US Dialectal Differences

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Cr-eek. Cr-ik.

Pa-jaw-mas. Pa-jam-us.

Pop. Soda. Coke.

We all speak English (well, at least those reading this blog, since it’s the language I’m writing in), but we speak it differently.

Dialects play an important role in how we pronounce different words in a language. Dialectal variations can be due to where a person grows up or to cultural differences. A child who grows up with a Spanish influenced English will probably say a ’d’ for a ’th’, and a child who speaks African American English will typically switch ’s’ and ‘k’ in words like “ask.”

One of the things that drove me nuts growing up was how my dad would say “wash”. He didn’t just say “wash.” To my dad, the word was “warsh.”

There’s no ‘r’ in “wash.” I told my father over and over again. (It didn’t help that we lived in “Warshington” state, either.) Eventually, I just had to let it go.

But as SLPs, it is our business to know what typical dialectal variations there are within our students. Just because a hispanic student says the ’d’ sound instead of the ’th’ does not mean he has an articulation disorder.

Recently, I came across a set of maps created by Joshua Katz, a Ph. D student in statistics. These maps are based on the research of Bert Vaux and Scott Golder, who did a study of dialectal variations in the United States.

It’s a fun way to see our linguistic differences. Click on the link here and check it out.

Or, for those who are interested in the entire study, check out the entire 122 map collection on Joshua Katz’s website here.

That way, you’ll know that when I type “pajamas,” I’m saying it pa-jam-us.