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North America's Vernacular Regions

Wilbur Zelinsky
Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Vol. 70, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), pp. 1-16
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2562821
Page Count: 16
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North America's Vernacular Regions
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Abstract

The vernacular, or popular, region, "the product of the spatial perception of average people," is a phenomenon that remains too poorly known in North America. It promises to gain importance as the general level of public and scholarly interest in regional, ethnic, and historical questions continues to rise. The larger, subnational North American vernacular regions are studied through an analysis of the frequency of selected regional and locational terms in the names of enterprises (both profit and nonprofit) listed in recent telephone directories for 276 metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada. Despite several technical problems in study design and data procurement, the results are encouraging. A total of fourteen regions can be discerned, some not previously described, while several correspond nicely with culture areas previously mapped from other evidence. Inclusion in the checklist of terms with cultural, but not specifically regional, overtones enables us to compute and map variations in the strength of regional feeling from place to place. This study suggests further dimensions of North America's social and cultural geography that might be derived from a deeper probing of the names applied to our highly varied organized activities.

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