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Do Seal Beach, Rossmoor or Los Al Residents Have an Accent?

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

Valley girls. Surf bros. Chicano English.

A team of researchers from Stanford have launched the study Voices of California to determine if Californians have accents.

What do you think the Seal Beach, Los Alamitos or Rossmoor 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.

Stephanie Sanchez of Newport Beach said in one of the public radio recordings that she thinks Southern Californians prolong their words.

It’s very definitive of beach culture—real slow drawn out vowels,” she said, adding that “it can be kind of high-pitched sometimes” and  “of course, there’s definitely the words ‘like’ and ‘whatever’ thrown around.”  

Do you think you have an accent? Where does it come from and what does it sound like? Tell us in the comment section below.

Matt January 20, 2013 at 03:14 PM
This is a very important study. It is heartening to hear that Stanford is exploring the possibily of having an people having accent in Southern California. I had been suspicious that there may be a detectable accent in some of the citizens here, particularly with those that are of OTW (other than white) origins.
chris roy January 20, 2013 at 03:39 PM
The only time I get an accent is when I drink Jack Daniels. Then, my Southern accent magically reappears!
Lil Marty January 21, 2013 at 08:18 PM
I ger a "pirate's accent" when I drink Captain Morgan's!

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