Intricacies of Language: Regionalisms

Intricacies of Language: Regionalisms

The United States is home to hundreds of different languages, however, we often falsely assume these languages are indistinguishable from those practiced in their country of origin and transfer this belief to English as well. Languages evolve quickly after 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 developed different vocabulary and spelling of words changed. Words such as color are spelled colour in the UK and what Americans call an apartment is called a flat. These colloquial differences are noticeable, but they rarely lead to confusion.

These changes in languages are also not limited to differences across borders. The United States experiences 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.

These regionalisms illustrate the fluidity of language and how easy it can evolve.