English dialects make themselves heard in genes

If you need to hit a nail, what tool do you ask for? If you say “hammer,” do you pronounce the “r”? Do you drop the “h”?

Different people pronounce the same English words in different ways. People learn which words to use and how to pronounce them as they’re learning to talk with family, friends and others in their community, so geographic patterns in these pronunciations can persist over time.

In England, pairs of words that mean similar things, like “sight” and “vision” or “yes” and “aye,” can reveal a rich history of language that is intertwined with the history of the place itself. Such words have their origins in migrations and conquests that took place during the Middle Ages. New words would sometimes coexist and sometimes displace one another.

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