Intricacies of Language will be a weekly blog detailing noteworthy aspects of language as it has evolved and progressed. On this week’s edition, we will cover regionalisms within the English language.
The United States is home to hundreds of different languages, all with their variety of nuances that make them unique. However, we often falsely assume these languages are indistinguishable from those practiced in their country of origin and extrapolate this belief to English as well. Languages evolve quickly after their separation from their roots. English is a prime example of this.
Following the colonization of the Americas, the Queen’s English experienced 500 years of change. Most noticeably, was the change in accent, with Americans adopting a harsher pronunciation of specific letters and a generally more distinct and clear pronunciation. Furthermore, the languages evolved different vocabulary and began spelling the same words in different manners. Words such as color are spelled colour in the UK and what we would call an apartment is called a flat. These colloquial differences are noticeable, but they rarely lead to any significant degree of confusion among their respective residents.
That being said, these differences are not limited to being among nationalities with the United States experiencing its own share of regionalisms. The southern accent is much more similar to the British accent while New York is known for having an r-dropping accent (often not pronouncing the r’s at the ends of sentences. Similar to vernacular differences between the UK and the US, different regions have different names for the same object. This is especially true for words that were invented after the revolutionary war when Americans were migrating across the country. Below is a map of different regional words for soda/pop/coke (map made by Joshua Katz).
These regionalisms showcase how fluid language is and how quickly it can evolve. We often see terms from different regions that may not be grammatically correct, such as the double negatives often used in the south and deem them to be the result of improper education or ignorance. However, it is ignorant to ignore the possibility that this is correct in their form of the English language rather than assuming it to be the result of improper education.