Monday, August 18, 2014

Multiple Englishes

Last December, I blogged about the Multiple Englishes (or dialects) of the United States, and a quiz the New York Times posted that would try to guess where in the United States you were from.

Now, a new study discovers "global superdialects".

The researchers studied Spanish, and use of various words in tweets.  And, to their surprise, besides the expected regional differences they expected, they found two major "superdialects" in action. One was an urban superdialect, one a rural.  In other words, the way we talk is influenced not only by our region, but whether we live in an area of high population density, or low.

Here is my original blog post from December 2013. If you live in the United States, take the quiz (it's still active online) and see what you think.  Did it figure out where you come from?

The Multiple Englishes of the United States

Back in my college days, too many years ago, I majored in cultural anthropology.  One of the courses I took was Linguistics - specifically, the study of culture and language.

One thing our class had us do was to go out on our campus, flag students down and ask them to take a short quiz asking what they called certain things and how they pronounced certain words.

Most people who live in the United States know that we all don't talk the same.  We have different words for different things - for example, a carbonated drink might be called either soda, pop, or soda pop.  We pronounce words differently - in New York we call the thing on top of houses a "roof" and in the midwest they call it a "ruuf".  We call the thing you put groceries in at the checkout a "bag". They call it a "sack".

The differences between New York and, say, England, are even wider. A recipe published by a British blogging friend called for "chocolate hundreds and thousands". We call them sprinkles.  Others in our country call them jimmies.

So, if you live in the United States, do you want to know which English you speak?

It's easy-take this quiz.  Just 25 questions.  Some were the same questions I asked students some 40 years ago.  Others were new to me.

Right now, this quiz is so popular that several people have posted their results on my Facebook timeline.

My personal results were a blend of New York City (in the southeast part of New York State), Yonkers (a city that borders New York City about 2 miles from where I grew up in New York City) and Buffalo, New York (in the western part of the state). Since I've lived the past 25 or so years in the Southern Tier of upstate New York maybe a bit less than halfway across the state, this makes sense.

If you take this quiz: was it accurate for you?


  1. I love the title Multiple Englishes!
    I can assure you there are mutliple Englishes in England too! Plus more in Scotland and Wales and Ireland! Phew! ha, cheers,

  2. I was always curious to find out more about US' dialects, even though I am not a pure American. In my country there are distinct dialects and immediately as a person opens his/her mouth you know from which region they are. I will take that quiz, I am so curious.

  3. i love this! something that needs to be taught in schools

  4. Being from England, the test wouldn't work for me. This strange little island contains more dialects than you can shake a stick at. When I first arrived from Australia, I could hardly understand anyone but the Queen. Hehe.
    Alana, as one of my characters in the upcoming novel Shattered Shells, you speak in a similar way to me, although your accent might have a different twang. But that doesn't come across in the written word.

  5. Glad to know about this english languages, It's one of the biggest language in the world. I didn't know these things. Thank you sharing!

  6. There are so many UK dialects aren't there?
    I'm from the UK too, so it wouldn't work! :P


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