- America has a multitude of regional accents that have evolved from numerous waves of immigration throughout US history.
- When you’re travelling to another part of the US, it might be surprising to hear how different the locals sound.
- For instance, a New Yorker will likely speak the same English language in a completely different accent from a native Texan.
- So how did Americans get so many distinctive accents? In the video above, we break down the origins of just a few common American accents.
Following is a transcript of the video.
The United States has countless accents. But, where did they all come from? American accents have been evolving for hundreds of years. And while Americans sound very different today, here’s where some of those iconic accents got their start.
Let’s start with New England, which was one of the first US regions to develop its own American English accent. Today, a speaker from New England might say, “Were you gonna plagiarize the whole thing for us? You have any thoughts of your own on this matter? Is that your thing; you come into a bar and read some obscure passage and pretend…you pawn it off as your own?”
For such a geographically small area, New York City certainly has a bunch of distinctive accents. But in general, its accents evolved from a mixture of its Dutch and English roots and numerous waves of immigration.
A modern speaker from New York probably won’t sound like what you hear in movies like “Hey, I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”
They’re more likely to say “Deep dish pizza is not not only better than New York pizza, it’s not pizza.”
Delaware River Valley
New York’s New Jersian and Pennsylvanian neighbours sounded quite different.
Nowadays, someone from Philly might say “We’re a regular family. We watch Philly jawn on TV. We go down to the Jersey Shore. But when we want great hoagies, discount prices on beer, and a great atmosphere we go to Lee’s Hoagies in Horsham, PA.”
Let’s take a look at what went on down south.
The southern coast of the United States has a variety of different accents. One example is Southern coastal white. “What concerns me about the American press is this endless…endless attempt to label the guy some kind of kook.”
Other southern dialects preserved some of the original remnants to this day. “They come over here and get oysters and clam and go fishing because they’re right down the road. They’re right in Brunswick or Savannah or Jacksonville.
Much later, a wave of African Americans migrated from the American South to urban centres in the North, mixing their accents together. “Being a kid from New York City, I mean from Brooklyn. And my aunt – God bless her soul – she used to always take me to The Rockettes – you know, the Easter show and the Christmas show.”
The Ulster-Scots had a significant influence on many American dialects in the South and West. Most of the original accent has disappeared, and today, an American from Tennessee might sound like this. “Now, I am just who I am. I’m not always nice. I choose to be good. I choose to have a good attitude because I want people to know. I am a girl with many colours.”
As the Appalachian settlers headed west, their accents joined with speech patterns from the North.
The Midwest has many diverse accents. Today, a speaker from the Great Lakes might say “I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country; a classic baby boomer.”
Or more famously, “We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
While another from Wisconsin/Minnesota/the Dakotas might say “If either of these men draw, I’m gonna be forced to shoot some people, and I don’t want to do that.”
Down in Texas, a very distinct accent developed. The famous Texan accent we know from movies like “They shot and killed a state senator named Bibs in Waco, Texas.” has started to level out. Visitors to big cities like Houston might be surprised to hear something more like “Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to beautifully capture the profundity of deep southern culture.”
Last but not least is the West Coast, which had a very different mix of immigrants compared to the East Coast. California doesn’t come close to having one, distinct accent. A modern-day speaker might sound like “We woke up the next morning on his actual birthday. And I told him I wanted to take him somewhere to lunch for his birthday.” or “What’s so powerful about this novel is everyone has their own interpretation to these characters.”
These are just a handful of American accents…and they’re still evolving as we speak. We’ll have to check back in a century or so from now to see what happens next.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on June 18, 2018.
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