Western Pennsylvania English
Pittsburgh English, Pittsburghese
RegionWestern Pennsylvania
Early forms
English alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Appalachia (in white) overlaid with dialect regions defined by the 2006 ANAE. Western Pennsylvania English can be seen in orange.
A sign using "Dahntahn" to mean "Downtown" in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Western Pennsylvania English, known more narrowly as Pittsburgh English or popularly as Pittsburghese, is a dialect of American English native primarily to the western half of Pennsylvania, centered on the city of Pittsburgh, but potentially appearing in some speakers as far north as Erie County, as far west as Youngstown, Ohio, and as far south as Clarksburg, West Virginia.[1][2] Commonly associated with the working class of Pittsburgh, users of the dialect are colloquially known as "Yinzers".


Scots-Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch, Polish,[3] Ukrainian[4] and Croatian[5] immigrants to the area all provided certain loanwords to the dialect (see "Vocabulary" below). Many of the sounds and words found in the dialect are popularly thought to be unique to Pittsburgh, but that is a misconception since the dialect resides throughout the greater part of western Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.[6][7] Central Pennsylvania, currently an intersection of several dialect regions, was identified in 1949 by Hans Kurath as a subregion between western and eastern Pennsylvania,[8][9] but some scholars have more recently[when?] identified it within the western Pennsylvania dialect region.[9][10] Since Kurath's study, one of western Pennsylvania's defining features, the cot–caught merger, has expanded into central Pennsylvania,[11] moving eastward until being blocked at Harrisburg.[12] Perhaps the only feature whose distribution is restricted almost exclusively to the immediate vicinity of Pittsburgh is /aʊ/ monophthongization in which words such as house, down, found, and sauerkraut are sometimes pronounced with an "ah" sound, instead of the more standard pronunciation of "ow", rendering eye spellings such as hahs, dahn, fahnd, and sahrkraht.

Speakers of Pittsburgh English are sometimes called "Yinzers" in reference to their use of the second-person plural pronoun "yinz." The word "yinzer" is sometimes heard as pejorative, indicating a lack of sophistication, but the term is now used in a variety of ways.[13] Older men are more likely to use the accent than women "possibly because of a stronger interest in displaying local identity...."[14]


Vowels of Western Pennsylvania English
Front Central Back
lax tense lax lax tense
Close ɪ i ʊ u
Mid ɛ ə
Open æ ʌ ɒ
Diphthongs     ɔɪ    

A defining feature of Western Pennsylvania English is the cot–caught merger, in which /ɑ/ (as in ah) and /ɔ/ (as in aw) merges to a rounded /ɒ/ (phonetically [ɒ~ɔ]). As in most other American dialects, the father–bother merger also occurs.[6][7][15] Therefore, cot and caught are both pronounced /kɒt/; Don and dawn are both /dɒn/. While the merger of the low back vowels is also widespread elsewhere in the United States, the rounded realizations of the merged vowel around [ɒ] is less common, except in Canada, California and Northeastern New England.[6][7]

/ɒ/ has a stylistic variant, which is open central unrounded [ä], as in the sarcastic pronunciation of I apologize as [aɪ əˈpʰäɫɨdʒaɪz]. It may also occur before /r/, as in start [stäɹʔt] or car [kʰäɹ], but a more common pronunciation is back and rounded: [stɒɹʔt] etc. The vowel in hoarse is the same as the one in horse, phonetically [ɔ]: [hɔɹs] but phonemically /oʊ/ due to the cot-caught merger: /hoʊrs/.[16][17]

/ʌ/ is backer and more open than [ɜ] found in Midland American English, being closer to [ɑ]. This makes STRUT an unrounded counterpart of LOT, with pairs such as nut [nɑʔt] vs. not [nɒʔt] or cut [kʰɑʔt] vs. cot [kʰɒʔt] contrasting mainly by roundedness. This is also found in contemporary Standard Southern British English, where nut [nʌʔt] also differs from not [nɔʔt] by rounding (though nought has a contrastive THOUGHT vowel instead: [no̞ːʔt], which falls together with [ɒ] in Pittsburgh). Earlier reports give [ɜ] as the norm for STRUT in Pittsburgh. The remaining checked vowels /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /ɛ/ and /æ/ are all within the General American norm.[18][19][20]

