Researcher to revisit Iron Range dialect

Location of the Iron Range dialect on a map of North America's English language variations. The Range dialect has been a topic here at the blog before.

Location of the Iron Range dialect on a map of North America’s English language variations. The Range dialect has been a topic here at the blog before.

Though probably not surprising to visitors and natives alike, the Iron Range region of Northern Minnesota is home to its own researched and defined dialect. I‘ve written about this before, but the topic takes on new relevance as linguist Dr. Sara Schmelzer Loss of Oklahoma State University (and a Hibbing native) returns to her hometown next week to begin a month-long re-evaluation of the Iron Range dialect.

I’ll have a column about this next Sunday in the Hibbing Daily Tribune and here on MinnesotaBrown, but for now I thought I would share the description Loss provided of her upcoming work. She’ll need people to participate in interviews to aid her work. Perhaps you or someone you know would be interested.

The question:
During the Iron Range’s “Pioneer Days,” immigrants from all over Europe brought their home languages to the Iron Range. The speed and the extent to which speakers of different languages mixed on the Range has left its mark on the way we talk, even today. I’ve heard stories of people who go down to the cities and strangers ask them if they are from the Range.

Like all dialects and languages, the Iron Range Dialect is changing. But we don’t know exactly how it’s changing. In the mid-1980’s, Michael Linn, who was a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, did a dialect study on the Iron Range. His study was the last full study of Iron Range English. I will use his study as a bench mark to understand how the dialect has stayed the same – and has changed.

We all know that men and women don’t talk exactly the same. And we know that teenagers don’t talk exactly like their parents or their grandparents. In order to get a true representation of what the Iron Range Dialect looks like today, I’ll interview men and women who are 15 years of age and older. Please consider participating in the study.

The study:
Participants will be recorded while doing the following tasks: (i) reading a word list and two short passages, (ii) taking a short Iron Range vocabulary survey, (iii) determining the acceptability of some sentences, and (iv) participating in an interview about themselves, the Iron Range, and the Iron Range dialect. Participation will take about one and a half hours.

To participate:
I am looking for people 15 years of age or older who grew up on the Iron Range and do not have a history of speech, language, or hearing disorders to participate. Participation will be individual, although you may do the interview portion in friend or family groups if you would prefer. If you are under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must accompany you to the interview, though the adult doesn’t need to stay for the whole interview. As a thank you, you will receive a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop or store; I will have a selection with me. Interviews will be conducted July 13 – August 3. If you are interested in participating or have questions, please contact Sara at

My background:
I graduated from Hibbing High School in 2000, and I finished my PhD at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2011. For my dissertation, I studied how one word is used in the Iron Range Dialect. Now that I’ve developed more research skills, I am ready to study much more than that one word – I want to know what the whole Iron Range Dialect sounds like today. I am excited that my research is taking me home.


  1. Bill Brown says

    Okay, alright let’s do it. A fella named Harold born on da range, livt der til da war. bodt his parents were proud Rangers and Italians, but named him Harold to Americanize him instead of Benito ( his middle name ). Well afte da war he came back but hungt around da East side of St Paul and met and married a very nice Italian girl from der. He got job at da plant aka Mining dba 3M. So when I knew him in the 50’s Harold and his wife called him Benny, would start every sentence wit, ” ya go ta work and …” Did not matter of moving a couch , baiting a hook, opeing a bottle of beer everting was “ya go ta work and …”……He was stuck in the snow one winter so I pulled him out with my F-100, he gave me a quarter and told me to keep da change. Well Benny is gone and I wish I had recorded him voice, his language, his pauses, his stories and mostly his laugh. But he nevr felt at home in St Paul, he was at heart always a Ranger. He actually told me New York hockey team was named after da Range. ” ya go ta work and clean the weeds ouff da prepeller on da moter “

  2. I have been away from “da Range” for a good number of years, but when I do go back for a visit to see da ones tat never left. I come back to my Southern city, north of St Cloud and I am told I picked up my Northern dialect once again. I love when my way southern friends make fun of the way I talk. I don’t hear it my speech. But, I am told I talk FUNNY.

  3. I grew up in a big, not giant, city in another Midwestern state. I learned to tell the difference between the north side accent (mine) and the south side accent. The difference seemed to be the German influence vs the Polish influence. I’ve noticed accents when I’ve traveled. So looking back, I’m surprised that I didn’t notice any differences when I met kids from Minnesota in yet another Midwestern state, or when I moved to Mn and became a resident 43 years ago. I’ve met a few people through the years who were born and raised on the Range who definitely had a Ranger accent. It came out mostly in how clipped some of the syllables are. These would be people who are now just about retirement age. I also wonder how the younger set comes out in this. Perhaps there are differences in the smaller towns along the Range. Where I live here, many, if not most of the people I know, moved to the area for jobs that required lots of education or for a lake place, so they come from all over the US. Among these people, I’m most likely to notice an accent of where they are from.

    The one major exception to my statement about not noticing an accent was when I toured the Soudan Underground Mine quite a few years ago (several times.) The guides were actual retired miners who not only had a strong accent, they also used mining jargon as normal language without explanation, so that the talk was authentic but barely translatable in my own mind.

  4. The UP of Michigan is nowhere near the same language group as Fargo ND. Despite a shared heritage, they are not the same as us Rangers either.

    When I was a kid in Keewatin, we saw movies at the showhouse, and we went Hibbing to shop. My dad backed his Euc to the edge of the dump lots of times when he worked for the Hanna. I heard at least 3 European languages downtown and the grocery store owner knew at least some of each. In da summer I had to be home before the whistle. Da mine took a cat and pushed down the side of a dump on the edge of town for a sliding hill. Father McHenry used to stop us on the street by the Post Office and ask why he didn’t see us at Mass on Sunday, even though I went to other church.

    When people ask where I’m from, I was born at the Hibbing hospital but grew up in Keewatin.

    Listen to tapes of Rudy Perpich. He grew up in a location outside Hibbing and his wife Lola was from St Paul Location by Keewatin. he never lost the accent, probably on purpose.

    The Ranger dialect is really an angry sounding dialect to others, probably from the Eastern European influence with it’s guttural sounds and clipped syllables. It’s very different from the “Minnesota” dialect parodied in shows like Fargo and New in Town.

  5. I did a linguistic research project somewhere between 1978 and 1980 while at college. I ran a vocabulary test for people of different ages. I believe there is a copy of it in the research area at Iron world discovery center. You are welcome to check it out-or connect with me.

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