what speech do we like best?

What Speech Do We Like Best?

Mapping Attitudes

Correct English?

This exercise is designed to help you crystallize your thoughts on how American English is spoken around the country. Here is a map of the United States divided up into its major dialect regions. Think about where in the country you feel people speak the most correct form of American English. Where do they speak the least correct form? For the purposes of this exercise CORRECT ENGLISH is defined as the variety (or varieties) of American that sound the most acceptable to you. You can use all the other numbers between 1 and 10, and you can repeat a score as many times as you like. (Areas can tie.) After you're done, click Submit to see your results. Compare them to the results of  participants involved in formal research studies.

Pleasant English

PLEASANT ENGLISH - which is explored in Part #2 of this exercise- is defined as the variety of American English that sounds the most appealing to you. Note that appealing can be different from correct. An appealing accent may sound charming, but you may not consider it good English! For this reason your scores for CORRECT ENGLISH in Part #1 and PLEASANT ENGLISH in Part #2 may be the same, or they can be different.

The Experts Weigh in...

videoDennis Preston talks to Robert MacNeil about  language perceptions and what he has learned by analyzing formal versions of the pleasant and correct exercises over the past two decades. Related article:   Language Myth: They Speak Really Bad English Down South and in New York City! Dr. Preston describes his findings in detail.

 Edward Finnegan reminds us that  as we dig into the inner workings of language  we can often find examples to show that what's considered correct American  can actually be arbitrary, based more on who holds power, than by  the consistent application of grammar rules. 

Regional Map courtesy of  Drs. Cynthia G. Clopper and David B. Pisoni of the National Speech Project.

Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Humanities Hewlett Foundation Ford Foundation   Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Carnegie Corporation

National Endowment
for the Humanities

William and Flora Hewlett


Rosalind P.

Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations

Corporation of New York