American Accents
Wired Magazine's tour of American accents
Content
While browsing Wired Magazine, I discovered they had a whole series on English Accents with a professional "Accent Coach", Eric Singer.  Eric's "Tour of US Accents" I found especially interesting. It consists of 2 videos and gives a great overview of the variouos English language accents in the US.


Video part 1

source: this article



Video part 2

source: this article



Transcript part 1

New York City, Trenton,
North Carolina, Ocracoke Island,
Mississippi and Northern Florida.
That's where you gets the sort of Blanche DuBois
or Scarlett O'Hara kind of classical Southern accent.
Hi, my name is Erik Singer.
I'm a dialect coach.
Today we're gonna take a little tour
of some of the different accents
of English speaking North America.
[upbeat music]
Now a couple of quick disclaimers.
This are by no means all the accents in North America
or even all the English speaking ones.
And not everyone from the same place,
sounds the same accents vary by socioeconomic background,
generation, ethnicity and race,
and all kinds of individual factors.
Because in a very real way,
accent is identity.
Different people from the same place
have more or less localizable accents.
And that usually has to do with identity too.
Now on some of our stops,
we're going to be looking at some of the most distinctive
and interesting local features
but it doesn't mean that everyone from there
has that accent or has it to the same degree.
I'm also going to have some linguists
and language experts from around the continent.
Join me today to lend their expertise
in some of these areas.
Hi, I'm Megan Figueroa.
Hi, I'm Nicole
Peace, I'm Sunn m’Cheaux.
Hi, I'm Kalina.
Hi, I'm Amani Dorn.
One of the things you'll notice along the way
is that accents often don't follow political boundaries
especially once like state lines.
They'll follow major geographical boundaries
things like mountains, for sure
but what regional accent differences
mostly reflect is settlement patterns and contact.
Historically isolated communities
like Ocracoke Island in the outer banks of North Carolina
or the sea islands in the low country in Georgia
can have really distinctive speech ways.
They've had the time
and isolation necessary to diverge and develop them.
That's the other thing that makes for accent variety.
Time.
There's a lot more accent diversity in the British Isles,
for example, where there are local populations
that have been speaking English
in their particular way for hundreds and hundreds of years.
And there's more accent diversity
on the East coast of the US
than there is West of the Mississippi.
It's been settled by English speakers longer.
The first places English was spoken in North America
were Roanoke, Jamestown and of course,
Plymouth Massachusetts,
where the pilgrims landed in 1620.
So let's start there.
The Pilgrim spoke with what we call RHOTIC accents
meaning they said all their R's.
In fact, so did almost all English speakers in 1620
including the ones in England.
That's right.
The Southern English accent
might have used to sound something like this.
It was only in the late 18th century
that fashionable young people
in and around London started dropping their R's.
And from there the trend spread to America.
Now North of Plymouth rock, we have a Harvard Yard.
One of the places you might hear a Boston accent today.
Stereotypical Boston accents of course a non RHODIC
meaning no 'r' sounds,
in Pack your car in Harvard yard.
Let's all get in the car and head South down the coast now,
into Rhode Island.
Traditional Rhode Island accents is still non RHOTIC
but there's a key vowel difference.
The placement for that vowel sound
in Park your car in Harvard Yard.
we call this the start vowel.
In Boston It's usually pretty fronted
Park your car in Harvard Yard.
and Rhode Island, its back
Park your car in Harvard Yard.
/a/ /a /
Rhode Island accents were shaped by a lot of Irish
and Italian immigration, just like New York city.
So many accents.
They don't vary buy borough by the way, that's a myth.
I know you guys are going to tell me to forget about it
but I'm sorry.
Socio linguists have studied this really carefully.
And there just really isn't any such thing
as a specifically, Brooklyn
or specifically Bronx accent.
There's certainly are a lot of different
New York city accents.
But they varied by socioeconomic background
and by ethnicity and other aspects of group belonging
and identity more than by neighborhood or by borough.
Their historically non RHOTIC
though that's changing some
in the youngest generations for sure.
Here is something fun most of them have in common.
The tongue tip hits the teeth or close to them
on T D and N sounds instead of
you know, a little further back.
So you can hear that
in like this kind of New York City accent
tongue tip on the teeth.
Times Square, New York City and this kind of New York accent
22nd street, Time Square, Dumbo, taxis, traffic, and so on.
Okay.
So, you may have noticed that
all of these accents I've talked about so far
sound pretty
white.
I'm going to take a pause here.
And linguist Nicole Holliday is going to go a little deeper
on African American English varieties.
My colleague Amani Dorn
is going to demonstrate some of those accents.
Hi, I'm Nicole Holliday.
And I'm a linguist.
As we know, New York has all kinds of people in it.
African American English has a lot
of shared features across regions because of its history.
So black people in Africa were kidnapped
and brought to what is now the United States.
At the time, they didn't all speak the same languages.
They spoke multiple different African languages
and those languages came into contact,
not only with each other,
but those languages were also coming
into contact with the English spoken by the colonizers.
This created a situation where there was a really unusual
learning exposure to English, right?
So there are all of these languages in contact
with each other and for economic and survival reasons
the enslaved people had to, in some ways acquire English.
But the English that they were acquiring was not
like what you learned in the classroom, right?
It was under this really unusual situation of acquisition.
So some of the features that we see
in modern African American English
are a result of this contact between the African languages
as well as the English spoken by colonizers.
And those features have persisted
over generations.
After slavery was legally ended.
The majority of African Americans remained in the South
but experienced really extreme segregation.
This led to different varieties of English being spoken
in black and white communities within the South.
And even they moved North during the great migration.
Nicole, how did the great migration influence accents?
The English that we see today
spoken by African Americans
has some features that have persisted
throughout generations.
'Th' stopping.
So that might be using something like a 'D' sound
for where you see a written 'Th'
So dat, for that.
You can hear that in this clip.
They said I could participate online.
They said I could, they said I could.
They said I could participate online.
'L' vocalization.
So that's an L turning into a vowel
in a word like pool or pull
might sound something like pool or pull.
You said that's cool, cool, cool, cool.
That's cool.
We also see consonant cluster simplification.
If you have a series of consonants at the end of a word
you might see them turn into just one consonant.
So in a word like West
you might hear it pronounced as West.
It's been a minute, but she just left.
She just left.
She just left.
And anything specific to New York.
One feature common in New York City
is what we call a raised vowel in words like thought
and cloth.
It sounds something like awe.
Coffee without froth on top isn't coffee at all.
So let's get it together.
Okay, let's go back to Erik.
Thank you, Nicole.
And even that's just the tip of the iceberg
for linguistic diversity in this incredibly diverse city.
Around 50% of New Yorkers
speak languages other than English at home.
And for half of those, that language is Spanish.
Megan Figueroa is here to tell us a little bit
about one of those varieties.
A variety linguists call New York, Latino English.
New York, Latino English is heavily influenced by
Puerto Rican Spanish and Dominican Spanish.
One remarkable feature of this variety is a light L
the sound that you would find in a word like, like love leaf
Right.
So New York Latino English speakers have a particularly
light L, you can hear that in this native speaker clip.
I guess growing up, I know what it's like
to not have a lot.
I know what it's like to not have a lot, lot, lot.
In contrast to the light L when you produce the dark L
the back of your tongue bunches.
So think about the words, milk
and pull
the lighter L was a feature of New York, Latino English.
But Latinex people are a very diverse group of people
and they speak a variety of varieties.
We'll get some more of those.
Thank you, Megan.
And this single feature is a good contrast
with other New York accents, by the way.
Because most of the New York accents have pretty dark L's.
Lots of lemon lollipops, LA LA.
I like to lick them.
So now as we leave New York
and had South in to Jersey and towards Philadelphia
we crossed a major dialect boundary, the On Line.
And North of this line.
Most people say 'an' rimes with 'don'
South of it they say 'on' rimes with 'down'.
Of course, this doesn't apply at all.
If you rhyme on and down
only if you have two distinct pronunciations.
That's called the Cot-caught merger.
But we'll talk more about that later.
There were a few major dialects areas in the US
and one of the biggest dividing lines is
between Northern dialects and Midland dialects.
The On line basically runs right along this boundary.
So as we cross over at somewhere around Trenton
we've crossed from the North to the Midlands dialect wise.
Now another thing that starts to happen
as we get down towards Philly
is that the goat diphthong
starts to move forwards in the mouth.
So we get go, hoagies.
You want to get get some hoagies?
Go gets maybe even a little further forward,
as we get down to Baltimore,
especially you know, down the ocean.
You want to get down the ocean on Wednesday.
Let's make a quick stop in DC
where Nicole has some really interesting stuff
on the prosody of local African American speakers.
[piano music]
In my research, I study Prosody.
Which has to do with the tone
and intonation of the phrase itself.
In a study, i found that African-American speakers
may be more likely to ask a yes, no question
with a level tone or a falling tone.
For white speakers, we expect a rising tone
in questions like these.
So something like, Did you do the dishes?
But African American speakers
maybe more likely to say something like,
Did you do the dishes?
Another feature that we see in DC
similar to New York
is the raised thought cloth vowel that, ah
this is a new feature in DC.
And we think it's part of a pattern
of DC varieties becoming more like Northern cities
as opposed to the South.
You can hear that in this clip.
Change is needed, but at what cost?
at what cost, cost.
Okay, let's go back to Eric.
Now we take a quick detour over to Pittsburgh.
This are the only people in all of North America
that smooth the mouth diphthong,
except for maybe Chicago, sometimes
the smoothing is when you take a diphthong
like Oh, and smooth it out.
So it's just one sound ah,
just like we have price smoothing in much to the South
so that 'I' smooths out to just 'ah' price,
same thing here
except with the mouth vowel
smoothing out to 'a' long a sound.
You guys wanna to meet down town, go shopping for couches?
Heading back over to the Delmarva Peninsula.
As we head down into Virginia
we get something different happening
with that same mouth diphthong.
Here It's gonna sound like Oh, mouth, house.
So it's not smoothing out here, It's raising.
The tongue starts a little higher up 'oh'
instead of 'a' so it's like Oh, Oh about, house
this feature's called Tidewater raising
something similar happens with this vowel in Canada.
And there we call it Canadian raisin
but it's essentially the same thing happening.
Time to get out of the house, Keep heading South.
Down in North Carolina,
we're really starting to hear
pretty significant goat fronting again.
So the vowel sound in boat, most, hope,
starts with a tongue further forwards in the mouth.
Oh, interestingly goat fronting,
which is now widespread in a lot of the American South
seems to have originated in North Carolina
sometime in the last part of the 19th century.
Remember that regional dialect boundaries
don't necessarily follow political boundaries.
They follow patterns
and contact patterns between populations.
So the inland part of North Carolina
which is in the Appalachian Highlands
the original European settlers were scotch Irish folks
and Germans moving Southwest from Pennsylvania
due to being relatively inaccessible
and isolated for a long time.
That say is distinct
from the lowlands and from the coastal areas.
The isolated speech communities are fascinating
because we can get some really interesting sound patterns.
Up here it gets really gets really dramatic
Face lowering, for example.
So the diphthong in face starts real low down around, 'e'
'a'
face
late, day.
You'll also get some particular dialect features.
So words and word order and grammar things
that stretch way back to those original settlers
from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Things like; a-huntin and a-fishin efficient and extra sounds too
like the 'R' sound in wash and the 'H' sound in it,
get on with it.
Here's Nicole again,
to talk a little bit about African-American speech
in Southern Appalachia
Hi Again.
