Until recently, North America has been described by sociolinguists as heterogeneous – speakers in different regions of the country are sounding more and more different from each other over time. recent studies, though, suggest that this is not the case and that speakers across the US are sound more and more like one another. We call this dialect leveling.
This brings up various questions about how language evolves. Are all of the regions in the US losing thier dialect? Why are the dialects leveling? What about the individual speakers? Are there speakers that are more likely to keep the old dialect? What is their social make up (ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status)? What about the speakers who are more likely to want to speak the new dialect? How do the speakers in these dialect regions evaluate their speech and the speech of generations before them?
My colleagues in the Sociolinguistics Lab at Michigan State University are actively working on projects that can shed light on many of these unanswered questions. You'll find brief descriptions of the individual projects currently being developed by our team. Click on a name if you'd like to contact any of these project members.