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Bro, Do Californians Have Accents?

Stanford linguistics researchers are working on “Voices of California,” a study of how we talk.

Valley girls. Surf brah. Chicano English.

A team of researchers from Stanford have launched “Voices of California,” a study to determine if Californians have accents.

What do you think the California accent is?

Penelope Eckert, professor of linguistics and anthropology at Stanford, believes there's more to it than vowel shifting and vocabulary, dudes.

Despite the state's diverse population, many Californians believe they don't have distinguishable way of speaking. (Some call it a "TV accent.")

“It's really important to portray California as it is,” Eckert told Stanford News. “People have this view of California based on Hollywood, and California really is a very diverse state.”

“Voices of California” researchers are recording and studying how Californians speak. They've visited Redding, Merced and, last fall, went to Bakersfield.

Eckert and her researchers say they've found distinctions between coastal California and Central Valley, such as influences of southern twang from Dust Bowl migrants. The large number of Latinos in California impacts language as well.

“Voices of California” participants talk about their lives, but also are asked questions about special words, expressions, and pronunciations during research interviews. Each reads a list of words that researchers think have distinctive pronunciations in California.

Try these words off the list:

  • Wash, because some people pronounce it "warsh."
  • Greasy, because some people pronounce it "greezy."
  • Pin and pen, because some people pronounce them the same.

KQED in San Francisco and Southern California Public Radio invited listeners to record impressions of California accents.

Joe Prasso, who was born in Chula Vista and lives in San Ysidro, said in one of the public radio recordings that she does not think Californians have an accent.

“To my ear, we sound like most television news anchors,” she said, adding that she looked forward to the results of the project because “it’ll be cool to hear how other people sound.” 

Do you think Californians have an accent? Can you find different accents between different parts of San Diego? Do you have have an accent? Where does it come from and what does it sound like? Tell us in the comment section.

Ed Sorrels January 29, 2013 at 11:08 PM
I don't think it is as much a accent as it is different usages for some word's. There are few such as the illistrations but I think it is mostly the word useage!
Libi Uremovic January 30, 2013 at 01:01 AM
every region of the country has an accent...it's not the words - it's the dialect and accents... when i moved to the west indies i not only could tell when someone was from cali, but i could also tell what part of cali they were from... ...and tourists would tell me all the time that they 'could tell' i was from cali ...even after i lived out of the country for years...

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