Pittsburgh Speech Overview

Is there really a unique
Pittsburgh dialect?

Many of the features that people around here think are unique
to this area are actually found elsewhere, too.

Some features, including versions of "yinz," are used in other parts of the Appalachian Mountains, extending to the south. Other features, including "needs washed," are used west of here, in the central and sound-central parts of the Midwest. Throughout the U.S., more and more people say "steel" so it sounds like "still." Even the most local of the features of "Pittsburghese" can be heard in a fairly large area of central and southwestern Pennsylvania. But while there is no completely unique Pittsburgh dialect, many Pittsburghers do speak in a way that is different from how people speak in other large U.S. cities. To dialectologists (linguists who study dialects) this is a variety of "North Midland U.S. English." What makes Pittsburgh speech different from other varieties is the particular combination of words, sounds, and grammatical patterns that can be heard in southwestern Pennsylvania. Also, this is the only area in the U.S. in which people regularly pronounce words like downtown, house, and out as "dahntahn," "hahs," and "aht."

Is Pittsburgh speech going to die out, or is it going to persist?
Some people think that the media, and the fact that we are more and more likely to move around in our lifetimes, are making the U.S. increasingly homogeneous. People who think this are likely to suspect
that eventually we will all talk the same way. Some reasons to think that local-sounding speech features may disappear:

• Many people move around the U.S. more than they once did.
• It is easier than it once was for some people to move in different social classes and social circles
than the ones they were born into.
• The mass media expose us all to the same ways of talking.
• New kinds of jobs, such as jobs in service industries, often require people to speak in a standardized way

Some reasons to think that local-sounding speech
features may persist:

• People often resist being "homogenized." They may do this by speaking in distinctive ways.
• Especially when outsiders start to move in, people may need ways to express local pride.
• When they feel that their local dialect is in danger of dying out, people may want to exaggerate certain features of it to keep it alive.
• Local ways of talking in Pittsburgh and in many other places are associated with the working class
in people's minds. So showing working-class pride may be a reason for people to use
local-sounding language.
• Words like "yinz," "dahntahn," and "Stillers" have become symbols of localness in Pittsburgh . As a result, they can be useful to people who are trying to "sell" the city to tourists or businesses from outside.


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