUGHT is a totally distinct vowel from both (and an ingliding diphthong starting with a high-mid vowel for me). The only NEw Yorkers I've heard with a rounded LOT vowel are upper class born pre-1900 (like FDR). They may have an RP-like 3-way distinction, but no one younger I know of. Even Jackie Kennedy didn't have that.

  56. tristan forward said,

    June 9, 2013 @ 5:02 am

    i clicked on the map, hoping to ENLARGE it, and was instructed that I can "CLICK TO EMBIGGEN"

    [(bgz) Yes, yes, it's a perfectly cromulent word.]

  57. Pat said,

    June 11, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

    I wish they had a map of where people use /ey/ in the word "egg" (and in "leg"). I'm curious about what the geographic distribution of that feature is.

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