So African Americans in Appalachia
are understudied
mostly because stereotypes of Appalachia are very very white
African Americans
in Appalachia may be more likely to be RHOTIC.
So in words like floor
Why up there on the fourth floor?
fourth floor, floor, floor
you'll get the 'R' whereas in other places
you might get floor African-Americans in Appalachia,
also tend to follow the more general Southern pattern
with respect to I monophthongization
'a' in wide turning to 'a' so you get wide.
And now the map tour continues with Erik.
Thank you, Nicole.
We're picking up again in North Carolina
over in the outer banks.
There's an even more historically isolated community
because of a shift in shipping patterns
in the mid 19th century.
And probably also
because of sympathizing with the Northern cause
in the Civil War
Ocracoke Island was relatively isolated
from the mainland for a long time.
It developed maybe one of the most distinctive
and different dialects in North America.
Obliging Islanders would sometimes say to tourists,
Well its high tide on the sound side.
Last night the water fire, tonight the moon shine.
No fish.
Ocracoke Islanders are sometimes called high tiders,
because of that particularly distinctive 'hoi' sound
and their accent is sometimes take it be British
or Australian, even by Brits.
The truth be told there are some similarities
with some regional English accents
including that 'hoi toide' vowel sound,
which is similar to both Southwestern English accents
like Devon or Gloucestershire
and East Anglian accents like Norfolk and Suffolk
those Eastern most counties of England.
Curiously,
another distinctive thing about the old Ocracoke accent,
is its also got a real sort of bounce to it
which is something that both those Southwestern
and those East Anglian accents also have in common.
North Carolina's actually one of the most linguistically
diverse States in the country.
I want to bring in Kalina Newmark now
to talk about Native American English.
Hello, my name is Kalina Newmark,
and I am Tulita Dene First Nation
from the Northwest territories Canada.
I come from a strong line of Dene and Métis leaders
who are passionate about our language
and cultural teachings.
The Lumbee tribe is a largest state recognized
Native American tribe in North Carolina,
Lumbee speakers combined and pronounce
English words that distinguish them from African American
and Southern speakers.
Since encountering white settlers in the mid 18 hundreds
the Lumbee have carved out a dialect of English
that is uniquely theirs.
One interesting feature is that Lumbee English speakers
share vowel sounds present in the outer banks accent
where tied is pronounced toyed.
You can hear that in this native speaker clip.
Well when he got half way got little ditch on this side
ditch on this side, ditch on this side
Thank you Kalina.
So that Ocracoke Island high titer accent
is an accent that's disappearing fast
the younger Ocracokers tend to speak much more
mainstream American English.
There's a popular idea that we're losing regional accents
that people are sounding more and more similar.
That's true of some people in some places
especially some of these isolated communities
but it's not true across the board.
There are actually plenty of accent differences
that are getting more and more distinct over time.
But of course, it's a complex picture.
There are parts of the South that
don't have all that much Southern about them
accent wise.
Raleigh, North Carolina and Austin Texas
are two good examples.
A lot of people
from those two cities may be pretty hard to identify
by their accents,
which brings us to what is sometimes called
general American, what's general American?
The first thing, is it's not one accent.
It's basically a terrible term for a wide variety of accents
that essentially
don't have a lot of obvious
regionally distinctive features in them.
We're going to talk to Sunn M'cheaux now.
Sunn is a native speaker of Gullah
a fascinating and really important Creole language
spoken in the low countries in the Carolinas, Georgia
and Florida.
Gullah is a language spoken
in a region of the United States
called the Gullah Geechee cultural heritage corridor.
Which extends officially from Wilmington, North Carolina
down to Jacksonville, Florida.
Gullah is an Atlantic Creole.
Most similar with Bohemian Creole English
and Beijing Creole.
In fact, when I visited the Bahamas
A bunch of the locals thought that I been a local too.
There are a variety of factors that informed the language.
For instance, the secluded plantations on the sea Island
a mixture of African languages, as well as the accents
of lower class English and Irish indentured servants
and slavers.
