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Show Me the Data

Millions take their dialects seriously. Just ask NC State statistics graduate student Joshua Katz.

As a way of examining regional language variation in the continental U.S., Katz produced detailed maps that illustrate results of a dialect survey by Bert Vaux of the University of Cambridge. The maps show regional word choices and pronunciation from California to Maine. Y’all vs. you. Soda vs. pop.

After NC State’s research blog, The Ab­stract, wrote about the work in June, it was picked up by Business Insider and other online outlets. Within hours the maps went viral — garnering more than 30 million hits on some of the nation’s top sites in just the first 10 days.

Katz brought data visualization to the mainstream through interviews with the BBC, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News and many other media.

“It’s good exposure for statistics, for thinking about data in creative ways,” he explained in The News & Observer.

All the publicity has helped his career. He worked for the graphics department of The New York Times this fall.