The Variety of Languages & Dialects Spoken in US States

State Similarity Index - Culture Category - Language and Accents

The State Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar states are to each other relative to other states. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on culture. 16.66% of a state’s culture score (3.33% of the overall State Similarity Index score) is based on the dialects of English spoken in each state and the non-English languages spoken at home. The following paragraphs explain which aspects were used in the analysis.

Regional Dialects of English

Regional dialects across the United States can be challenging to categorize, resulting in subtle variations between different sources. One widely used, albeit oversimplified, classification identifies five major dialects. The New England Dialect is spoken in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, but it can be further divided into eastern and western sub-dialects. The Inland North Dialect includes New York and the northern Midwest regions near the Great Lakes. The North Midland is considered the “standard American accent” and encompasses much of the southern Midwest and the Western United States. However, many sources split up these two regions. The South Midland Dialect is primarily used in the farthest inland areas of the South, close to the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains, while the Southern Dialect is generally spoken in the southern regions of the country that are relatively close to the ocean. These accents developed over time due to historic patterns of settlement, as well as social and cultural influences.

Rick Aschmann (dialects and sub-dialects)
The Story of English (dialects)
Sonia Pérez Urdiales (sub-dialects)

The State Similarity Index takes into account both dialect and also sub-dialect.
When more than one dialect or subdialect is spoken in a state, the top five largest cities are chosen to represent the state as a whole.

Non-English Languages Spoken at Home

West Virginia has the highest percentage of people that speak English at home since it has very few immigrants. California has the lowest percentage of people that speak English at home. Spanish is by far the most commonly spoken language besides English. Texas, California, and New Mexico have the highest percentage of people who speak Spanish at home. In fact, it is higher than 25% in these states. As result of their proximity to the border, they have a lot of immigrants from Mexico and also Central America. Hawaii has a high percentage of immigrants from the Philippines, so over 5% of the people in the speak Ilocano at home. Interestingly enough, in Maine over 3% of people speak French at home, while in Rhode Island over 3% speak Portuguese.

Source: Statistical Atlas of the United States

Major Spoken Languages:
Chinese, French, Ilocano, Japanese, Navajo, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Yupik
(Minimum 2% in a state)

Major Language Branches:
Athabaskan, Eskimo, Japanese, Romantic, Philippine, Sinitic

The State Similarity Index takes into account both the language and also language branch.
Since more than 70% of people in every state speaks English at home, this percentage is discounted from each state to focus on non-English speakers.

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