Linguistics lovers are gonna LURVE this!
Weird Thing Number 1: Despite the saturation of diverse cultures, regions, and countless other stimuli now present in our daily lives — thank you, Internet! — American speech patterns are not becoming more uniform. In fact, the opposite is true! Speech patterns are fracturing and becoming more unique. Why? That’s Weird Thing Number 2.
Weird Thing Number 2: Politics, that’s why.
In a nutshell, we subconsciously emulate the speech patterns of those with whom we have rapport. At least, perceived rapport. (“That Sarah Palin is my kinda girl! You betcha!”) Alternatively, we (again subconsciously) refuse to sound like those who seemingly oppose our ideological beliefs. I say “seemingly” because often times our assumptions of others’ opinions are based almost entirely on the way they talk!
This astounding article from Discover Magazine goes into more detail, providing evidence that supports this theory. Linguist William Labov found a direct correlation between vowel pronunciation and voting patterns. It sounds like something out of a Malcolm Gladwell book — hey, I wanna read that book, actually. Get on it, Gladwell! — but when you think about it, it makes complete sense.
Growing up, whenever there was footage of any given Kennedy on TV, my mother would sigh and declare, “He sounds like such a Yankee!” Of course, as every good Southerner knows, Yankees are rude, godless, Ivy League elitists. And probably Catholic. Ugh, the nerve. They can be easily identified by their incorrect pronunciation of the “O” vowel. The correct pronunciation of “box” is bäks. Not băks. Anyone saying băks is clearly not fit for public office.
Now, how many of you can think of at least one scenario from your own life that reflects the same idea?
Riiiight?! It seems so obvious!
Being American, it would be unpatriotic for me to know stuff about non America lands, but doesn’t dialect = class/education/societal rank in England? Pretty sure I heard that once on an episode of AbFab.
So… Americans are becoming more like the English? Wow. Madonna and Gwyneth were ahead of their time. How posh.