Linguaphone, Lorenzo Dow Turner Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams
Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Years ago, I took the Harvard Dialect Survey. It was the first time I’d heard of a lot of different accent features, and also felt validated for some of my own. It is and was fascinating. You can still access the results, though the survey ended like 20 years ago. They break down over 100 different ways of pronouncing certain words or sounds. If you live in or are from the United States, you’re likely to recognize a lot of your own experiences.

Not that long ago, I came across an American English Dialects website put together by a professional linguist breaking down the different regional dialects, including displaying it all in a map. The site has so much on it I don’t even know where to start. But for those hungry for dialect data, it’s a treasure trove. They even include Canada!

I can imagine this would be extra hard with people being so mobile over the past many decades, and people like me are hard to nail down. I learned to speak in a couple of different areas from parents who were from even different areas, plus I moved around some and picked up some things along the way. Most of my speech is from The North areas on the site, but I definitely held on to “might could” from when I lived in Atlanta, because it’s such an efficient phrase. (Though I think that’s the only phrase I kept.)

Anyway, have fun with it!

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