Mapping The Strange World of American English

“Imagine looking at a map of the United States that is divided not into states but into dialects — a map that doesn’t tell you what a state’s capital is, but how a region’s residents pronounce their vowels.” That’s the aim of the newly released Atlas of North American English, a hefty tome that also comes with a multimedia CD-ROM and retails for over $600. “The atlas identifies about 16 dialects across the U.S. and southern Canada. Not all of them are unique, but each has distinguishing characteristics. The atlas is a monumental achievement in the already distinguished career of co-author William Labov, who is considered the founder of sociolinguistics, or the study of social influences on language use.”