Mobility and accents

Jay   Monday, December 01, 2003, 06:34 GMT
Do people who move different places in adulthood pick up accents, or do they tend to keep their original accents?
When we talk about things like a "Chicago accent"--does this still have that much meaning?
If, let's say 50% or more of people in an area don't have the predominant accent, is the predominant accent still considered to be "the" (for instance, Chicago) accent?
Are American accents became more normalized, or more different?
Jim   Monday, December 01, 2003, 08:15 GMT
I'd say that adults who move around do pick up bits of different accents. I'd say that usually they'd mostly keep their original accent but it would get a bit mixed in with the other one. Some would pick them up easier than others. I lived in Vancouver for two and a half years but I kept my Aussie accent however it did get a bit Canadianised according to my dad.
Ash   Tuesday, December 02, 2003, 04:28 GMT
I read an article somewhere that a persons accent can change slightly depnding on wherehey are or who they're with. Like say if a person has a dad in North Carolina and a Mother in say New York and they go to school in new york they talk more like those people to suit your friends and family there and when in Carolina more like the peole down there.
Ryan   Tuesday, December 02, 2003, 08:19 GMT
My brother caught me saying "pen" like "pin" as people in Kansas do and I was completely unconscious of doing so. I probably pronounced the word in between the way that people in Michigan and people in Kansas pronounce it, and it sounded like "pin" to my brother who has been in the northern US all his life.

Basically, this is what happens when you move around as an adult. You retain most of the features of your native accent, but adopt some of the ones of the locals. I still don't sound like I'm from Kansas to natives, but I sound a little bit different from the average Michigander as well.

Of course, this process is hastened if you actively try to cultivate the accent of the place you move to, such as Madonna is currently doing by living in the UK.
Scott   Tuesday, December 02, 2003, 20:29 GMT
Good question - My parents moved from the West(Utah and California) to Boston in the 50's. They never picked up a Boston or even New England accent, and neither did I as I was growing up. So, I don't think people pick up accents as adults, though their accents may moderate. I can usually pick out someone from northern New England in a few seconds, and even place them in a region(Maine vs. NH vs. MA). Also, I moved to southern California 15 years ago and no one has commented that I've picked up any Val-speak.

My opinion is that accents are strongly related to both ethnic heritage and socioeconomic status. I grew up in a relatively exclusive suburb of Boston with a high median family income, and noticed that the accent is weaker there than in the lower income surrounding towns both closer to the city and farther away. It also seems stronger amongst Irish Americans and Italian Americans, but likely becasue their families have been in the country longer.
Clark   Tuesday, December 02, 2003, 20:34 GMT
I was under the impression that a majority of the white people in New England are the descendents of the Puritans/Pilgrims.

I realise that there have been a lot of migrations from everywhere round the world to America, but for some reason, I was under the impression that the people outside of the big cities in New England were all pretty much descendents of the Puritans/Pilgrims. Am I wrong? If so, what are the majority of the white people in New England? Irish, Italian, other?
Ash   Tuesday, December 02, 2003, 21:13 GMT
I wouldn't know about the New England area, But my family's Irish and German haven't been in this country that long at all. But the ones born here seem to have a pretty regional Pittsburgh accent. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with how long the families been here but more the individual person.
A.S.C.M.   Wednesday, December 03, 2003, 01:42 GMT
Hmm...I've moved around quite a lot- from Germany to Scotland to England to California. Up till my residence in England, my brain was young and flexible and picked up new accents easily. I came to California after I turned twelve and by that time, my brain had already become a little harder so my accent is still predominantly southern English (i.e. south of England), though there is a touch of Californian English.