Skip to main content
Mobilities, Materialities, and the Changing Meanings of Pittsburgh Speech
Journal of English Linguistics (2016)
  • Barbara Johnstone
  • Calvin Pollak
For many decades, people in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area have talked about local speech. “Pittsburghese,” as it is locally known, has become so tightly linked with local identity that it is alluded to almost every time someone talks about what Pittsburgh is like or what it means to be a Pittsburgher. But the set of words, pronunciations, and bits of grammar that are thought of as Pittsburghese has changed over time. This paper explores the role of social and geographic mobility in creating and circulating the ideas about Pittsburgh speech that help to determine who uses local-sounding speech features and why. The analysis is based on two online forums where Pittsburgh speech is discussed.. The participants in one of the forums are former Pittsburghers who grew up in the city but left during the later decades of the 20th century when the local steel-manufacturing economy collapsed. The participants in the other forum are people who moved to Pittsburgh or came of age and stayed there in the first two decades of the 21st century, when the economy was recovering. These two groups of people have had very different experiences of geographic and social mobility, leading to different kinds of encounters with local speech and with metalinguistic discourse about it. The paper shows how particular material facts and lived experiences shape the ideas about language that can lead to sociolinguistic stereotyping and to the loss or preservation of socially-marked linguistic features.
Publication Date
Fall September, 2016
Citation Information
Barbara Johnstone and Calvin Pollak. "Mobilities, Materialities, and the Changing Meanings of Pittsburgh Speech" Journal of English Linguistics (2016)
Available at: