Some of the most common differences listed about Pacific Northwest English are phonological in nature, the Mary-merry-marry and cot-caught mergers, for example.

I am curious if there are morphological or syntactic differences between PNWE and General American. Specifically, I'm looking for peer-reviewed research describing any, but I'm finding it hard to find articles on PNE that aren't about phonology or are attitude surveys.

  • Those two vowel changes you mention are also typical of California English.
    – jlawler
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:17
  • Any article on PNW (vs. other dialect) morphology or syntax would be about sociolinguistics. There are a few lexical items like "salt chuck" and "potlach" which are dying out.
    – user6726
    Aug 9, 2016 at 16:20
  • @jlawler Fair enough. Aug 9, 2016 at 16:21
  • @user6726 What I mean is studies on perceptions of PNWE, what's a better term for that? Aug 9, 2016 at 16:37
  • Do you mean "attitude surveys", as things you want to exclude?
    – user6726
    Aug 9, 2016 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


I finally found some information along the lines of what I'm looking for in "A corpus-based regional dialect survey of grammatical variation in written Standard American English," Jack Grieve's PhD dissertation.

Grieve used spatial autocorrelation over text corpora from 200 American cities to identify dialectical features. For all findings below, other regions either showed no preference or a preference in the opposite direction.

Here is a summary of some of his findings relevant to the Northwest:

  • Have not contraction is relatively common in the Northwest, especially, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
  • Do not contraction is relatively common in the Northwest.
  • Pronoun have contraction is relatively common in the Northwest, especially Oregon.
  • No large clusters of pronoun modal contraction were found, however "relatively high values" were found in the Northwest (as well as Texas).
  • Infinitival to contraction is relatively common (to a "lesser extent") in the Northwest.
  • Where/in which alternation: where is more common in the Northwest.
  • Temporal adverbs and instead are more likely to be found sentence-initial in the Northwest than embedded in the sentence.

The following features were found to cluster in the PNW, but were not globally autocorrelated across the country:

  • Will/shall alternation: will is relatively more common in the PNW, especially Idaho.
  • Until/till alternation: until is relatively common in the PNW, especially Oregon.
  • Auxiliary and infinitive splitting is more common in the PNW.


Speakers of PNWE are significantly more likely to:

  • use contractions in some situations (but not all);
  • place temporal adverbs and instead in sentence initial position than within the sentence;
  • split auxiliaries and infinitive with adverbs;
  • and to prefer "where" to "in which," "will" to "shall," and "until" to "till."
  • Well, does any of this pick out PNW English specifically? That is, does this mean that contraction rates are highest in PNWE.
    – user6726
    Aug 9, 2016 at 21:56
  • As I understand it, yes. "High values were found to cluster in the Northwest, especially in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and to a lesser extent in the western Midwest, indicating that have not contraction is relatively common in these regions." The corpora with the highest have not contraction rates were found in the PNW and western Midwest, but there were more and they were better clustered in the PNW. Conversely, the Southeast had the lowest values, and the most of the rest of the country is considered "regions of variability," so no consensus. Aug 9, 2016 at 22:11

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