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Dialect Dissection

Dialect Dissection is a series where I look at some person or some group's speech through a linguistic analysis. This means that we're going to be going into the nitty-gritty of sound and using linguistic terminology to accurately discuss what is going on in a person's speech. I select subjects that have some particularly interesting linguistic features going on that tell a story about them.

One of the defining features of Dialect Dissection is sound clips of the phenomena in question. I go through various clips of someone speaking or singing until I find one that is a good representation of that phenomenon. I will use the International Phonetic Alphabet to describe what is going on, while also providing as much description as possible to make it clear to a layperson what is happening. This means that I always provide evidence of these speech occurrences instead of asking you to trust me that these things happen.

Each Dialect Dissection asks a question - what is motivating someone to sound like this? As such, this isn't just a list of cool sounds. It's also an attempt to put these sounds into context.

Dialect Dissection: Taylor Swift and Genre Hopping: Why does Taylor Swift change her accent between albums?

Dialect Dissection: Lana Del Rey's Chameleon Voice: Why does Lana Del Rey change her accent, seemingly at random?

Dialect Dissection: Ariana Grande: Why is Ariana Grande so difficult to understand?

Dialect Dissection: Founding Fathers: What did the U.S. Founding Fathers sound like back in 1776?

Dialect Dissection: Indie Girl Voice: What is indie voice? Is it only used by female singers? Where did it come from, and what can it tell us about how change is adopted?

Dialect Dissection: Lady Gaga: Mother Monster changes her looks, dance moves, and voice with every new era.

Dialect Dissection: The Beatles: The boys from Liverpool who changed music in the 60s. Were they repping their hometown or giving in to the American sound?

Dialect Dissection: Marina and the Diamonds' Aspirations: Welsh-Greek indie pop singer Marina and the Diamonds has been serving insightful, quirky songs since 2010. But is her unique style of singing more influenced by Wales or Greece?

Dialect Dissection: Britney Spears: The princess of pop carved a new path for female singers, exploring every bit of vowel space to create a unique identity.

Dialect Dissection: Xenoblade Chronicles: Most video games stick to General American accents, but the Xenoblade series took it one step further and explored the linguistic diversity of the British isles.

Dialect Dissection: ABBA: Critics had a lot to say about how these four funky Swedes used - or misused - the English language.


Kim Petras, L2 English, and California Dreamin': This cult-favorite pop singer may come from Germany, but she's decided to model her English on... Valley Girls?!

Hank Williams's Old Timey Southern Accent: This country great has preserved some English pronunciations few people use nowadays. Explore the Southern accents of yore with a trip through his music.

Long Articles

Oh Babih, Babay - How one vowel one hundred years ago changed how we sing: The history of word-final /i/ in singing.

The Deal with Daddy: The etymology of "daddy" and how its meaning has changed so radically.

Whomst'd've Guessed It?: Why is the fanciest word we can invent "whomst"? Looking behind the meme.

Language of Poptimism: Sociolinguistics and musicology intersect in this look at how dialect affects being proud of being pop.

Minor Articles

Cardi B and "Sounding Uneducated": Cardi B is one of the hottest stars of 2018, and yet she's ashamed of her accent and works to get rid of it. This is a look at accent prejudice and how it manifests itself.

Got the World on a Shtring - S-retraction: Who are the folks saying "shtring" instead of "string" - and why are they doing that?

Classical Pig Latin: A basic look at Pig Latin, plus a Pig Latin translator written by yours truly.

Where Are the British Accents: Why are there so few British accents in pop music?

The Alveolar Trill: What is an alveolar trill, and where does it show up?

Yanks Posing As Brits: Why do Americans try to sound British at times?

Pre-Velar Raising: An introduction to the phenomenon that can make "rang" sound like "reing."

Can You Conjugate: A look at the poetic uses of non-standard conjugation.

Behind the Name: How does GameFreak decide what a Pokemon will be called? It turns out there's a pattern.

Glottal Stops: What is a glottal stop?

The Marvelous Thou: What is "thou", how do we use it, and where does it appear?

A Case of Pronoun Misuse: Pronouns are one of the few words in English that still have case. However, their case isn't always used as you would expect.

The Logic of Mondegreens: We mishear lyrics all the time, but is there a reason for it?

Fergie's Fearsome Fonetiks: A play by play of why Fergie's rendition of the American National Anthem sounded so strange.

Happy Valentine's Day!: A humorous image and a look at some interesting-sounding linguistic terms.

Accent Matters: Discussing accent-based prejudice in the legal system.

Mapping the "Shape Of You": Looking into where the term "shape of you" comes from and what makes it a suitable song title.

What is #AccentChallenge18 Testing?: Why do "accent challenges" seem to have the same words, and what are they really looking for?

Why Does Khalid Say "Amewican Teen"?: American singer Khalid doesn't say "r"s like we expect him to.

A Quick Taxonomy of Album Titles: Learning about syntax via album titles.

Rae Sremmurd Teaches Phonotactics: Rae Sremmurd explains how to pronounce their name and accidentally invents phonotactics.

More Than A WUH-man: A mysterious pronunciation I hear on several 1970s songs.

These Song Titles Are Too Weird Nowadays: Why are song titles pulled from the least catchy portion of a song?

Forensic Morphology & Zootopia: Nick Wilde claims that there's nothing wrong with selling "wood that is red" as "redwood." A closer look at at the morphology tells us this isn't quite so.

What do you mean when you "beat" a game?: An old article about the semantic meaning of "beating a game."


Crash Course - International Phonetic Alphabet: An introduction to learning the International Phonetic Alphabet.

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