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Determining A Person’s Origin by Their Language

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Despite the reach of television and pop culture, American English dialects are growing more diverse. Grant shows how it’s possible to pinpoint your region of origin — or at least come close — based on the way you pronounce the word bag. Of course, whether you call a carbonated beverage soda, pop or Coke also depends on what part of the country you’re from. Same with sofa, couch or davenport. Although we still tend to pick up faddish words from the media, local dialects continue to thrive, and there are plenty of quizzes out there to prove it. Linguist Bert Vaux’s American Dialect Survey includes helpful maps based on the answers that speakers in the United States give to 122 questions about regional words and phrases. This is part of a complete episode.

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  • Once, I mentioned to a sociolinguist that I’d grown up in New Mexico, and she wrote up a list of words to check me!

    We discussed this topic in my family recently and wondered: is there a particular time when these pronunciation differences are formed? My husband’s father was in the Army, so they moved around a lot when he was growing up – east coast, west coast, deep south, El Paso (TX), overseas. His parents both lived their entire lives in El Paso until the Army experience. Where would he likely end up on a dialect map – in the area where he lived at a certain age, or in the Southwest due to the influence of his parents?

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