Pittsburgh Speech Resources

Resources about Pittsburgh Speech
There is a lot of misinformation about Pittsburgh speech floating around. People often confuse Pittsburgh speech (how people actually talk in Pittsburgh) with "Pittsburghese" (ideas, some true and some false, about how Pittsburghers talk). There are hundreds of websites, videos, Facebook pages, and so on about "Pittsburghese." Many of these are fun and interesting, but they are not necessarily accurate descriptions of Pittsburgh speech. So be careful!

All the sources listed below are "researched." This means that they were prepared by people who had done actual academic, scholarly research, not by amateurs.

Researched Web Sources about American
Dialects and Linguistics - home page of the American Dialect Society. - home page of the LINGUIST list, the largest Internet resource for all areas
of linguistics. - home page of the archive of the Linguistic Atlas of the U.S. projects. Includes the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States, with several informants in southwestern Pennsylvania who were interviewed in the 1940s. - website that accompanies the 2005 PBS film "Do You Speak American?" Includes many resources for teachers.

Researched Books on Dialects of American English

Ferguson , C. A., & Heath, S. B. (eds.). (1981). Language in the U.S.A. New York: Cambridge University Press. [an anthology of scholarly articles on varieties of American English]

Finegan, E. , & Rickford, J.(eds.). 2004. Language in the USA: Themes for the twenty-first century. New York: Cambridge University Press. [an updated, expanded sequel to Ferguson and Heath 1981 (see above)]

Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. 2005. Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology and sound change. Berlin, New York: Mouton/deGruyter. [a set of maps of dialect areas of the US and Canada, based on phonology; also includes discussion]

Marckwardt, A. H. (1980 [1958]). American English ( J. L. Dillard, Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. [dated but good on early history]

MacNeil, R.and W. Cran (2004). Do You Speak American? New York: Doubleday. [general audience; companion to PBS documentary "Do You Speak American?"]

McCrum, R., Cran, W., & MacNeil, R. (1986). The story of English. New York: Viking. [general audience; companion to PBS "Story of English" series]

Wolfram, W., & Schilling-Estes, N. (2005). American English: Dialects and varieties, 2nd ed.. New York: Blackwell. [up- to-date overview textbook]

Wolfram, W., & Ward, Ben., eds. (2005). American voices: How dialects differ from coast to coast. Malden, MA: Blackwell. [general audience: a collection of articles on regional dialects that originally appeared in Language Magazine, a publication for teachers.]

A researched video about Pittsburgh Speech
This is a lecture about Pittsburgh speech by Professor Barbara Johnstone of Carnegie Mellon University, a sociolinguist who has done research on this topic:

Researched articles on speech in Pittsburgh
and Southwestern Pennsylvania
(Most of these are quite technical and require some background knowledge of linguistics. Ones that are meant for a general audience are marked with an asterisk.)

Brown, C. (1982). A search for sound change: A look at the lowering of tense vowels before liquids in the Pittsburgh Area [MA Thesis, Department of Linguistics]. University of Pittsburgh . [the "Stillers" feature]

Dressman, M. R. (1979). Redd up. American speech 54, no. 2: 141-1435.

Eberhardt, M. (2008). The low back merger in the Steel City: AAE in Pittsburgh. American speech 83: 284-311. [African American Pittsburghers pronounce words like COT and words like CAUGHT the same way, the way white Pittsburghers do, and unlike the way African Americans from other cities do. ]

Eberhardt, M. (2009). The sociolinguistics of ethnicity in Pittsburgh. Language and Linguistics Compass 3, no. 6: 1443-1454. [African American Pittsburghers sound like white Pittsburghers when it comes to the low back merger (see above citation) but not when it comes to /aw/ monophthongization, perhaps because this feature is so closely linked with white identity.]

Gagnon, C. L. (1999). Language attitudes in Pittsburgh : "Pittsburghese" vs. Standard English [MA Thesis, Department of Linguistics]. University of Pittsburgh . [Pittsburghers listening to taped voices labeled a Pittsburgh-accented speaker lower on status and solidarity scales than a standard-sounding speaker.]

*Gilmore, P. (1999). "Scots-Irish" words from Pennsylvania 's mountains. Bruceton Mills , WV : Scotpress. [based on Henry W. Shoemaker, 1930, Thirteen Hundred Old-Time Words. Also includes glossary to Poems of the Scots-Irishman (1801) by David Bruce, of Washington PA. ]

Hankey, C. T. (1965). Miscellany: "Tiger," "Tagger," and [aI] in western Pennsylvania ; Diphthongal variants of [E] and [æ] in western Pennsylvania . American speech, 40, 226-229. [two short reports about phonological features]

Hankey, C. T. (1972). Notes on West Penn-Ohio phonology. In L. M. Davis (Ed.), Studies in linguistics in honor of Raven I. McDavid, Jr. (pp. 49-61). University, AL: University of Alabama Press. [a technical description of regional phonology]