The GOAT vowel often has an unrounded central or fronted starting point in Pittsburgh: [əʊ]. Outside of the city itself, [oʊ] is more common. GOOSE is sometimes also fronted, to [ɨu] (more usual value: [ʊu]). As in other American dialects, FLEECE and FACE are narrow diphthongs [ɪi, ee̝]. CHOICE is also within GenAm norm: [ɔ̟ɪ].[21]

The PRICE vowel alone undergoes Canadian raising to [ɜɪ] before voiceless consonants, as in ice [ɜɪs]. Johnson notes that the auxiliary verb might is typically pronounced with nasalization, as [mɜ̃ɪ̃ʔt].[22]

The MOUTH vowel typically begins front in the mouth [æʊ]. A less common variant has a central starting point, [äʊ], matching the starting point of PRICE ([äɪ]).[16] It is monophthongized to [aː] in some environments (sounding instead like ah), namely: before nasal consonants (downtown [daːnˈtʰaːn] and found [faːnd]), liquid consonants (fowl, hour) and obstruents (house [haːs], out, cloudy).[6][7][15] The monophthongization does not occur, however, in word-final positions (how, now), and the diphthong then remains [æʊ].[23] That is one of the few features, if not the only one, restricted almost exclusively to western Pennsylvania in North America, but it can sometimes be found in other accents of the English-speaking world, such as Cockney and South African English.[6][7] The sound may be the result of contact from Slavic languages during the early 20th century.[7] Monophthongization also occurs for the sound /aɪ/, as in eye, before liquid consonants,[6][7][15][24] so that tile is pronounced [tʰɑːɫ]; pile is pronounced [pʰɑːɫ]; and iron is pronounced [ɑːɹn]. That phenomenon allows tire to merge with the sound of tar: [tʰɑːɹ].

The NURSE vowel (phonemically an /ər/ sequence) is phonetically close-mid [ɘ˞].[25]

Johnson notes a tendency to diphthongize /æ/ to [ɛə] not only before nasals (as in GenAm) but also before all voiced consonants (as in bad [bɛəd]) and voiceless fricatives (as in grass [ɡɹɛəs]).[25] This has since been reversed and now [ɛə] is confined to the environment of a following nasal, matching the GenAm allophony.[26]

An epenthetic (intruding) /r/ sound may occur after vowels in a few words, such as water pronounced as [ˈwɔɹɾɚ], and wash as [wɔɹʃ].[6][7]

A number of vowel mergers occur uniquely in Western Pennsylvania English before the consonant /l/. The pair of vowels /i/ and /ɪ/ may merge before the /l/ consonant,[6][7][15][27] cause both steel and still to be pronounced as something like [stɪɫ]. Similarly, /u/, /oʊ/, and /ʊ/ may merge before /l/, so that pool, pull, and pole may merge to something like [pʰʊɫ]. On the /il/~/ɪl/ merger, Labov, Ash and Boberg (2006) note "the stereotype of merger of /ɪl ~ il/ is based only on a close approximation of some forms, and does not represent the underlying norms of the dialect."[28] The /i/~/ɪ/ merger is found in western Pennsylvania,[6][7][15][27] as well as parts of the southern United States, including Alabama, Texas and the west (McElhinny 1999). On the other hand, the /u/~/ʊ/ merger is consistently found only in western Pennsylvania. The /i/~/ɪ/ merger towards [ɪ] may also appear before /ɡ/: eagle then sounds to outsiders like iggle.[6][7][15]

L-vocalization is also common in the Western Pennsylvania dialect; an /l/ then sounds like a /w/ or a cross between a vowel and a "dark" /l/ at the end of a syllable.[6][7][29] For example, well is pronounced as [wɛw]; milk as [mɪwk] or [mɛwk]; role as [ɹʊw]; and cold as [ˈkʰʊwd]. The phenomenon is also common in African-American English.

