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Do Cupertinians 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 Cupertinians's accent is?

One Cupertino native thinks California in general is accent neutral.

"I've always come to think that Californians have a neutral accent because so much of popular film and television is created in southern California," says J.T. Trollman in one of the public radio recordings."I think of film as the great democratizer of accents."

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.

Courtney Young, 40, of San Mateo County said, in one of the public radio recordings, that she thinks Californians draw out their words and use slang. 

"I feel like it's really influenced by surfer speak," said Young, who admits to saying "totally" and "dude" all the time.

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.

Piper McNulty January 21, 2013 at 04:50 PM
I grew up on the central California coast and have lived in SV for 30 years. On a recent trip to LA my husband and I were struck by the number of young people working as cashiers in restaurants and stores who spoke so fast we could not follow them. I did not note differences in their pronunciation of vowels or consonants, they just spoke very FAST. We had to ask several people to repeat themselves. I went to college in the LA area in the 70s and don't recall hearing folks talk as though they were reading the fine print at the end of a TV ad.
Laura January 22, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I was born and raised in San Jose. While traveling in Europe, South Korea and Tunisia I've had locals ask me where I was from. They either weren't sure if I was an American or where in America I was from. Some said they were more used to harsher American accents. I've also had people in New England and the South say I talked funny.

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