Accents - What Americans sound like

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Niccolo and Donkey
What Americans sound like

The Economist

January 1, 2011

NORTH AMERICAN ENGLISH, like its British cousin, has many diverse dialects and sub-dialects. Did you know that residents of the San Francisco Bay area generally speak differently from other Californians? Had you heard that people from parts of New Orleans sound like New Yorkers, or that residents of North Carolina's outer banks can sound more like folks from Charleston, South Carolina than other southerners? All this information and more is available on Rick Aschmann's map of English dialects in North America .

Regional American accents can be tough to decipher, especially for foreigners. In addition to being endlessly fascinating, Mr Aschmann's map can actually be a useful tool. Want to prepare yourself for how someone from Duluth, Minnesota or Alaska's Mat-Su valley (home to Sarah Palin!) is going to sound? You can zoom in on the map and click to hear audio samples. (You'll find that Ms Palin and Duluth Mayor Don Ness don't sound all that different.) Mr Aschmann has collected and categorised dialect samples from native speakers all over North America, and that, even more than the map itself, is the valuable part of what he's created.

There are even some relatively extinct dialects in the database—take this clip of actress Katharine Hepburn. Born in Connecticut in 1907, Ms Hepburn regularly dropped "r" sounds from words. For her, "cart" = "cot." You don't hear that very often any more in Connecticut, except among older people. Growing up in eastern Connecticut, Gulliver developed a slight New England accent. "Water" is "waw-der," with the "r" sometimes dropping off the end. But "cart" and "cot" aren't pronounced the same. Television and the internet are definitely doing something to our regional accents: a Boston accent that would have seemed weak in the John F. Kennedy years now sounds thick by comparison.

This stuff matters for business. A few weeks ago, I met a CEO for a top international company who felt compelled to make a joke about his (relatively modest) Boston accent. In surveys, business people say some accents are "better for trade" than others. In fact, many UK business people "change their accents when doing business," according to one survey . Those same sorts of things happen here in America. So please, check out Mr Aschmann's map , shed a tear for dying or fading dialects, and try not to judge those of us with regional quirks too harshly while doing business. We're doing our best.
President Camacho

Cool story bro. I was suprised that there's a wiki on the Philadelphia 'dialect', these are the most distinguishing and uniform characteristics of Philadelphia speech I noticed:

The word water is commonly pronounced /wʊdər/ (with the first syllable identical to the word wood , so that it sounds like wooder .) [5] [6] This is considered by many to be the defining characteristic of the Philadelphia dialect. [7]

Many words ending in -ow or -o , such as window , widow , tomato , or casino , are pronounced with a schwa ending (like the indistinct vowel sound at the end of the word coda ). Thus, windows would be pronounced /ˈwɪndəz/ and tomorrow would be pronounced /təˈmɑrə/ .

On may be pronounced /ɔn/ , so that, as in the South and Midland varieties of American English (and unlike New York) it rhymes with dawn rather than don .

Philadelphia is situated in the middle of the only traditionally rhotic area of the Atlantic states . This area runs from Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to Delaware and Northern Maryland, and remains r-pronouncing today.

As in New York English and Baltimore English , historical short-'a' has split into two phonemes: lax /æ/ (as in bat ) and tense /eə/ (as in bath ). Their distribution in Philadelphia along with Baltimore, however, is different from that of New York City: for instance, the words mad and sad do not rhyme in Philadelphia or Baltimore, but do for New York.

This is also a true re: Jersey

This guy captures it pretty well: