What does a California accent sound like?

August 7, 2012 12:22:53 AM PDT
Language researchers at Stanford University are unlocking the mystery of the California accent. They say there may not be just one identifiable accent, but actually several, specific to each region, including one in the Valley.

Jennifer Villas doesn't think she has an accent, but says when she travels to other states her friends constantly point one out.

Villas explained, "When I travel to New York, people will say like 'oh, you have a California accent cuz you talk real Valley.'"

But what does "Valley" sound like?

Villas guessed, "Like when I use the word 'like' a lot I guess."

Or better yet, what does a California accent sound like?

Shannon Moreno from Los Angeles said, "I think because there's so many different nationalities in California that we've learned to adapt to hearing accents wherever we might live, especially in Southern California where there's a lot of different cultures."

Because there aren't many stereotypes of California speech compared to the distinctive way of speaking associated with east coast cities like Boston or New York -- researchers at Stanford University launched a multi research project called "Voices of California" to fully investigate how English is spoken in different parts of the state.

Professor Penelope Eckert and her team conducted hundreds of interviews in Merced and Shasta counties and revealed the dust bowl migration from Oklahoma.

Action News asked, "Do you think Californian's have accents?"

"Definitely," Blake Akaulian replied. "Some say ya'll some say warsh."

They also highlighted differences between coastal California and the Central Valley.

"The coast is like more laid back and the Central Valley is always what it is," Eric Hayes of Fresno said. "You get everything, we're the melting pot. We get everything from every direction."

The team looked at everything from a list of words designed to elicit specific pronunciations.

Action News asked, "Do you say pen or pin?"

Ashley Akaulian replied, "Pen?"

To the differences in slang.

"They have really funny words like jenky."

And what they found, people identify the use of certain words with NorCal and SoCal, and separate the dialect differences between the Valley and the coast.

Villas added, "They laugh and say oh, you're from Fresno cuz you have that kind of country accent."

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