Monday, March 03, 2014

Voxillology


The Oscar season led New York Times writer Daniel Nester to review the year's film offering, and in watching American Hustle, he noticed that something missing: the Philadelphia accent. Until reading his "Fades Out" article, I had never realized that Philadelphia -- which he calls Filelfia -- was so linguistically distinct from other mid-Atlantic places.

Nester describes his home region's distinctive dialect as effectively as can be done visually, but his links to the video work of Fellow-delphian Sean Monahan are the real treasure in his article.

His Philly Tawk video is an excellent introduction; when I first played it, my Baltimorean wife overheard it and said "it sounds like Baltimore." Phluphian does resemble what we here in Bawlmer, but the video reveals that entire syllables are even more likely to be swallowed in the City of Brotherly Love than in Charm City. I am willing to bet that the former is also less intelligible to the average outsider.

He continues to demonstrate the dialect in Part 2, in which his work also becomes increasingly geographic. He identifies a dozen or more linguistic distinctions in the mid-Atlantic region, mapping minimal pairs (words that are the same except in a single sound) quite effectively in showing connections and distinctions up and down the I-95 corridor.

LIKE this flag!
Monahan is actually filling YouTube with his geolinguistic labors of love, and I will leave it to the reader to continue the exploration. I do, however, need to draw attention to one more video that is especially geographic. Specifically, in proposing a flag for the Delaware Valley, he begins with a definition of his home region that is primarily linguistic, and then integrates the principles of vexillology and geography to make a compelling case for regional flags in general and his own Delaware Valley flag in particular.

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