This is, by far, the most interesting thing I read all day. A linguist argues that American regional dialects are pulling away from each other. Maybe because I’m an East Coast elitist I just figured that with geographic mobility and the prevalence of accent-free Mid-Altantic English on TV and in the movies you all would finally start speaking normal.
But, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
He talks about an area of 34 million people in a region called ‘Inland North‘ (roughly around the Great Lakes) where:
…it all started in the early 1800′s when the linguistic ancestors of this new dialect began to pronounce “a” in a distinct way: the pronunciation of “man” began to lean towards “mee-an”, at least some of the time. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that this sound change began to trigger a real domino effect.
What kind of effect?
This rearrangement, called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, is the result of a chain reaction of vowel changes on an epic scale similar to the process that transformed vowels from Middle English to Modern English between 1400 and 1600.
Really fascinating article well worth your time. I won’t spoil the surprise ending of why they suspect this polarization is occurring.
You can take a test of what some of these words sound like here (and be warned the whole site can be a time sink if you find this stuff interesting). For the record I only got 1 out of 5 correct.