Do San Juan Capistrano 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 Stanford researchers has launched a study called Voices of California to determine if Golden State residents have accents.

What do you think the San Juan Capistrano 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 said they've found distinctions between coastal California and the Central Valley, such as influences of Southern twang from Dust Bowl migrants. The large number of Latinos in California affects 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.

Elsa January 19, 2013 at 12:45 AM
won't touch that one!
leannaski January 20, 2013 at 12:02 AM
Like, yeah, totally
rob h January 20, 2013 at 01:46 AM
I read between the words Yep!!!!!!! When I used to travel allot. people knew I was from California. Not any longer


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