Dialexicon: map of US accents by county

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sun Dec 20 16:24:12 UTC 2009

I got the following response from the creator of Dialexicon. As people
who've responded may suspect, this doesn't actually seem to me so much a
linguistic project as an anthropological one or something else: Katey Szum
doesn't seem as interested in a representative sample of American English
as in potentially charting some migration patterns within the country (if
the zipcode information is put on the site). (S)he's also apparently
completely unaware of much of the dialectological work that's already been
done on American English, and of the good ways of collecting data. So it's
an attractive-looking project but, as has been concluded, not much
linguistic substance, unfortunately.



Hi Mr. Hall.

Thank you for your input. You raise very good points and I'll address them,
here. It became apparent very quickly that there is no way for me to police
the site for authentic accents and maintain the level of participation that
I am hoping for. Because people in the US move a great deal, it is quite
likely that a New York accent will arise in Florida, or a Boston accent in
Oregon (as is currently on the site). The simple step I have taken to
account for these migrations, is to have those recording their accents
include their previous zip codes. In due time I will add an element to the
website that shows the migration of the accent on the US map. As you
mention, work like this has been done before and I have found several
websites that include dialectic pronunciations, but Dialexicon approaches
American accents in a different manner. Other websites showcase a "correct"
or "proper" way of saying the word, or they look for an authentic accent to
 the variances in pronunciation. Dialexicon accepts all pronunciation as
correct (perhaps not proper) simply because they exist. No sense denying
evolution, I say. Once the site is populated more fully, I will be ready to
invest in adding the accent-tracking aspect of the site, which will account
for the evolution of new accents. I suspect that there may be some very
interesting accents around Boca Raton, Florida, where many Long Island, New
Yorkers retire. After 75 years of continuous migration, I suspect there
will be some influence. We'll see!

As for the absence of the term American in my text, I'll take a look at that
and rectify it.

When I started the site, I wondered about how to chose a list of ten words.
I did contact several linguists at universities in the US for some input.
While everyone was very kind, they all agreed that there was no such list.
In US schools penmanship skills are observed by writing "a quick brown fox
jumped over the lazy dog" because it has each letter of the alphabet. The
linguists I contacted agreed there was no comparable sentence for accents.
So, I found a list of American English phonemes and tried to incorporate
them all into the list. Keeping the list to ten words made it tricky, but
for my purposes I believe I picked a good list.

I do hope that of the 22,000 linguists on the Linguist List, that a few
hundred will find the site fun and be inspired to tell their friends about
it. The goal of the site is to present the data and allow the audience to
filter it how they will: linguists will wonder about accents and drunken
college students will laugh at them. Both are fine with me.

I really appreciate you taking the time to think about Dialexicon: what it
could be and what it should be. As the site grows it will evolve and I am
excited to see in what ways it does. Your support and feedback is
tremendously valuable. Thank you.

All the best to you,

Katey Szum

Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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