A corpus-based regional dialect survey of grammatical variation in written Standard American English
This dissertation describes the methods and the results of a corpus-based regional dialect survey of grammatical variation in written Standard American English. The primary goals of this survey are to identify grammatical features that are regionally patterned in written Standard American English and to use this information to map regional American dialects. This is the first survey of regional grammatical variation in American English and the first survey of regional linguistic variation in written Standard American English.
This survey is based on a unique approach to data collection and data analysis, which makes use of techniques commonly employed in corpus linguistic and quantitative geography. The values of 45 continuous grammatical variables were measured computationally across a 25 million word corpus of letters to the editor representing the language of 200 cities from across the United States. The regional distribution of each variable was then analyzed using global and local spatial autocorrelation statistics in order to identify variables whose values are regionally patterned in the corpus. Finally, the grammatical variables were analyzed as a group using spatial autocorrelation statistics, principal component analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis in order to identify general patterns of regional linguistic variation and in order to map American dialect regions.
Using this methodology, numerous regionally patterned grammatical features were identified and a taxonomy of American regional dialects was produced that identified 12 primary American dialect regions: the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Southwest, the Mountain West, West Texas, the Eastern Midwest, the Western Midwest, the South Central, the Deep South, the Upper South, the South Atlantic, the Middle Atlantic and New England. These dialect regions are similar to the dialect regions identified by previous American dialect surveys but also differ in numerous important ways. In order to account for these findings, it is demonstrated that the dialect regions identified by this survey correspond closely to modern American cultural areas. Furthermore, it is argued that the differences between the results of this survey and the results of previous American dialect surveys, which are based on historical forms of English, probably reflect regional dialect change resulting from changing American cultural areas.
0291: Modern language