"Certain changes have continued in the same direction over 100 years and everybody's doing it," said Bill Labov, who has studied the Philadelphia accent since 1971 and recorded hundreds of native speakers born between 1888 and 1992 and living in dozens of neighborhoods. ... Technological advances have allowed Labov and his colleagues to turn their decades of field recordings into voice spectrographs — computer-generated visualizations of the human voice like an EKG — to track speech variations over time. Regional dialects are cemented by adolescence, so a recording of a 75-year-old Philadelphian made in 1982, for example, should provide a snapshot of what people sounded like around 1925.Pleasantly surprised to hear that Labov is still working. I've been familiar with his work since the '70s, and sort of assumed he'd be retired or dead by now. But there's absolutely nothing new about sound spectrographs. Bell Labs (hmm, sounds familiar) developed the technique in the late '40s, and Kay brought it to market in 1950. It's been used intensely by speech researchers ever since. The original was a complex and smelly mechanical device, but it's been all software since 1980. = = = = = [On the latter item, I'm speaking from directly relevant experience... Working at Penn State in the late '80s, I operated one of those smelly old Kay spectrograph machines for researchers who were analyzing Philly dialects.]
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.