How do you speak, eh?

Dialect is a way of speaking that is localized geographically. Characteristics of dialect are

  • sound (pronunciation): cot/caught; cah/car

  • word formation: crick/creek

  • variations in syntax: on accident/by accident

  • word choices: soda/pop

  • figures of speech (idioms)

American Language/Dialects:


A page about dialect and the richness of American English

When Mark Twain published his famous book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it met with a less than positive reception.

"New England newspapers and Life magazine reviewed the book adversely; the Concord (Massachusetts) Public Library Banned it; and Louisa May Alcott sniffed that if this was the kind of book Mark Twain thought American girls and boys ought to read, he should stop writing for them. Huck's questionable character was such that his 'autobiography' was peddled door-to-door to rural and small-town purchasers and was not for sale in bookstores.

"The problem was that Huck lied, stole, and spoke inelegant vernacular language; he smoked, was disrespectful toward his elders, and lived in a lower-class environment that was distressingly vulgar. Huck was 'common,' and, even more outrageous, he seemed to enjoy his shabby condition and outcast level in society. He was not the model child of traditional children's literature."

Hamlin Hill in the Introduction to the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Centennial Facsimile Edition (1987) Harper & Row, Publishers.

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth mainly."


Twain's famous novel contains, by his own count, seven different dialects. Twain was, no doubt, a connoisseur of the nuances of American speech.


2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Dawn Hogue
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