Photo by trontnort/Flickr
Do Californians have an accent? We heard dozens of opinions on that question over the past two weeks. Photo by trontnort/Flickr

Jack Davis describes the California accent as warm and passionate.

“It’s not hurried, it’s not hostile, it’s not caustic,” said Davis, a Los Angeles native who now lives in Santa Cruz. “It’s just people hanging out and chatting and having a good time.”

But where Davis hears warmth, Ted Sebern of Burbank hears nothing.

“Californians are basically accent-free,” said Sebern. “If you go to the Columbia School of Broadcasting and suggest an accent for a radio broadcasting student, they’re going to say we want [it] to sound like California.”

Those are just two of the nearly 70 opinions we’ve collected by Californians about their manner of speech, part of a collaborative project by KQED and KPCC in Los Angeles. The undertaking was inspired by a story from The California Report on Voices of California, an effort by Stanford researchers to record the state’s accents.

Click on the green pins on the map below to listen to what Californians had to say about the California accent; audio clips with their comments will appear at the top of the map. You can also listen on SoundCloud. Thanks to our colleagues at KPCC for creating the map.

  • http://www.facebook.com/icaughtaglimpse Parker Tilghman

    everything goes up at the end like you’re asking a quesTION.

    • http://www.facebook.com/caitlin.kniazewycz Caitlin Kniazewycz

      That’s uptalking, but it’s not a universal quality in California speakers.

      • Jacob

        Australians up-talk like nobody’s business!

  • DelRay

    Californians have an accent Hands down.

  • Loquin

    Huh…I haven’t lived in California since I was six, and yet my sisters and I all have strong Californian accents…didn’t really realize that a Californian accent was a thing until this.

  • Euffie

    i dont hear any accent when i speak. btw, the inland empire is not a city. its an area. i know because i live there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30606857 Alyssa Watson

    interesting. listening to each soundbite (pivoting from north-to-south-to-north…) there is a consistent rigidity each person has. but, in order to really decipher whether this is unique to persons acclimated to “California”, bits from other regions (and their dialectic breakdowns ) might be useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30606857 Alyssa Watson

    interesting. listening to each soundbite (pivoting from north-to-south-to-north…) there is a consistent rigidity each person has. but, in order to really decipher whether this is unique to persons acclimated to “California”, bits from other regions (and their dialectic breakdowns ) might be useful.

  • edochartaigh

    EVERYONE HAS AN ACCENT. I have to shout that, cuz I’m tired of having to repeat it. Absolutely everyone has an accent; the difference is that some accents are accepted as the “norm” or as the higher status accent, and others are not.

    • D

      What people generally mean by that is it lacks regional identifiers. If you sound like you could be from many different places, it’s easy to think of it as ‘lacking’ an accent, even though that isn’t strictly true.

  • kelly

    I actually live in Rosemead, CA and the person’s voice accent is exactly what 9/10 girls sound like here (annoying “OHHH MAHH GAWD, LYK TOTE-ALLY” voice)

  • Michelle

    I never thought I had an accent until I moved out of California to the midwest. I’ve been told I sound southern, I’ve been told I sound almost lazy..I try to explain it as my friend from Boston explained it to me.. people on the East Coast speak very fast.. almost as if they need to get something out in 5 seconds or less or they won’t survive to tell it. I’m more laid back and just speak a lot slower, because there’s no rush for me.

  • Anon

    I agree with one of the speakers that there is a distinctive “a” sound that is different than the “a” sound in many places. I’m from California but have lived in the Mid-West (Minneapolis) and in Boston and D.C. What I’ve always noticed most about speakers from California is the rhythm. I notice that California speakers tend to draw out their vowels — not necessarily changing the sound, but lengthening it — as well as lengthening the terminal sound of words.

  • D

    Grew up in the Bay Area but lived in the valley for a while and I definitely notice the southern influence. Apparently it’s due to the influx of people from Oklahoma going back to the 1930s. I even found my accent changing a little after living there a while. It was great seeing these example clips from BA people, felt like home. :)

  • Bob

    Having moved to California from the east coast, I’ve never detected anything I’d call a California accent. However, through Valley Girl speech, California has given to the rest of the world the plague of the high rising terminal, which makes every sentence sound like and endless series of questions that aren’t.

  • John A. DeModena

    There is a California accent, and it is, for all intents and purposes, quite ‘neutral’. At least i thought so until one of my French friends pointed out at least three examples. We change ‘T’ to ‘D’ in some words. Water is pronounced ‘wadder’. (For fun, when in a restaurant, ask for water but make sure you pronounce the ‘T’. Often you will get an ‘excuse me, what?’. I was amazed)
    Another example: 30 Thirty is ‘thirdy’. Same with 40. (less noticeable with 60, 70, 80, but with 90 it is a ‘ninedy’.

    We also change T to an ‘N’ sometimes. Example: 20 Twenty is ‘twenny’.
    Listen sometime…pretty amusing.

    The drawn out “valley accent” does exist, humorously, but is localized.

    When i was traveling in other countries some time ago, people would tell me that i would speak so clearly, and that i was more understandable than their english teacher. i heard some teachers from Australia and the UK, and i could barely understand them, much less the students learning.

  • http://twitter.com/joey89924 joey

    California has given to the rest of the world the plague of the high rising terminal,
    LM386

  • Koa

    I love the California accent. My parents were both born here albeit different parts of the state. My mom is from San Fernando valley my dad from Oakland. It is important to note they would both be in their mid 70s now. My mother had a more proper way of speaking while my father, from a family of farmers and a longshoreman had a more distinctive accent. You could easily hear the Midwestern drawl but there was a hint of “oo” in words with ou. Almost Canadian like. I have heard it in other men from here, of that age. There were other indicator words like “crick” for “creek” or “ol” for “oil”, “ah-ern” for “iron”.
    I don’t hear as distinct accents in younger people.
    My best friend was convinced

  • ememy

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