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Marge, meet Sarah

November 17, 2009 - Jim Anderson
Why does Sarah Palin sometimes sound like someone from the movie “Fargo”?

Linguists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are publishing an article in the Journal of English Linguistics that offers an explanation.

Although Palin was raised in Alaska, many of her speech patterns reflect the Upper Midwest. (More like Marge Gunderson’s Minnesota than Carl Pellonpaa’s U.P.)

According to the UW researchers, Palin’s linguistic roots might be partly traced to the Great Depression.

People living in Alaska’s Matanuska and Susitna valleys, where Wasilla is located, are largely descendants of farmers who moved there in the 1930s. Encouraged by a 1935 government program, some 200 farm families from the Upper Midwest started a new community in the Wasilla area, according an Associated Press summary of the research.

Joe Salmons, director of UW’s Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures wrote the paper along with UW linguistics professors Thomas Purnell and Eric Raimy. They parsed the 7,640 words Palin spoke during the 2008 vice presidential debate, the AP reported.

While Palin has Upper Midwestern speech patterns, she also has what Salmons calls “screaming hallmarks of western speech.”

For example, Palin pronounces the word “feel” like “fill” and “peel” like “pill.”

The linguists made no attempt to explain the winks.


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