Johnson, B. L. (1971). The Western Pennsylvania dialect of American English. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 1, 69-73. [phonetics and phonology of western PA speech]

Johnstone, B., Bhasin, N., & Wittkofski, D. (2002). "Dahntahn Pittsburgh": Monopthongal /aw/ and representations of localness in southwestern Pennsylvania. American Speech, 77, 148-166. [shows that (a) monophthongal /aw/ appears to be persisting in the speech of white working-class Pittsburgh men, (b) monophthongal /aw/ is the most often represented local speech feature in popular discourse about local speech; suggests that the two facts may be connected]

*Johnstone, B., & Kiesling, S. (2001, December). Steel town speak. Language Magazine, 26-28 [an overview of the dialect of southwestern Pennsylvania for a non-specialist audience]

Johnstone, B., & Kiesling, S.F. (2008). Indexicality and experience: exploring the meanings of /aw/-monophthongization in Pittsburgh. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12: 5-33. [Monophthongal /aw/ is connected to local identity for many Pittsburghers, but not everyone hears it that way, and people who actually use monophthongal /aw/ are not likely to be using it to project local identity.]

Kurath, H. (1945). German relics in Pennsylvania English. Monatsheft für deutsche Unterricht, 37, 76-102.

Kurath, H. (1949). A word geography of the eastern United States. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press. [pp 35-36 are about southwestern PA vocabulary]

Kurath, H., & McDavid, R. I. (1961). The pronunciation of English in the Atlantic states. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press. [pp. 17-18 are about southwestern PA]

Maxfield, E. K. (1931). The speech of South-Western Pennsylvania. American Speech, 6, 18-20. [based mostly on unsystematic personal observations; mentions questions 'rising when one would expect [them] to fall, and descending at the most unexpected places.']

McElhinny, B. (1999). More on the third dialect of English: Linguistic constraints on the use of three phonological variables in Pittsburgh . Language variation and change, 11, 171-195. [connections between vocalized /l/ and laxing of tense vowels]

Montgomery, M. (1997). The Scotch-Irish element in Appalachian English: How broad? How deep? In Ulster and North America: Transatlantic perspectives on the Scotch-Irish, ed. H. Tyler Blethen and Curtis W. Wood, Jr., 189-212. Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press. [discusses the difficulty of telling exactly where words and grammatical structures came from; makes very careful arguments for some links between Scotch-Irish English and Appalachian English]

Montgomery, M., and J. M. Kirk. (2001). "My mother, whenever she passed away, she had pneumonia": The history and functions of whenever. Journal of English Linguistics 29, no. 3: 243-249. [punctual whenever in Ulster and America]

Murray, T. E. (1993). Positive anymore in the Midwest. In "Heartland" English: Variation and transition in the American Midwest, 173-186. Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press.

Murray, T. E., T. Fraser, and B. L. Simon. (1996). need + past participle in American English. American speech 71: 255-271. [the 'needs washed' feature]

Newlin, C. M. 1928. Dialects on the western Pennsylvania frontier. American Speech 4, no. 2: 279-302. [literary representations of colonial-era speech in western Pennsylvania]

Shields, K., Jr. (1985). Germanisms in Pennsylvania English: An update. American speech 60: 228-237.

Tenny, C. (1998). Psych verbs and verbal passives in Pittsburghese. Linguistics, 36 , 591-597. [syntax of the needs + past participle construction]

Tucker, R. W. (1934). Linguistic substrata in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Language. [effects of Pennsylvania German on English syntax and idiom]

Wikipedia, "Pittsburgh English." [Most of what appears here, as of February, 2011, was written by linguists who had done research on Pittsburgh speech. But there may also be edits and contributions by people who are not experts. So do not use this article as your only source. Make sure you can find any information you want to use somewhere else as well.]

Educational Films about American Dialects

"Do You Speak American?" (MacNeill-Lehrer productions in association with WNET). PBS Home Video, 2005. 3 videocasettes or enhanced DVDs. From the PBS website: "Journalist and author Robert MacNeil zigzags cross-country to explore how Americans use the language today, how it's developing and how people feel about it."

"The Story of English." (a BBC TV co-production with MacNeil-Lehrer Productions in association with WNET). Public Media Video, c1986. [5 videocassettes: An English speaking world (58 min.). Mother tongue (57 min.) A muse of fire (58 min.). The guid Scots tongue (58 min.). Black on white (58 min.). Pioneers! O Pioneers! (58 min.) Muvver tongue (58 min.). The loaded weapon (57 min.) Next year's words, a look into the future (58 min.). Details the history of the English language and provides a unique focus on current English usage worldwide with a special emphasis on American English. Some are better than others; Black on White presents only one side of the debate about the origins of African-American speech features]

"American Tongues," by Andrew Kolker and Louis Alvarez. Center for New American Media 1986. [somewhat dated but excellent film about regional and social dialects and attitudes about them]

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