European slavers were so ill suited
for the sea islands environment
that they would often afford long periods of solitary time
to our ancestors with little to no oversight.
Slavers would mismatch the languages
in order to confound them
and hindered their ability to organize rebellions.
Now, the scheme of this tactic was designed for
our Gullah Geechee ancestors to be forced to speak English
so that their overseers
could be prevented of communications.
But what slavers didn't predict
is that this first generation English base African pigeon
put development to our Creole.
A fully mature rule govern language of its own,
much of which remains with us today
due to generations of forced segregation
and eventual separation by choice,
before the building of bridges
that increased easy access to and fro.
I'm going to walk you through a few distinct features
of the Gullah Geechee accent.
For example,
the kit foot vowels a reverse for the words, fish and foot.
To sound like fish and foot
The lot trap vowels are reverse for God
and Pat to sound like Gad and pot.
The softening of the T's
where butter and bent would sound like butter and bent.
Gullah speakers also dropped consonants for vowels
where the two words meet.
For instance; in the sentence,
that girl there and that boy there,
the word for their 'dere' as a subtracts
the D depending on if there's a consonant or a vowel
proceeding it.
The importance of accent to the Gullah Geechee language
simply cannot be overstated.
It is the clearest bond between ourselves and
other displaced Africans throughout colonized spaces
and the black diaspora.
How we sound is as important as what we say
because an accent is a statement in itself.
This has been your Gullah teacher Sunn m’Cheaux.
Stay safe and as always we out yah,
peace. - Thank you so much Sunn.
So if you're keeping count,
that's six Southern accents already,
even though we're not being remotely comprehensive here.
And we've only been through a few States,
lots more to come.
As we get into the Piney woods Belt.
Southern Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi
and Northern Florida.
We're getting into one of the parts of the South
that's always been RHOTIC.
A lot of the South was historically non RHOTIC.
That's where you get this sort of Blanche DuBois,
or Scarlett O'Hara kind of classical Southern accent.
You can hear that in this clip here.
I always depended on the kindness
of strangers.
You hear how there is no 'r' in strangers?
Strange, Strange, stranger.
That's a non RHOTIC accent,
but that's changed
and changed fast over the last few decades.
So most younger white southerners are now RHOTIC.
In most of the Piney woods Belt though,
they always have been.
And Nicole talked about the fact that
some African American speakers in Southern Appalachian
smooth out the 'I' diphthong
the price Vowel, in some words,
and we got along 'a' sound,
but in other words, it stays a diphthong 'I'.
And this is a pattern we find in a lot of the South
and most of the Piney woods Belt though,
there's always been what we can describe as
full price smoothing.
Where some southerners smooth, the diphthong
in words like fly, rise, ride,
but use diphthong in rice and right
here in the Piney woods Belt,
we're going to smooth them all
fly, rise, rod
and rice, rat laugh, not.
And so on.
There's an interest in posture thing here too,
which is then you start to get tongue tips
that are very edge focused.
And what I mean by that is that;
instead of using this part of the tongue,
the blade
for things like T and D sounds
so that there's a lot of surface contact
/t/ /d/
we just use the narrow edge of the tongue.
So it's a more focused contact area
/t/ /d/
tan, tired, turtles.
Talk about dentists.
We're going to end part one right here
but we're going to continue this
all the way across the continent.
We're going to go to Chicago
and Southern California and yes, absolutely.
[upbeat music]
We'll get out in a boat up in Canada.
See you next time for part two.





Transcript part 2

Hi, Erik Singer again, dialect coach.
I'm doing a map tour of North American accents.
If you missed part one, check it out here.
I'm starting part two from the South.
[upbeat music]
[keyboard tapping]
Picking up where we left off,
we were talking about rhotic accents,
where the /r/ sound is always pronounced
in the Piney Woods Belt.
But down in the Southern part of Louisiana,
it is one of the few areas that's still
pretty reliably non-rhotic.
Even though many historically non-rhotic areas of the South
have gotten their r’s back, this one's hanging on.
This is also one of the places in the South,
the Appalachians, the Ozarks, are a few of the others,
some parts of Texas, where you still hear a /M/ sound.
Words like, which, what, where.
You also get [F] for final TH sounds here.
As in both, bath.
Something I think is really interesting is that
there used to be a non-rhotic pronunciation
of NURSE words in the South.
So, words like nurse, early, work,
used by Black and White Southerners alike.
That was a kind of a diphthong, early, nurse.
It's actually pretty similar to that old fashioned
New York City thirty third street vowel sound.
You can still hear it
in some African American speakers in Louisiana today.
Though it's mostly gone otherwise.
Before moving on let's circle back to Florida.
So, Megan can tell us
about the Cuban Spanish influence in Miami.
Hello, again, this time I'm in Miami.
The Latinx population in the U.S.
is 18.5% of the population.
But within that, we're a very diverse group of people.
Before we get into Miami English,
I just wanna make it clear
that not every speaker of Miami English has Latinx.
Not every Latinx person in Miami speaks Miami English
and the same goes for New York Latino English
and the same will go for Chicano English
in the Southwest when we get there.
But we are not a monolith
and neither are the varieties that we speak.
And that's because these varieties are influenced
by different Spanishes.
So, just like the English speaking world
has different varieties, so does the Spanish speaking world.
There's so many different varieties of Spanish.
There's Mexican Spanish, there's Cuban Spanish
there's Puerto Rican Spanish, there's Dominican Spanish.
There's all these other Spanishes.
There are all these varieties
and they all have different features
and we just don't have time to get into that.
Miami English is influenced by Cuban Spanish.
Like take a look at this map.
Cuba is very close to Miami.
One remarkable feature of Miami English is the dark [ɫ].
If you recall from New York,
the dark ɫ is in words like pull and ball.
In Miami English you'll hear that dark ɫ
in places where you wouldn't hear in other varieties.
Listen to the L in this native speaker clip.
That's what I love about our language, language, language,
and about Miami.
Okay, back to Erik.
Thank you Megan.
Okay, back to Louisiana.
So, there's a well-known New Orleans accent
that sounds similar to New York accents in some ways.
It's called YAT, which comes from the phrase Where y'at?
Which means how are you?
It's so similar to New York accents in some ways,
it's a bit of a mystery.
Even some really weird little things
like bad and back not having the same vowel sound.
I got a bad back.
New Orleans had a similar mix of immigration
to New York in the 19th century,
but also very close shipping ties to New York city.
So, contact is likely part of the explanation too.
Of course, we can't leave Louisiana
without talking about Cajun.
The Cajuns were a French speaking people.
Originally came down to Louisiana from Nova Scotia
and some still speak Cajun French,
but you can hear the influence French had
on Cajun accents in English and the rhythm and the melody,
the way it has a tendency to stress the final word
of a syllable in a phrase
and also in the way final consonant sounds
can get assimilated,
sort of shlooped up into the sound before them
so that hand could just be hae.
Rent could just be rent.
Hand me the rent there.
So, continuing west to Texas.
Now, one thing that sets a lot of Texans apart
from other Southerners
is that there's a lot less goose fronting.
So, the tongue stays further back
through that whole vowel sound instead of coming forwards.
So, if I go from say somewhere in the Carolinas
and head west and talk about blue moons and soup spoons.
I'll start off with very fronted goose vowels,
blue moons and soup spoons.
But they'll get less and less fronted
the further west I go.
Blue moons and soup spoons, blue moons, and soup spoons.
When I cross the Mississippi
I don't have very fronted goose vowels anymore,
but by the time I'm in Texas blue moons and soup spoons
it's not coming forward hardly at all now.
Now, one thing that separates
the Eastern part of the state from the Western part
is how far the price smoothing goes.
