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Regional Dialects

Updated: Feb 13

By Sophia Zhu

Regional dialects...what are they?


A regional dialect is a distinct form of a language used in a specific geographical area. People living in the same place tend to follow similar language norms, like choosing certain words to describe an object, following modified grammar conventions, or using different tones and pronunciations for a given word. Depending on how prominent those variations are and how isolated a region is, there’s a spectrum of how much an individual’s dialect deviates from the standard version of that language.


Every country has regions with specific speech patterns that can help you distinguish where someone might be from. The United States has many that you might be familiar with—you probably speak with a regional dialect of your own!


Image by Josh Katz for Reader's Digest

Try it! If you read through the following conversations with as-written pronunciations, you can experience some of the linguistic variations that unique to different regions of the US. Can you guess where everyone is from?


Conversation A

Waitress: Welcome to the Continental Diner! Lemme get you folks seated. Kin ah get y’all something to drink?

Matt: What do youse want?

Sarah: Cawfee, black. And some wata fuh the kids.

Matt: Just wooder for me, miss.

Waitress: You bet! And watcha havin’ to eat?

Sarah: I’ll have pancakes, maple seerup on the side.

Waitress: We’ve only got corn sirrup, is that alright?

Sarah: Aw, fuhgedaboutit. I’ll do the mawning special. A baked potatah insteadah fries.

Matt: An omelet, wit cheese and onions.

Waitress: Morning special and an omelet—coming right out.


Conversation B

Eli: Jeet yet?

Austin: Sorry?

Eli: Did you eat yet?

Austin: Nah, but after the beach, I could like, totally go for a burrito right now.

Eli: Ahnestly, I don’t think this diner would have ‘em.

Austin: I’m good with like a couple sodas and burgers—I miss In-n-Out.

Waitress: Sorry for the wait, kids! What kin ah getcha?

Eli: Yeah, can we get two Sprites and two burgers please?

Waitress: I’ll put the order in and then I’ll be right out with yer cokes.

Austin: Wait, I thought you wanted like, Sprite?

Eli: I think she meant pop in general.

Austin: Huh. We’re still on for the mewvies after this, yeah?

Eli: Definitely.


The characters whose dialogues you read were from the following places. Did you get them right?


Waitress: Southern states

Matt: Philadelphia

Sarah: New York

Austin: West coast

Eli: Midwest

Sources

1. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/dialect-quiz-map.html

2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/02/what-dialect-to-do-you-speak-a-map-of-american-english/?utm_term=.899ffd6525eb

Editor: Jo Ann Sun

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