Together with my faculty advisor, Dr. Margaret Renwick, I use GIS mapping to analyze spatial trends in spoken language, testing how features identified as part of the ‘Southern dialect’ by the Atlas of North American English (ANAE; Labov et al. 2006) are used in the Digital Archive of Southern Speech (DASS; Kretzschmar et al. 2013). We analyze mergers, diphthongization, monophthongization, fronting, yod-retention, G-dropping, and rhoticity.

Acoustic data from DASS was analyzed using R, to generate feature-appropriate summary statistics. GIS analysis was conducted with GeoDa, QGIS, ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Online. Spatial analysis used the Local Moran’s I method to identify geographic clusters of similar values, and outliers that have unexpected values.

Generally, DASS data agrees with ANAE’s descriptions. The cot-caught merger appears stronger than claimed by ANAE. pool-pull are not consistently merged, unlike in ANAE. Most speakers pronounce AY more monophthongally where it is phonologically expected. OY-monophthongization varies: averages indicate the vowel was still fairly diphthongized, while spatial autocorrelation finds clusters of monophthongization in Central Tennessee and Atlanta. OW appears to front only weakly; however, the greatest fronting is found in Florida, indicated by local spatial autocorrelation.

Our analysis partially corroborates the ANAE’s description, suggesting that Southern speech changed between the DASS interviews and the later publication of ANAE.

This research is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities at UGA.

You can view the full series of interactive maps here.