Varieties of English

Varieties of English


Spring, 2011 20 Apr. 2011

  1. Find John Nerbonne web page, look under "Teaching Materials", "Varieties of English", then "exercise.html" (add the last to the URL).
  2. Check out Edgar Schneider's data under "Resources", "Form" below. Username and password during the lab, but may not be made public.
    1. Look through the 179 features for which Schneider has compiled data.
    2. Look through the 61 sites for which Schneider has compiled data.
    3. By choosing a set of sites and a set of features you can see which sites are most alike and unalike with respect to the features chosen. Use a dendrogram or an mds-grid to visualize the similarity.
    4. When you ask for a dendrogram or an mds output, you should save it to disk, and then open it using ghostview. In Groningen this is available using the NAL (Network Application Launcher) in the RuG Menu, branch Text Processing, Ghostview.
    5. Which of the varieties in the British isles is most like New England English? Which is most like Australian? (Hint: choose all the features and all the British varieties together with the one you're interested in.)
  3. By choosing features in the form carefully, you can select all those that represent the presence of distinctions, e.g. the distinction in the vowels in merry, Mary and marry. Mufwene claims that colonial varieties in general lose distinctions that the mother tongue preserves. Can you find a way to investigate this using the "form" or perhaps using the spreadsheet?
    1. Try looking at vowel distinctions only and comparing RP to all the standard Englishes (omitting pidgins and creoles). Which diaspora variety is closest to RP? (Hint: use the mds grid.)
    2. Try looking at consonant distinctions. Careful: not every feature under "distribution" marks the presence or absence of a distinction, so you'll need to select. Which diaspora variety is closest to RP?
  4. For the ambitious: Check out Edgar Schneider's table of data under "Resources" below. Username and password during the lab, but may not be made public.
    • We won't have time to practice spreadsheet operations, such as replace the symbols 'A, B' or 'C' with numbers, or defining new columns that represent the differences between sites, but these spreadsheet operations are not difficult, and they're an improvement over the visualizations (in 2 and 3 above) in that they allow you to quantify the differences.


John Nerbonne,, H1311.436



The (old) LAMSAS site, which allows one to investigate the geographic distribution of the lexical realizations of various concept.

Locations of sites surveyed in the Kortmann et al. handbook (Google Earth)

Phonological Data (Excel) from Kortmann et al. handbook, by kind courtesy of Prof. Edgar Schneider, Regensburg.

Form for experimenting with the phonological data above.