8 Vote

From time to time, we get questions such as "how to learn other Spanish languages," questions which confuse the differences in regional dialects with the differences between distinct languages. Often, to explain this concept, someone will make an analogy to English such as, "It's like the difference between the English spoken in the Southern United States and the English spoken in the Bronx" or "It's like the difference between English spoken in the UK and English Spoken in the US." That is to say that they are all the same language.

For some time now, I have been somewhat interested (somewhere between a passing fancy and a hobby) in the dialectical variations exhibited across the US as well as in the variations that occur within the UK. I just wanted to share a few of the links that I have come across to some of the more accessible websites which deal with this theme. Many of these websites offer numerous voice recordings (for comparison purposes) which might also be of use for those trying to learn English. My hope is that some of you might find these helpful or, at the very least, interesting. Enjoy.

Variations across the UK

IDEA: Dialects and Accents of England with voice recordings

BBC Voices: Voice recordings

BBC Voices: Interactive Language Map

Sounds Familiar: Interactive Language Map with Voice Recordings

Phonological Variation across the UK: Voice recordings with interactive map

Variations across the US

IDEA: Dialects and Accents of the United States with voice recordings

PBS: Do you speak American - dialects across the US

Language Samples Project - Varieties of English

Dialectical Survey with maps and results

  • This is very interesting,I will watch.Thanks Izan. - melipiru Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • thanks Izan just to help you: " languages" is spelt this way not langugues as in hyperlink above - FELIZ77 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Thanks Feliz77...I have fixed the error :) - Izanoni1 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Interesting that you used the word "fixed." Where I live that can mean anything from cooking dinner to repairing a car, or even being on the verge of doing something. ( I'm fixing to leave.) :-) - Delores--Lin Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • And I going for a "fix" (drugs) - ian-hill Jun 14, 2010 flag

11 Answers

2 Vote

These sites are great Izanoni. Thanks for doing all of the work and for sharing the information with us.

It is interesting just how many variations there are just within the United States. Even in the Philadelphia/NYC region where I live, we all have a particular accent. However, that basic accent is also flavored by our varying ethnicities.

I particularly enjoyed the one question:

Do you stand "in line" at the bank or "on line" at the bank. Where I live, it is very common to say "While I was waiting "on line" at the bank, etc." I know it sounds very strange, but that is what we are used to.

This is fascinating. smile

  • Nicole, we would say "in line" at the bank in England and I think this goes for most if not all UK too - FELIZ77 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Where I live (Louisiana) in line" is more common. - Delores--Lin Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • I believe "in line" is common pretty much everywhere, except for my region of the country. We talked about being "on line" way before computer technology made the term popular. :) - Nicole-B Jun 14, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I love it Nicole! If you are on the West Coast of the U.S. and someone says they "waited on line", they only think you were at your computer waiting for a page to load!

Also on the West Coast they have no idea what you are talking about if you order a "coffee regular"!

I think the regional differences in our dialects are fascinating as well.

2 Vote

Interesting links! I'll need some time to listen to them all.

Here in Masschusetts I hear a lot of "youse guys" (which is their way of saying ya'll).

We also have "wicked," as in "That's wicked good!" (which means very good).

  • Ï have a friend in Maine who used "wicked good" often with the meaning that you give. I like the way it sounds. - Delores--Lin Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • We also say "youse guys" in Philly. - Nicole-B Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • I have heard it used this way (as an intensifier) from people originally from that part of the country as well, but usually here they are saying that it is "wicked hot," to which is often replied, "Yeah, and it's not even summer yet" - Izanoni1 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Ayuh! Things up here in Northern New england are wicked good. - Yeser007 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • I thought we were the only ones who used "youse"it is going Global. - ray76 Jun 15, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Regional differences are the "spice" of languages. Thanks Izanoni for the links that you found. wink

1 Vote

As far as proper English is concerned....wink

Does anyone else know what a "hoagie" is?

What about "jimmies"?

For bonus points, I have explained this before in the forum, but does anyone know what "jeet" means on the streets of Philadelphia?

  • I don't know about in Philadelphia, but in Texas you might here somebody say "jeet" to mean "did ya (you) eat." "Jeet yet?"..."No not yet, I was waitin' for y'all" (or would it be "youse guys" :))) - Izanoni1 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Perfecto. :) - Nicole-B Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • A hoagie is a sub sandwich, and jimmies are like sprinkles.: ) (I lived in Northeast PA until I was eleven) - mar959 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Here in New Hamsha we know what hoagies are also but we call them subs as for jimmies, well, doesn't everyone call them that? - Yeser007 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • jeet=did you eat? My guess. - nizhoni1 Jun 14, 2010 flag
1 Vote

What a fascinating thread - thank you. I look forward to having the time to explore the links that you have provided, Izan.

