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The Greatest Dialect Map of 2011. So Far.

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How many times have you found yourself wondering how Cincinnatians pronounce the word “pin” but just couldn’t find a decent dialect map to provide the answer?

Well, problem solved.

Dialect hobbyist Rick Aschmann’s comprehensive North American dialect map is by far the greatest dialect map of 2011, so far. His painstakingly researched map reveals not just how different geographic regions pronounce words, but where one regional dialect ends and another begins.

For map and language lovers, it’s a dream come true.

Unfortunately, while Aschmann clearly excels at crafting detailed dialect maps he completely lacks any web design skills whatsoever. I mean just look at the page!

Despite its 1994-style layout, the site is still well worth a look. Here are a few highlights from his research.

  • State with the most distinct dialect areas: Pennsylvania, with 5.
  • The Great Depression, which resulted in over a million “Okies” moving into the Central Valley of California, is responsible for the region’s so-called “pin-pen” merger. (ponder that, Freakeconomists!)
  • State borders have no effect on dialect boundaries.
  • New Orleans has the most unusual dialect range, with some people sounding like they’re from the deep South to others sounding like they’re from New York City.

And as for how Cincinnatians pronounced pin, here’s what Aschmann has to say.

“Because of Cincinnati and Dayton (which clearly have “pin”<>“pen”), and because I made the invalid assumption that Gavin Veris from Chillicothe, who also has “pin”<>“pen”, represented the local “white” dialect, I assumed that the pin-pen line ran below Cincinnati and Chillicothe, so I failed to listen carefully to the samples for Urbana and for Yellow Springs, not noticing that they had “pin”=“pen”.

Yup, just as I had thought.
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