Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Talk Like Californian

What does it mean to have a "California accent?" Does it mean that you sound stoned? Or dim? When I lived in NYC, people would tell me that I sounded like I was from California. I would sometimes wonder if they were taking a jab at me, but mostly I didn't care.

Here is some info on what might constitute the typical California accent:
In the speech of white people in California, as in many parts of the west, the vowels of hock and hawk, cot and caught, are pronounced the same—so awesome rhymes with possum. Also notable is the movement of the vowels in boot and boat (called back vowels because they are pronounced in the back of the mouth). These vowels all have a tendency to move forward in the mouth, so that the vowel in dude or spoon (as in gag me with a ...) sounds a little like the word you, or the vowel in pure or cute. Also, boat and loan often sound like bewt and lewn—or eeeeuuw.

...

Innovative developments in the stereotypical California linguistic system may be so new as to be restricted to certain speech settings, with the most extreme pronunciations evident only in peer-group youth interactions. It is precisely these interactions that are the crux of stylistic development, and that is why linguists in California are spending considerable energy studying young people. One of the innovative developments in white English of Californians is the use of the discourse marker "I’m like," or "she’s like" to introduce quoted speech, as in "I’m like, 'where have you been?'" This quotative is particularly useful because it does not require the quote to be of actual speech (as "she said" would, for instance). A shrug, a sigh, or any of a number of other expressive sounds as well as speech can follow it. Lately in California, "I’m all" or "she’s all" has also become a contender for this function. We know that the quotative "be all" is not common in the speech of young New Yorkers, for example, while "be like" is. This allows us to infer that "be all" might be a newer development and that it may also be native to, or at least most advanced in, California.
Note that the above commentary is about a study on white Californians (who make up less than 50% of the state population). There are other notable accents/dialects, including Chicano English, valley girl and surfer dude.

4 comments:

ivanomartin said...

Think Brenda, or "Brinda" on 90210.

Anonymous said...

or the most beautiful California accent ever, Jonathan from "Blowout". So California it's almost a southern drawl. The key part is drawing out the vowels.

smudge said...

Thanks for the California accent analysis. I swear I could never figure out what folks meant by that before. According to the links, mine is more of a "valley girl" dialect. Yikes...

Anonymous said...

I never knew I had an accent!!!!