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Central Pennsylvania dialect

Central Pennsylvania dialect is a regional dialect of American English spoken in the central part of Pennsylvania. Most scholars view the dialect as closely related to Western Pennsylvania speech,[1][2] often referred to as Pittsburgh English, although Western Pennsylvania speech extends beyond just the city of Pittsburgh. Some analyses include Central Pennsylvania in the Appalachian English dialect.[3] The area is also frequently described as a portion of the Midland or South Midland dialect area.[4]


The first white settlers in Central Pennsylvania were predominantly Scots-Irish and German.[1] A variety of the German language known as Pennsylvania German is spoken in the area. This German language variety has greatly influenced the English spoken in Central Pennsylvania.[5]

Geographic distribution

The Central Pennsylvania dialect is spoken in the following counties: Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Cumberland, Franklin, Huntingdon, Fulton, Bedford, Blair, and Clinton.[6]

The dialect may also be spoken in portions of Snyder, York, Adams, Clearfield, Cambria, Northumberland, Lycoming, Union, Cameron, Potter, Tioga, and much of Dauphin County, and less commonly in other parts of Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

Phonological characteristics

The caught–cot merger is firmly in place. Caught and cot, and Dawn and Don are homophones.[7]

Lexical characteristics

Many Central Pennsylvania English speakers use the term redd or redd up to mean "to tidy". For example, You've got to redd up before you can go outside. This is from the old Norse by way of Middle English and probably arrived with the Scots-Irish.[8] Other words heard in Central and in Western Pennsylvania are thought to come from the area's Scots-Irish settlers, as well. These include slippy ("slippery"), nebby ("nosy") and the second-person plural pronoun you'uns, related to Western Pennsylvania's yinz.[9]

Another form from Scots-Irish is seen in sentences such as This car needs washed to mean "This car needs washing" or "This car needs to be washed." This form is heard in Central and Western Pennsylvania and in parts of Northern Ireland; it is thought to derive from Scots Gaelic.[10]

When referring to consumable products, the word all is used to mean all gone. For example, the phrase the butter's all would be understood as "the butter is all gone." This likely derives from German.[5]

The word anymore is used to mean something like "nowadays" in sentences without negative polarity, another usage related to German.[9] For example, We use a gas stove anymore means "We use a gas stove nowadays."[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Kurath, Hans (1949). A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. University of Michigan Press. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Thomas, Charles (1958). An Introduction to the Phonetics of American English. Ronald Press. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Montgomery, Michael (2004). "Appalachian English: Morphology and syntax". In Bernd Kortmann. A Handbook of Varieties of English: Morphology and Syntax. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 245–280. ISBN 978-3-11-017532-5. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Carver, Craig (1989). American Regional Dialects: A Word Geography. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08103-5. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Metcalf, Allan (2000). How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-04362-0. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Salvucci, Claudio (1999). "Linguistic Geography of Pennsylvania". Evolution Publishing. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  7. ^ a b Kovecses, Zoltan (2000). American English: An Introduction. Broadview Press. ISBN 978-1-55111-229-9. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries (2006). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-70173-5. Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Robert P. Marzec (30 December 2004). The Mid-Atlantic Region. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-313-32954-8. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Still, Brian (15 October 2010). Usability of Complex Information Systems: Evaluation of User Interaction. CRC Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-4398-2894-6. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 

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