Do Healdsburgers 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 researchers from Stanford have launched the study Voices of California to determine if Californians have accents.

What do you think the Healdsburgian's 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 say they've found distinctions between coastal California and Central Valley, such as influences of southern twang from Dust Bowl migrants. The large number of Latinos in California impacts 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.

Courtney Young, 40, of San Mateo County said, in one of the public radio recordings, that she thinks Californians draw out their words and use slang. 

"I feel like it's really influenced by surfer speak," said Young, who admits to saying "totally" and "dude" all the time.

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.


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Patrick Llerena January 21, 2013 at 06:55 PM
The demonym for a person from a place name ending in the Germanic "burg" is "-burger". Therefore we are proudly Healdsburgers!
Gary Goss January 21, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Of course there are California accents. I grew up writing about George Warshington with an ink pin. My parents were coastal with some Big Valley roots. In general my accent has a lot to do with Iowa and Kentucky, I would guess, and the general accent is pretty close to network standard and midwestern.
Keri Brenner January 21, 2013 at 09:20 PM
OK, Healdsburgers it is....just don't want to be confused with the restaurant!


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