Author Topic: What accent do I have?  (Read 730 times)

Offline agun77

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What accent do I have?
« on: February 26, 2017, 05:21:06 PM »
I'm interested in studying differences in regional accents across the United States, and I'm curious to know which region my own accent best reflects. I figured that there was no better source to answer this question than a linguist (or a linguistic enthusiast), so I came to this site. I've provided two recordings of my voice below for analysis:

http://vocaroo.com/i/s0ZMDhl5aGXi (Part of my voicemail greeting)

In the following recording, I pronounce the following accent tag words:

Aunt, Roof, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught, Naturally, Aluminium, Envelope

http://vocaroo.com/i/s1rPhZKbW92C

Offline Daniel

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Re: What accent do I have?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 07:05:55 PM »
You seem to speak broadly something similar to General American (Midwestern/Californian/Hollywood), but there are some differences, so I'm assuming you're from somewhere a little removed from the core of General American. Maybe somewhere in the northeast (Pennsylvania or beyond) but not with a distinctive New England accent, so probably not Boston for example (maybe Maine?), or my first thought was somewhere bordering on the south, somewhere in the middle of the US like Ohio near Kentucky, or something like that.

To be clear, I'm not a dialectologist, so for more on this I'd need to compare some of your pronunciations to maps. You can do that though. This is one good website: www.dialectsarchive.com
There are also, of course, many 'accent tag' videos on Youtube to compare to your own pronunciation.

The reason I find it hard to locate your speech is that you pronounce many words like I do (I'm from California), but some differently. "Aluminium" for example was the oddest, although maybe you're just reading that as a spelling pronunciation (vs. aluminum) or it could just be a word you learned differently rather than a marker of your regional dialect. The only other feature I notice is that you often have nasalized vowels, but it doesn't seem particularly regional to me, and maybe that's just your personal pronunciation rather than a regional feature.

A more rural Midwestern accent would also have some more consistent forms like "ont" (for aunt) and "ruff" (for roof), but you only pronounced roof like that. So it's hard to say. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you lived in a big city where some pronunciations are mixing and you are exposed to a lot of different pronunciations, and if you have moved around some. Most "pure" dialects are recorded by older speakers living in rural areas in order to exaggerate differences. In reality, it's all mixed a bit more than that, so you're probably not an exception.

Listening to all of it again, a few words stood out this time: caught (very clearly NOT a merger with the "cot" vowel!), and "coupon" (an unusual pronunciation for my ears). So I would say probably something eastern, still a little removed (but not completely removed) from General American, and I'd say something like West Virginia, or Vermont, maybe Maine. A border area of some sort, I believe. And I'm not sure all of your pronunciations are consistent (maybe learned from a parent from somewhere else, etc., or if you've moved around) so one might be throwing me off from your regional accent. Anyway, that's just my guess, and as I said I'm not a dialectologist and haven't spent much time comparing dialects from the Eastern US.
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Offline agun77

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Re: What accent do I have?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2017, 02:25:55 PM »
Thanks for your response!

I'm an Indonesian-born Chinese person who grew up in Chicagoland (10 years in Bronzeville and Bridgeport on the Chicago's South Side followed by 6 years in the city's Northwest Suburbs), and growing up, I never thought that I had an accent. My parents, on the other hand, do have slight accents (my mother was educated in Singapore and Australia).

Two years ago, though, I moved to Berkeley for college, and last year, I was eating breakfast with some friends from suburban Los Angeles County, who asked me whether I was from San Francisco. Out of curiosity, I asked them why they thought I was from there, and they responded that Angelenos have a distinct style of speaking and acting that I didn't share. This conversation piqued my interest in regional accents.

I took the New York Times dialect quiz, which placed me around Wisconsin and northern Illinois (reasonably accurate). However, I realized that the quiz asks different questions on different trials, and on repeat quiz attempts, I had highly variable results ranging from New York City, Newark, and Yonkers to Fremont, San Jose, and Honolulu depending on the questions asked (although Rochester and upstate New York seemed to come up particularly often). In addition, I do diverge from a Chicagoan's expected speech in that I more often than not say "sneakers" instead of "gym shoes" (although I often used the latter in high school, where everyone said it) and I always say "soda" and never "pop."

I looked up the Inland Northern/Great Lakes accent and saw that its signature marker is the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, but I don't think I have this trait. However, one day at school at Berkeley, one of my friends thought I had said "cat" when I had actually said "cot," and on another occasion, my coworker at a local hospital where I work part-time didn't understand me when I commented, "Something smells like pot around here," and I had to clarify that I meant marijuana. Perhaps I do have the fronted "o" stage of the NCVS after all, but I don't think I have the other stages (including the raised "a," which interestingly is supposed to come before the fronted "o.") For this reason and others, I wasn't sure where to place my dialect, so that's why I came to this forum armed with recordings.

Any more thoughts? Do I sound like I have the NCVS?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2017, 02:29:47 PM by agun77 »

Offline Daniel

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Re: What accent do I have?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 02:44:55 PM »
Makes sense. Roughly Midwestern but a little removed.

I did not notice the NCVS in your speech, no. You might have it for some words, but not the ones on the list I don't think. That's a distinct regional marker, and your Midwestern accent is not clearly regionally marked. It's broadly General American. You could also be from California (I'm from the Bay Area too), except that a few pronunciations would suggest 'somewhere else'.
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Offline aja675

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Re: What accent do I have?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 10:56:08 PM »
BTW, here's a video of me talking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiAUIjfDbyU