Friday, August 18, 2006

Red Sox/Yankees Boundary: Connected to Settlement & Linguistic Patterns?

Check out this map of the dividing line between Red Sox and Yankees territory.
from New York Times graphic Tracing the Border,
accompanying article Where Do Rivals Draw the Line?

As we would expect, the area of New England between New York and Boston is not neutral ground for baseball fans. You’ve got your fervent Yankees fans closer to New York, and your die-hard Sox believers outside of Boston. A map of the boundary demarcating Sox and Yankees territory in the New York Times this morning got me thinking.

The Connecticut river marks a historic dividing line. Those east of the Connecticut river don’t pronounce the /r/ after a vowel, and pronounce the words can’t, dance, half, and bath differently. This is usually attributed to settlement patterns. Settlers from the Massachusetts Bay colony expanded southward until they hit less favorable land between the Thames and Connecticut river. Western New England, further south along the coast, was settled by English settlers who had not spend much time in the Massachusetts bay colony, and therefore had not picked up the culture or speaking patterns of Eastern New England.

In the map below, the orange line shows the settlement line between Eastern and Western New England, and the yellow line shows the dividing line between those who pronounce /r/ at the end of words and those who don't.

This interesting linguistic and settlement history in Connecticut produces maps that fairly track the boundary between Sox and Yankees fans. Could this be where our team loyalty comes from?


Aaronay said...

Actually, pretty accurate analysis. I'm struck by how closely the rhotic factor (i.e., post-vocalic "r") follows the Sox-Yanks boundary. Of course, New Yorkers don't say "r" either... but those Western CT people sure do. And of course it makes sense that linguistic patterns would correspond to something like baseball loyalty, because linguistic patterns reflect, and in some cases, create and recreate, existing cultural connections and loyalties. People east of the Connecticut River have always associated more with each other (and with Rhode Islanders and even Bostonians) than with their western CT counterparts. Eastern CT folk are likely to get the Providence Journal, not the Hartfound Courant. So their Red Sox loyalty, if not inborn, is likely to be reinforced by social contact.

Sonja Shield said...

btw, dear readers, the above comment is written by my brother, who is doing his Ph.D. in linguistics, and who has generally been obsessed with dialect & language stuff like this his whole life. (what I'm saying is he knows what he's talking about)

Ron said...

Born, bred and living in CT, I can only express my dismay. All three offspring are Red Sox fans, despite being brought up outside of New Haven. The triumph of the infracaninophile (yeah... look it up) over good sense? What's a Dad to do? I stay up nights.