Tuesday, September 13, 2005


My Linguistic Profile in English

Realizing that Friday the 13th has fallen on Tuesday this month, I did a little web browsing on the subject of Pogo the possum. Naturally, that led me to anther self-test, one that probably isn't very useful1. but which seems to be credible. What's more, it takes me back to introductory linguistics freshman year; I was taught that the most "neutral" prononciation of American English 2. was spoken in Colorado, much as the "purest" French is said to be spoken in and around Tours. Naturally, I've wondered what I speak, so I didn't hesitate to try this test. But as I discovered, it is not just pronunciation-driven; there are also questions of preferred vocabulary.

Your Linguistic Profile:

General American English
55% Presumably, by this they mean the one spoken in California and elsewhere from the Rockies westward; not that I believe there to be a great uniformity within this region. I mean, like, I know lots of people who don't say "I mean, like" in every sentence. Be that as it may, I was born in California and spent many of my formative years there, so it is properly dominant in my English.

20% A fair amount of variability therein as well. Have you ever heard Maine fishermen? New Yorkers? That is one "race" of English? ("Race" comes to mind from reading the debate on the meaning, usefulness, and reality of "race" I read on Brad DeLong's blog this morning). All right, the test was short so we mustn't expect it to reliably distiguish too many categories.3. Be that as it may, I did live and study in Connecticut for a few years, so this component seems about right, too, as a non-negligeable second component.

15% that must be from my grandmother, from Texas, who was very present during my childhood, plus a "Dixie" influence throughout the Southwest.

Upper Midwestern
10% and not "Midwestern"? It is a bit harder to reason why I would have either at measurable levels, but I do tend to pronounce "wash" with an "r" in it and have been told that hails from Upper Midwest (and no, that was not on the test so I am not giving away questions!)


What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

1. I love the narcissism of self-test, and indulge whenever I find one that seems original, and particularly if I can rationalize it as being potentially useful for getting my act together. Like "what is the right job for you? ", "what is your career personality?", "what breed of dog are you?".
2. May we call it American without offending speakers of all the other Americans -- Native American languages, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole? I suppose not. How about "English", as opposed to "British"? There are many more of us than of them now, I say we just expropriate!
3. Other questions they might add to do so, however, could include
  1. What do you call a sandwich made with a long Italian-bread roll?
    1. sub
    2. grinder
    3. hoagy

  2. When you order "regular" coffee you will be served
    1. Black coffee
    2. Coffee with milk and two sugars
    3. You don't know

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