Western Pennsylvania English speakers may use falling intonation at the end of questions,[6][7][30] for example, in "Are you painting your garage?" [↗ˈɒɹ ˈpʰeɪɾ̃ɪŋ ɡə↘ˈɹɒdʒ] (with pitch rising in intonation up to just before the last syllable and then falling precipitously).[30] Such speakers typically use falling pitch for yes–no questions for which they already are quite sure of the answer. A speaker uttering the above example is simply confirming what is already thought: yes, the person spoken to is painting their garage. It is most common in areas of heavy German settlement, especially southeastern Pennsylvania,[30] hence its nickname, the "Pennsylvania Dutch question", but it is also found elsewhere in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh.[6][7][30][31][32][33][34] It is of German origin.[30]


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
City of Pittsburgh Recycling Drop-Off Center sign using the term "redd up", illustrating an example of Western Pennsylvania English.


Notable examples of lifelong speakers

See also


  1. ^ In Russian, Slovak, and many other Slavic languages, the word babushka (a familial/cute extension of the word baba) means "grandmother" or (endearingly) "old woman." In Pittsburgh and much Northern U.S. English, the word also denotes a type of headscarf that might be worn by an old woman. Predominantly used in the northeast United States, babushka is most heavily in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. It is sometimes used as a derogatory term for an elderly woman, similar to calling someone an "old hag."[citation needed]
  2. ^ Kurath (1949) mentions that speakers in a large portion of Pennsylvania use the term, but that it is "very common in the Pittsburgh area[,]...[in] the adjoining counties of Ohio and on the lower Kanawha"
  3. ^ According to Kurath (1949), this may be heard from the western edge of the Alleghenies to beyond the Ohio line
  4. ^ This is heard in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. It origins are not entirely known, but rumored to have begun during the Depression Era, when people took meat scraps and fashioned a makeshift drumstick out of them.
  5. ^ Kurath (1949) claims these forms are used from the western edge of the Alleghenies to beyond the Ohio line; and Crozier claims that they are restricted to southwestern Pennsylvania, from Scots-Irish English origins.
  6. ^ Kurath 1949): This term is used from the western edge of the Alleghenies to beyond the Ohio line.
  7. ^ This can mean "comfort", as in "He's been in poor hap since his wife died",[31] or "comforter or quilt," as in "It was cold last night but that hap kept me warm." Hap is used for "comfort" in western Pennsylvania;[31] and a "quilt" is known as a hap only in western Pennsylvania.
  8. ^ a b The word is often followed by off to mean (as a verb) "to annoy, irritate, play tricks on; to disparage; to reject", or (as a noun) "an annoying or irritating person;" as well as around to mean "annoy, tease, or engage in a frivolous endeavor." These phrases are probably influenced by jack off and jack around, respectively. "Jus' jaggin'" is a common expression, the same as standard "just kidding". Descended from Scots-Irish usage in English, this is chiefly a Pennsylvania term, especially southwestern Pennsylvania, but also portions of Appalachia.
  9. ^ The OED (1991) lists kolbasa as a variable pronunciation of kielbasa, and notes that the former pronunciation is Polish and the latter Russian.
  10. ^ The distribution of n'at is Southwestern Pennsylvania, possibly Scots-Irish. Macaulay (1995) finds it in the regular speech and narratives of Scottish coal miners in Glasgow, a principal area from which Scottish settlers emigrated to Northern Ireland, and from there, to the American colonies.
  11. ^ An example of this term is "Yinz better redd up this room". Dressman notes that it is common to the Pittsburgh area and throughout Pennsylvania, but less so in Philadelphia. It is also scattered about New England States and in New Brunswick, though its occurrence is heaviest in Pennsylvania. Hall states that its distribution is "scattered, but chiefly N. Midland, esp PA". Dressman suggested that it was brought to the U.S. by Scots. It's almost certainly of Scandinavian/Viking origin; the Danish "rydde op" means to clean up. "Redd up" and its associated variants probably entered the English language from old Norse.


