Vanishing accents?

I'm not surprised that a North Carolina State researcher finds that Southerners are currently speaking with a less distinctive regional dialect.  I remember driving through Nashville in the 1970s and being surprised at the strong Southern accent of waitresses, servers, and hotel employees.  Nowadays, it's hard to find a Southern accent in Nashville--unless you're in the country music business.

Southern accent in danger?
Since 2008, Dodsworth has collected recordings of native Raleighites, analyzing their vowel sounds to uncover how the local accent has changed through time.

The major difference is in something linguists call the "Southern vowel shift," the way of speaking that makes words like "bait" sound more like "bet," and turns "bed" into a two-syllable word. Those Southern quirks of speech are less noticeable with each generation Dodsworth interviews.

You could try blaming the influx of Yankees over the past couple decades, but the regional quirks of, say, New York- or Chicago-area speech patterns aren't being picked up locally, Dodsworth said. Rather, the Raleigh dialect is becoming less traditionally "Southern," smoothing out into an accent that is recognizably American but difficult to place.


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