Harvard University Press Blog, “Who Says What, Where”

June 10, 2013

Who Says What, Where” (Harvard University Press Blog, June 10, 2013)

Last week the internet caught fire with a bit of love for language, as it is blessedly wont to do. The spark this time was a collection of North Carolina State University PhD candidate Joshua Katz’s visualizations of regional dialect variations, which were presented at Business Insider, where they racked up tens of millions of views and quickly spread.

Over at Language Log, Ben Zimmer notes that the research behind Katz’s heat-map visualizations has been available for about a decade, and that—despite having been collected via not-quite-ideal online elicitation—it has been frequently repurposed over the years since it was produced by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder. Though the frequent obscuring of the data’s origins and potential shortcomings is a perhaps lamentable result of the workings of internet virality, it’s nevertheless truly exciting for the word nerds among us to see linguistic lighting strike the web.

As Zimmer also notes, such “voracious public appetite for dialect maps” likely bodes well for the forthcoming digital edition of the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Read the rest here.

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