The range of accents and dialects is truly remarkable. I am always particularly struck by the correlation between accent and the local landscape. For instance, Cork and Kerry, in the south west of Ireland are mountainous regions (well, in an Irish context; anywhere else they would be mere hillocks) and the accents there reflect that undulation, with the Cork accent being the most representative of the famous Irish "lilt". In fact, although I was born and raised in Ireland, though I have subsequently spent half my life in the UK, I find it nigh on impossible to follow a conversation between two natives either of these counties. Even if I am in a discussion with a Cork or Kerry native myself, it is like taking part in a conversation in a foreign language. There is a brief delay between the words reaching my ears and the meaning reaching my mind and there are often words used that I just don't understand at all - they are purely local in usage. Given that the entire population of the Republic of Ireland was about 3.5 million when I was growing up (now c4.5 million), it puts into perspective the variation that exists between regions within larger countries such as the US, not to mention between the various English-speaking countries worldwide.

With reference to some of the other postings, it really made to smile to read about the spread of "youse"...because I have always assumed that it was an Irish weed. If I hear a character in an American TV show use this word, I take it as a signifier that the character is meant to have Irish roots. (The same applies to the Scouse / Liverpool accent referenced in dandi's post.) Of course, there are also generally other indicators within the accent or language register too. So, reading your posts got me wondering last night and I came across this link, reviewing some research, "Methods and Data in English Historical Dialectology": [link text][1]

The review is only c4 pages long but the most pertinent passages are the following three paragraphs, if you would like to shortcut:

"One of the linguistic features discussed in Hickey’s paper is the origin of the second person plural form youse. Although there are a large number of devices available to differentiate StE you pl. from StE you sg., e.g. y’all, y’uns, ye, you lot, and Caribbean unu, the variant youse/yez [ju(: )z], [jiz], [jez], [jiz] is often assumed to be of Irish English origin, though today it is also found in colloquial American, Australian, New Zealand and South African English (Dossena and Lass 2004:200). The Irish English use of youse is thought to have been borne from a strategy of Irish speakers who were wont to distinguish the second person plural pronoun, as it exits in Irish sibh [ʃɪv]. The curiosity which Hickey addresses is the fact that such a form youse/yez is completely absent from eighteenth-century Irish English literature, including over fifty plays; Hickey also points out that the variant is absent from Maria Edgeworth’s (1767–1849) novel Castle Rackrent (1800), which attempts to display the speech of the native Irish realistically. Hickey goes on to note that the first attestation given by the OED is from Samuel Lover’s novel Handy Andy: A tale of Irish life (1842), which accords with Hickey’s Corpus of Irish English, where no attestations are to be found before the mid-nineteenth century. However, towards the end of the nineteenth century the form is common enough and is found in the works of John Millington Synge, Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan (Dossena and Lass 2004:201). On the whole, Hickey does seem to agree that the historical data, though somewhat tight, could nevertheless support the view of Irish influence on Southern Hemisphere and US English, as there was probably still enough mid-century Irish immigration to provide the necessary impetus for youse to catch on. One further fact that seems to support Irish origin of youse is that the form is found in only those areas of Britain where there was a proportionally considerable Irish influence. In this regard, Hickey cites Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow, adding that the form has spread from Glasgow into central Scotland. It should be pointed out that the form youse, often pronounced [ju:z] or [jəz], is at least as common on Teesside where substantial nineteenth and twentieth-century Irish immigration is also on record. In an abstract for a recent conference (NWAV 34) Barbara Fennell and Carmen Llamas tell us that “From the 1870’s onwards, Irish-born economic migrants accounted for one in five inhabitants in Middlesbrough, making the relative size of the Irish-born population second only to that of Liverpool in nineteenth century Britain” (see also Chase 1995).[1] It has often been noticed how Middlesbrough English, with several other unusual linguistic features, such as intonation patterns, nurse-vowel fronting to [ε:] and affrication of stops t > ts and k > kx/x, is often perceived as Scouse (see Kerswill and Williams 2000), and it will be instructive to see how many of these linguistic features can or cannot be accounted for by Irish influence in ongoing research."