Remember when we talked about
how Piney Woods Belt accents have full on price smoothing.
So, it affects ride and right, live and life.
We'll see that kind of full on version
in Western and Central Texas.
All those words are smoothed out just like that.
But in the Eastern part,
it's only on words like high, ride and live.
Words like right and life will have a diphthong.
Why is it this way?
Well, again, because of the history of settlement patterns.
The white people who settled in the Western part,
in great plains part of Texas,
the Western and Central parts mostly came from Tennessee
and the Appalachians.
Full price smoothened areas.
As we hit up into Oklahoma
I'm gonna turn it over to Kalina Newmark again.
Hello again, Oklahoma is a home
to nearly 40 Native American nations
including the Cherokee and the Comanche.
Before jumping into the local Native American
dialect features here in Oklahoma,
I'm going to share a little bit
about the history of Native American English.
Native American English is also known as a Rez Accent,
a Reservation Accent.
It occurs in First Nations and Native American communities
across the United States and Canada,
regardless of whether or not a Heritage Language is spoken.
Native American English is often identifiable
because of its prosody.
Sometimes it's described as monotone,
other times it's described as sing-songy.
Within Oklahoma community members
describe native American English both ways.
And that makes sense.
There are different varieties within the state.
In Western Oklahoma,
the Anadarko accent has been described as monotone.
Contrast that with Cherokee English in Eastern Oklahoma
which is more sing-songy.
[Dennis] Sometimes we can forget
where we come from you know it.
With that let's go back to Erik on the map tour.
Thank you Kalina.
Quick stop in the Ozarks where we can hear some accents
that are real close to Southern Appalachian accents.
Little bit different goat vowels and some others,
but real close in a lot of ways
which is because again of settlement patterns.
The original European settlers of the Ozarks,
came from Southern Appalachia
and we hear some of those same constructions
like a goin' and a huntin'
as well as a lot of shared specific dialect words.
Now, up in Chicago
and in fact, in the whole Great Lakes area,
we have one of the most significant ongoing changes
happening anywhere in English speaking world today.
It's called the Northern cities shift
or the Northern cities vowel shift.
And it may be the biggest change in English pronunciation
anywhere since the great vowel shift
right up to and through Shakespeare's time.
Now, it's a change shift
which is kind of a merry-go-round of changes.
Here's how it goes.
So, in most accents of English,
the vowel sound in words like a cat, bag,
what we call the trap vowel is something like [Ae], right?
We make it with the tongue cupped down low
and towards the front of the mouth like this.
[Ae], okay, ready for this?
Here's the first move in the Northern cities change shift.
This value unit moves up in this direction.
So, it's pronounced with a little bit tenser tongue
and sounds like cat, bag up here.
Put the cat in the bag.
Now, that leaves an open space
in terms of available vowel real estate
where that trap vowel used to be.
Now, it turns out that vowel sounds
like they space themselves out in our mouths.
They uphold a vowel vacuum, if you will.
And so, what happens is that the lot vowel
which normally lives back here
your tongue cupping low down
in the back for an open [a] sound
moves forwards towards where trap used to be.
So, in Chicago it's not a hot pot, it's a hot pot.
Now, those are just the first two moves in the change shift.
The thing about a change shift
is each move makes the next one happen.
So, trap moving up higher
pushes the dress vowel back in the mouth.
So, words like bed, next sound like bed, next.
And then the vowel sound that was back there
to begin with the [A] sound in strut, bus, lucky
has to move back further.
Bus, lucky, so, now, cot sounds like cat,
bat sounds like bet,
bet sounds like but and but sounds like bought.
Pretty dramatic shift.
At this whole area around the Great Lakes
is affected by the Northern cities shift.
Though not every part of it has it to the same extent.
Besides Chicago is strongest than the Syracuse, Rochester,
Buffalo and Detroit.
Let's head over to St. Louis.
Here's Nicole.
There's a feature in African American English
in places like St. Louis and Memphis
called the near/square/nurse merger
or I centralization.
