Dialects/accents in the United States

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Begonias, Sep 11, 2009.

  1. Begonias Member

    I am wondering about dialects/accents in the United States. I can recognize a southern accent and a somewhat exaggerated New York accent but that is where it stops. Via different reality shows et cetera one is exposed to the local way of talking in different parts of the United States. For instance, I can't hear a difference in the Real Housewives of Orange County's way of talking as opposed to the Real Housewives of New York City's way of talking.
    I know my flair for reality shows is worse than kitschy but please overlook this flaw of mine. So to my point, what I am asking of you on this lovely and helpful forum is to help me learn the difference between an East cost accent, West cost accent and a Midwest accent. I know it is hard to explain an accent in a forum and if this is not quite possible can you give me examples of known/famous persons who speak either East, West or Midwest accents that I can look up on google video. Since I can't differentiate between the Real Housewives's accents it is best if the person you are refering to speaks his or her accent somewhat exaggerated.
    If you find any grammar mistakes in the above text please educate me in that matter aswell as the accent matter.
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hello Begoias,

    I'm afraid that your question is far too broad for anything other than vague generalities.
    There are hundreds, even thousands, of distinct accents in the United States. There is no such thing as "the New York accent". There are many different accents in New York City, and others in the surrounding counties. Upstate New York has its own collection of accents. People from Buffalo do not sound like those in Binghamton, who in turn do not speak like citizens of Albany.

    Likewise, there is not any single "Midwest accent". If you listen to someone from Ohio or Indiana, and then have the same words spoken by a person from Wisconsin or Minnesota, you will hear numerous different sounds.
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    The best place to go is the Speech Accent Archive. The page for listening to native English-speakers is: http://accent.gmu.edu/browse_language.php?function=find&language=english This has huge numbers of speakers from all over the English-speaking world.

    That depends what you're used to. I'm trained in phonetics, and I can't hear anything beyond General American (GA) in most US/Canadian accents. I certainly can't tell Maine from Alberta from California by any obvious features.

    The Southern accents have a great diversity. I know Brooklyn/Bronx, and I know Boston Brahmin. All the rest is just GA to me.
  4. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Your link is interesting. I can distinguish Southern American from GA and of course New York and Boston from the rest. Canadian is a little harder, I can hear some differences but not many.

    Some of the links are not so trustworthy though, the girl supposed to hail from County Clare has something resembling a southside Dublin accent :D
  5. GDAN Senior Member

    United States
    I was born and raised in the U.S. and I can't recognize a lot of accents. In my opinion the accents can generally be divided into three main groups, east coast, west coast, and southern. If I had to listen to someone speak and then tell you which state they came from, I would fail the majority of the time

    Former Pres. Bush is a good example of a Texas accent so I would try to google some of his speeches. During the Senate Hearings that were held to interview Pres. Obama's choice for U.S. Supreme Court Justice there was a senator from Alabama who sounded just like Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump. Finding video of these senate hearings may help since you'll hear senators from different states.

    As far as New York is concerned, it differs a alot. I don't want to suggest that the other states don't differ in regards to internal variations in accents. Since I grew up in New York this is where the majority of my knowledge comes from. I have to tell you that even though I grew up here it is still hard to describe, but I will try.

    Some areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties (Long Island) have a way of speaking that stands out to my ears. I've heard words that end in "er" pronounced liked in ends with an "a". People who grew up in NYC seem to differ along ethnic lines. Italian-Americans from Brooklyn have a distinct sound. Steven Segal tried to copy this accent in a couple of his movies, and in my opinion didn't sound authentic. Latino's sound different (I am not talking about a spanish accent) as well, but I couldn't tell you who came from the Bronx, or Brooklyn, etc.. I've passed through a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and noticed their accent right away. Keep in mind that some people may have an accent that is a lot stronger than others from the same neighborhood. I honestly don't know if it has anything to do with the speakers level of education, pride in their local accent (or lack their of), or any other environmental factor. It is because of all of these variations that I really couldn't think of a video that you could watch. Rosie O'Donnell may be a good person to listen to. I'm not sure if she really is a NY native, but she sounds like one.

    People who grew up in up-state NY sound different than those who grew in NYC/Long Island. I can tell you one thing that will be a sure give away about whether or not a person is from here. When "we" mention the "city", we're talking about Manhattan and NOT the other four boroughs. (Queens is Queens, Brooklyn is Brooklyn, and the "city" is Manhattan) Another tell-tell sign is our imaginary body of water that seperates Nassau County from Queens. In other words, even though there is no such body of water, we consider Long Island to have ONLY two counties, Nassau and Suffolk. I don't know if it's because of Queens County (Queens) and Kings County (Brooklyn) being part of NYC, but if you look at a map you will see what I am talking about. So when you hear a person mention Long Island they're not talking about Queens or Brooklyn.

    I hope this was some help.
  6. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    The reason is, I think, that the informants were found in the United States, so they have an accent overlay of unknown duration. Looking at the site now, I can't see why I believe this, but I know it's the conclusion I came to some years ago, perhaps before they reorganized it.

    The detailed phonetic transcription is also unreliable. First, it's often just plain wrong; second, it transcribes that particular utterance. I find it hard to believe that people in Brisbane habitually say [olso] for 'also'.
  7. Begonias Member

    Thank you cuchuflete and thank you entangledbank for the very helpful the link. Thank you Pedro y La Torre and thank you GDAN for sharing your knowledge and your comment made me feel a little better because I started to question my listening abilities since I could not hear the difference in the Housewives's accents.
    I figured that since people living on either the east cost, west coast or south coast here in Sweden sounds very different from each other then that must be true for the United States aswell especially since it lives about 300 million people there spread out on a large piece of land and 8 million in Sweden. I know there are differences in the accents in the United States but if even a person born and raised have trouble with distinguishing where a person if from in U.S by listening to the way they speak then GA is more widespread perhpas in U.S than general Swedish is in Sweden. Here in Sweden the differences in the accents on each coast are so different that you do not have to be a native to hear that. Again thank you.

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