  1. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 130, 133.
  2. ^ "Do You Speak American . Sea to Shining Sea . American Varieties . Pittsburghese - PBS". PBS.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cassidy, F. G., ed. (1985). Dictionary of American Regional English, Vol. I: A-C. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-20511-6.
  4. ^ Wolowyna, Oleh (January 9, 2000). "Demographic, social, cultural characteristics of persons of Ukrainian ancestry in Chicago". The Ukrainian Weekly No. 2, Vol. LXVIII. Archived from the original on September 6, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2008. (based on 1990 US Census)
  5. ^ LeMay, Michael C. (2012-12-10). Transforming America: Perspectives on U.S. Immigration [3 volumes]: Perspectives on U.S. Immigration. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313396441.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Johnstone, Barbara; Baumgardt, Dan (2004). ""Pittsburghese" Online: Vernacular Norming in Conversation". American Speech. 79 (2): 115–145. doi:10.1215/00031283-79-2-115. JSTOR 40281107. S2CID 3861413. Archived from the original on 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Johnstone, Barbara; Bhasin, Neeta; Wittkofski, Denise (2002). ""Dahntahn" Pittsburgh: Monophthongal /aw/ and Representations of Localness in Southwestern Pennsylvania". American Speech. 77 (2): 148–166. doi:10.1215/00031283-77-2-148. JSTOR 40281028. S2CID 2783229. Archived from the original on 2017-09-22. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  8. ^ Kurath, Hans (1949). A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472085323. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b Salvucci, Claudio (1999). "Linguistic Geography of Pennsylvania". Evolution Publishing. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  10. ^ Thomas, Charles (1958). An Introduction to the Phonetics of American English. Ronald Press. ISBN 9780826086303. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  11. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 66.
  12. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 123.
  13. ^ a b Johnstone, Barbara (May 3, 2011). Place, language, and semiotic order. Urban Symbolic Landscapes conference. Helsinki.
  14. ^ "Questions and Answers: Who Uses Pittsburgh Speech the Most?". Pittsburgh Speech and Society. University Library System, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Gagnon, C. L. (1999). Language attitudes in Pittsburgh: 'Pittsburghese' vs. standard English. Master's thesis. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.
  16. ^ a b Johnson (1971), pp. 71–2.
  17. ^ Wells (1982), p. 484.
  18. ^ Johnson (1971), p. 70.
  19. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 88–9.
  20. ^ Cruttenden (2014), pp. 122, 126–128, 130.
  21. ^ Johnson (1971), pp. 70–2.
  22. ^ Johnson (1971), pp. 72–3.
  23. ^ Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W., eds. (2004). A Handbook of Varieties of English: A Multimedia Reference Tool. Vol. 1. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 407–416. doi:10.1515/9783110175325. ISBN 978-3-11-019718-1.
  24. ^ Hankey, Clyde T. (1965). "Miscellany: 'tiger,' 'tagger,' and [aɪ] in western Pennsylvania". American Speech. 40 (3): 226–229. doi:10.2307/454074. JSTOR 454074.
  25. ^ a b Johnson (1971), p. 72.
  26. ^ Duncan (2016), pp. 1–2.
  27. ^ a b Brown (1982).
  28. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 72.
  29. ^ Hankey, Clyde T. (1972). Notes on west Penn-Ohio phonology. In: Studies in Linguistics in Honor of Raven I. McDavid, Jr., ed. by L.M. Davis. University of Alabama Press. pp. 49–61. ISBN 978-0-8173-0010-4.
  30. ^ a b c d e Fasold, Ralph W. (1980). "The conversational function of Pennsylvania Dutch intonation". Paper Presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAVE IX) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
  31. ^ a b c Maxfield (1931).
  32. ^ Layton (1999).
  33. ^ a b Wisnosky (2003).
  34. ^ a b c d Johnstone, Andrus & Danielson (2006).
  35. ^ "Something different, Something delicious: City Chicken", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p. 4, 2 November 1932, retrieved 16 September 2016
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i Johnstone, Barbara (2013). Speaking Pittsburghese: The Story of a Dialect. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-199-94568-9.
  37. ^ a b c d Crozier, Alan (1984). "The Scotch-Irish influence on American English". American Speech. 59 (4): 310–331. doi:10.2307/454783. JSTOR 454783.
  38. ^ a b c Cassidy, F. G. and. J.H. Hall., Eds. (1991). Dictionary of American Regional English, Vol. II: D-H. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-20512-3.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  39. ^ a b Johnstone, Barbara (2015). Pittsburgh Speech and Pittsburghese. Walter de Gruyter GmbH. ISBN 978-1-614-51178-6.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g Cassidy, F. G. and J. H. Hall, Eds. (1996). Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume III: I-O. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-20519-2.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  41. ^ Freeman, Jan. "The jimmies story". Boston.com.
  42. ^ Parker, Jeanie (September 2, 2000). "Gardening: The fruit of the Osage orange tree has many odd reputed uses". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. PG Publishing. Archived from the original on 5 October 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  43. ^ a b McElhinny 1999; Wisnosky 2003; Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson 2006
  44. ^ Hall, J. H., ed. (2002). Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume IV: P-Sk. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00884-7.
  45. ^ Dressman, Michael R. (1979). "Redd up". American Speech. 54 (2): 141–145. doi:10.2307/455213. JSTOR 455213.
  46. ^ Also see McElhinny (1999); Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson (2006).
  47. ^ Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries (2006). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-70173-5. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  48. ^ "Definition of SPICKET". www.merriam-webster.com.
  49. ^ "Yinzer Basics: Pittsburghese for Beginners". March 21, 2012.
  50. ^ "Yunzonics: Translating Pennsylvanian". tomtwine.com. Thomas H. Twine. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  51. ^ McElhinny 1999; Wisnosky 2003; Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson 2006: Used Southwestern Pennsylvania and elsewhere in Appalachia, yinz is a particularly salient feature of Pittsburgh speech
  52. ^ a b c Robert P. Marzec (30 December 2004). The Mid-Atlantic Region. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-313-32954-8. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  53. ^ Montgomery 2001
  54. ^ Metcalf, Allan (2000). How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-618-04362-0. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  55. ^ Montgomery (1989).
  56. ^ McElhinny (1999).
  57. ^ a b Montgomery (1999).
  58. ^ a b c Adams, Michael (2003). "Lexical Doppelgängers". Journal of English Linguistics. 28 (3): 295–310. doi:10.1177/00754240022005054. S2CID 220752970.
  59. ^ Still, Brian (15 October 2010). Usability of Complex Information Systems: Evaluation of User Interaction. CRC Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-4398-2894-6. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  60. ^ a b Murray, Frazer & Simon (1996).
  61. ^ a b c Murray & Simon (1999).
  62. ^ a b c Murray & Simon (2002).
  63. ^ a b Montgomery (2001).