If you know the song by the rapper Nelly, Hot in Herre,
you have seen an example of this.
It is hurr for here or r centralization
and you can also hear it in this clip.
Bro, I told you I need to get my hair done,
hair done, hair done.
Okay, let's go back to Erik.
Thank you, Nicole.
Can we talk about Minnesota for a minute?
You know, people from Minnesota often complain
about overbroad stereotypical Minnesota accents
just going too far.
Two really identifiable features of that
are monophthongal [e] and [o] in your face and goat vowels.
But you know, there are definitely places
in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and yep,
Fargo, North Dakota where you can still hear
some pretty pronounced accents
with some really monophthongal [e] and [o[ vowels.
Now, but even in much less pronounced accents
from this region, there will still be a bit of that.
You'll also still get this fairly closed oral posture.
So, there's a contrast between lips that are pretty mobile
and move around a lot
and a jaw that stays pretty fixed in place.
Now, let's stop over in the Dakotas
and I'll hand it off to Kalina.
Hi, again, from the traditional homelands of the Lakota,
Dakota and Nakota peoples.
Continuing on our conversation
of Native American English,
I'm going to talk about two shared features.
One, timing and rhythm and two intonation and pitch.
In regards to timing and rhythm,
Native American English is syllable timed
where syllables are more uniform and even in length.
You can hear that feature in this clip.
[Reg] You see a piece of trash, you pick it up.
For the second feature, intonation and pitch,
the stress syllable starts lower rather than higher.
[Reg] And I would watch them.
In this clip, from the movie Smoke Signals,
this actor is speaking in a Native American English accent.
You can hear that on Thomas here.
[Actor] Hey Thomas.
There are several theories
of where this dialect came from.
One theory is that it developed
because of Native American boarding schools.
Established in the late 19th and mid 20th century,
Native American boarding schools were designed
to assimilate Native American children into white society.
They did this by forcibly removing Native American children
from their families and communities
and forbidding them from speaking their languages.
At the time of European contact in North America
there were approximately 300 distinct Indigenous Languages.
Since then 113 of these languages have been lost
and many more are in danger
as fewer and fewer Native American children
are learning our languages.
Despite all of this
we have created a dialect of English that is uniquely ours.
A dialect that helps us to create
and recreate our identities as Native American people.
Let's go back to Erik for the next stop on the map tour.
Thank you Kalina.
Quick detour to Iowa.
So, remember that on line that runs through New Jersey
where above it most people say on rhymes with dawn
and south of it most people say on rhymes with don
and it runs right along a really major dialect boundary
between the North linguistically speaking and the Midlands.
And it runs through all of these states
and through Iowa too.
Now, people don't necessarily think of Iowa
having a lot of dialect variety,
but here's a major division right here.
So, Sioux City and Cedar Rapids are above the on line.
So, most people in those places say on
and the Des Moines below it.
So, most people there will say on.
Alright, so, heading west now over towards the Rockies,
one of the things that we start to hear in the Mountain West
generally is -ing endings pronounced as 'een.'
So, playing, going, singing.
The whole Western part of the country.
So, these 11 states is usually considered
one big dialect area.
Now, that's not to say that there aren't any differences.
Of course there are, but broadly speaking
it's one area with a lot of common features.
There just hasn't been enough time
for really distinctive features to develop over here.
Here's something interesting in some Utah accents though.
Some front vowels get lowered before /l/ sounds.
So, we get milk, for instance.
The word sale might sound like sell.
Is this milk on sale?
You'll also hear mountain and button.
Mountain and button a lot in Utah
especially among younger speakers
with just a pure glottal stop [ʔ]
for that /t/ sound in the middle of the word.
It's not the only place in the U.S. that does that.
Not at all, but apart from some California speakers
it seems to be the only place in the West
where you hear those pronunciations.
We're gonna end this segment here.
Please join us for part three
where we'll pick up in sunny Southern California.
[soft instrumental music ends]
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