Professional linguist and Christian missionary Rick Aschmann has an unusual hobby: he spends his free time gathering samples of English dialects from YouTube and illustrates the data on a map of the US and Canada.
“This is just a hobby of mine,” writes Aschmann. “Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. I collect dialects.”
Aschmann’s website, in the works since 2010, meticulously charts the invisible boundaries that distinguish one dialect from another.
Some of these dialects are confined to small geographical areas. New Orleans has at least two distinctive dialects, Mid City and Irish Channel, that distinguish locals from those across much of the American South. And New York City has a distinct dialect from the Hamptons.
Yet some dialects stretch across millions of square miles with apparently little differentiation. The dialect of the American west is very similar to some Canadian dialects, which all pronounce cot like caught.
Aschmann’s research also shows that, in contrast to written English, spoken English has 19 vowels and 26 consonants.
However, it is important to note that Aschmann makes his claims about dialect through a study of accents. One’s dialect is distinguished by accent as well as by vocabulary and grammar. Per The Departed, this is why Bostonian kids growing up on the North Shore sound different from the kids from the Southie projects.
In addition to maps and other data, Aschmann includes over 800 samples of English dialects found mostly in YouTube videos.
While Aschmann’s website may be disconcerting for those who hear an accent in everyone but themselves, it definitively settles one question: only a small sliver of the country stretching from Nebraska to Ohio has no distinct dialect, making their speech patterns quintessentially “American.”
Click here to see the full map and Aschmann’s research.