Further reading

  • Blackley, Katie (28 September 2017). "Redd Up Your Pittsburghese: A Deep Dive Into How Yinz Talk". WESA-FM. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  • Heinz History Center staff (2015). Pittsburghese from Ahrn to Yinz. Senator John Heinz History Center. ISBN 978-0936340210.
  • Kurath, Hans (1949). "Western Pennsylvania". A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 35–36. LCCN 49050233.
  • Kurath, Hans; McDavid, Raven I. Jr. (1961). "Western Pennsylvania". The pronunciation of English in the Atlantic United States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 17–18. LCCN 60005671.
  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2005). The atlas of North American English: phonetics, phonology, and sound change. Mouton de Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110167467. ISBN 9783110167467.
  • Macauley, Ronald K. S. (1985). "The narrative skills of a Scottish coal miner". In Gorlach, Manfred (ed.). Focus on: Scotland. Varieties of English Around the World. Philadelphia: John Benjamins. pp. 101–124. doi:10.1075/veaw.g5.08mac. ISBN 978-90-272-4863-3.
  • Montgomery, Michael B. (1997). "A tale of two Georges: the language of Irish Indian traders in colonial North America". In Kallen, J. (ed.). Focus on: Ireland. Philadelphia: John Benjamins. pp. 227–254. doi:10.1075/veaw.g21.15mon.
  • Montgomery, Michael B. (2002). "The structural history of y'all, you all, and you'uns". Southern Journal of Linguistics. 26: 19–27. ProQuest 2152905187.
  • Newlin, Claude M. (1928). "Dialects on the western Pennsylvania frontier". American Speech. 4 (2): 104–110. doi:10.2307/452864. JSTOR 452864.
  • Shields, Kenneth Jr. (1985). "Germanisms in Pennsylvania English: an update". American Speech. 60 (3): 228–237. doi:10.2307/454887. JSTOR 454887.
  • Simpson, J. A.; Weiner, E. S. C. (1991). Compact Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Tenny, Carol (1998). "Psych verbs and verbal passives in Pittsburghese" (PDF). Linguistics. 36: 591–597.
  • Thomas, E. (2001). An acoustic analysis of vowel variation in New World English. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822364948.