Would you like a pop with your hoagie?

A science fair project by Kevin Scannell, Jr., 3rd grade.


How does a person's age (IV) affect the number of regional words that they use (DV)?


I predict that the old people use more regional words because they were alive longer so when they were little there was no TV. I think that people will use the words on TV that they hear and the words that they read on the internet.

Background Information

In America we speak English, but in different parts of America we speak differently. One way people speak differently is because of their accent. Another way is they use different words for different things. Some examples of this are:

We call the different kinds of English that people speak “dialects.” Dialects happen naturally when people who speak one language are separated from each other. For example, this happened with British English and American English. In England, they call the trunk of a car a “boot,” and there are a lot of other examples like this.

In the last 50 years, because of radio, TV, and the internet, the differences between dialects have been decreasing. All of these things mean that geography doesn't matter as much. This is called “dialect leveling.” Other things cause dialect leveling too, like people moving around the country more and living in places different from their parents.

The point of my project is to see if dialect leveling is happening in American English, and if it is, how fast. The idea is to ask people in different age groups what words they use for different things. I chose examples of words on the computer by reading Wikipedia. Examples like “sub” I expect to be more common among young people because of radio and TV ads for Subway restaurants.

To do this, I sent a survey with six questions to a lot of people. Here is the survey.


First, to see the maps with the raw data you can click the links below. My dad helped me make these with Google Maps (warning: they can be slow to load):

The answers "lightning bug", "tennis shoes", "soda", and "sub" were the most common for each question. So I called all other answers "regional words", and then counted up how many regional words each person used (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4). Then I took an average of these numbers in each age range. Here are the results:

and as a graph:

Conclusion and Further Study

My hypothesis was correct. I thought that if a person was older (IV), then they would use more regional words (DV). This is exactly how it happened. The 60 year old people and older used about 2 regional words on average, and the 60 and younger people used about 1 regional word on average. It is interesting that 60 year old people grew up around when television was invented. My experiment proves dialect leveling is happening in American English. This is interesting to linguists, scientists who study languages. Languages are always changing, and my experiment helps explain how. Even though I had about 400 people do the survey, it would have been better if I had more people. I also learned lots more regional words and could have used those for the survey, like avocado and alligator pear. Dialect leveling happens in lots of other languages, too. It would be fun to do the experiment with those languages.