Now you’re speaking my language…
May 6, 2014
Sometimes, it’s all in the questions you ask. Or the questions y’all ask. Or the ones you guys ask!

Those of us in psychology and assessment are very interested in the art of asking the right questions, and a great example from the field of linguistics has been circulating around the Internet in recent months. A dialect survey, based on work by Harvard professor Burt Vaux, has been developed into an interactive quiz by graphic artists at the New York Times, which published it in December 2013. Responses to the quiz generate maps that show the probability that the user hails from a specific region, state, or even city in the U.S.

The survey includes questions about the names of specific items (“What do you call a sweetened carbonated beverage?”) as well as pronunciations (“How do you pronounce ‘Aunt’?”). Each answer is association with a region, and there is a “heat map” for each question, as well as a “personal dialog map” for each individual user based on the sum of his or her responses to 25 questions.

“The data are fascinating,” says Katherine Wells, in her recent story about Vaux’s work in The Atlantic. “They reveal patterns of migration, unexpected linguistic kinships between regions, and the awesome variety of words we say and how we say them.”

An informal poll of users here at PAR headquarters suggests that the quiz can yield some amazingly accurate results—and we come from all over the U.S. Try the quiz yourself and see where it puts you on the map!