One other significant point to remember about Irish English and its subsequent influence on other English accents and dialects, is that until the Great Famine period, c1845-1848, the vast majority of those living in Ireland were native Irish, or Gaelic, speakers. Most of them also lived in extreme poverty which is why the famine was so devastating. The 1841 census put the population at 8.2 million. By the end of the famine, some 1 million of those souls had died and another million had emigrated, mainly to America. Ireland's people has probably been its greatest export ever since (apart from the 10 years of the Celtic Tiger, of course), mainly the the US, Australia, NZ and, of course, our nearest neighbour, the UK. The famine had a huge effect on the national psyche, not least reflected in the belief that English was the language to speak because English speakers were perceived as being better educated and, more importantly, wealthier. English was the language of opportunity, just as America was the land of opportunity. Irish, or "Gaelige" as it is known in Irish, was a weight around the neck. The British Government's introduction of the 1870 Elementary Education Act provided the final nail in the coffin to Irish being a widely-spoken language so that by 1900 there were comparatively few native speakers left. So what has this to do with English? Well, Irish is a very different beast from English; it is a highly expressive and poetic language where the constructions and syntax are often widely at odds with the English translation. In many ways, it's more than a language - it's a different way of seeing the world. Therefore, even when the Irish acquired an English vocabulary, they tended to apply this in the context of the constructs that were essentially a part of them and their culture. The text's reference to "youse" mentions the attempt to make the two languages fit. Another example would be the Irish English: "I'm after doing my homework instead of "I have done my homework". To compensate for the loss of Irish's continuous present, we find the use of: "I does be going to work at about 9 o'clock", meaning "I usually go to work about 9 o'clock". There are many more of these constructs and variations that may be of interest to you if you live in an area that has, or has had, a strong Irish connection. As this post is already rather longer than I originally intended, I have found the following link that seems to be pretty accurate and provides more examples and further information: link text

If any of you have any particular questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.

[1]: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/hsl_shl/dossena & lass.htm

  • Sorry. Something seems to have happened to first link. Will try fix. If not, would appreciate if someone who understands site better could help me. Thank you - peregrinamar Jun 15, 2010 flag
  • All seems fine in edit but then reverts when I save. Here is url for link 1: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/hsl_shl/dossena & lass.htm - peregrinamar Jun 15, 2010 flag
0 Vote

Hi Nicole:

Even in the Philadelphia/NYC region where I live, we all have a particular accent. However, that basic accent is also flavored by our varying ethnicities.

This is true here in the Houston/Galveston area where I live as well, and I would daresay that there are probably more than a few distinct variations spoken over about a 60-100 mile radius.

Hi Marianne:

Here in Masschusetts I hear a lot of "youse guys" (which is their way of saying ya'll).

We used to have a neighbor that lived across the street from us who was from Chicago (by way of Detroit), and he used to say "youse guys" all the time, too (which I can tell you seemed extremely out of place for South Texas).

  • I think "youse guys" is a very urban expression. "What are youse guys up to?", etc. I don't think you will hear it much in other parts of the midwest though. - Nicole-B Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • "Thank youse" and "I'm here to see all youse" is something I hear a lot in Baltimore - 003487d6 Jun 14, 2010 flag
0 Vote

Nicole -- I think a "hoagie" is a submarine sandwich. I have no idea what a "jimmie" is...please enlighten us!

  • A hoagie is a submarine sandwich. We call the sprinkles on top of soft serve ice cream cones and other desserts "jimmies". They were created by a man named Jim who lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia. - Nicole-B Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • So youse guys in PA are taking credit for "Jimmies"? - Yeser007 Jun 14, 2010 flag
0 Vote

I have always wondered why I can barely ever tell if someone is Canadian or American from their accent, but I can tell if someone is from Manchester versus Sheffield.

  • Well I can say you would know the difference between Quebec and British Columbia. - Yeser007 Jun 14, 2010 flag
  • Just three little words,- "house, about , out" and you know they are Canadian. - ray76 Jun 15, 2010 flag
0 Vote

I have no idea what a "jimmie" is...please enlighten us!

History of "jimmies"

alt text

  • You're making me hungry Nicole, no fair! So it's just the sprinkles are jimmies, not the whole cone? - amykay Jun 14, 2010 flag
0 Vote

At some point there was a simple test published in Facebook, that purported to identify what regional US accent you were most familiar with. Accurately enough, it told me that I am most familiar with the New York State accent.

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