The Changing Philadelphia Accent

How ya doinWe are only aware of our Philadelphia accent because we take a lot of good-natured ribbing about it.  We sound normal to ourselves.  We drink wooder and coughee, eat lots of beggles, root for the Iggles, and walk on the payment.  In days long past, we could ride the furry from Philuffya to Camun.  We buy our groceries at the AK-ah-mee.  Accent?  What accent?

In the movies, the Philadelphia accent often sounds like New York’s because our nasal twang is hard to imitate.  But we do not eat chouklit like they do

According to a report in our local newspaper by Associated Press writer, Joanne Loviglio (who must be a native Philadelphian with that name), recent studies show we not only have an accent, it is changing from generation to generation.  (An editor added a side blurb that we could hear a Philadelphia accent in TV commentators Jim Cramer and Chris Matthews.  Cramer, yes, but Chris Matthews? )

The studies are by the well-known University of Penn linguistics professor, Bill Labov, who should know.  He has recorded hundreds of Philadelphians born between 1888 and 1991 in a variety of local neighborhoods and can compare graphs of the speech patterns.  He asked a group of Philadelphia teenagers if “mad” and sad” rhymed.  Most said they did, pronouncing them “mahd” and “sahd.”  Most adults said they did not.

“Gid eowt!” says Loviglio.

I would add that Philadelphians are a very practical people.  If a word can be understood with fewer syllables, it just makes sense to drop the unnecessary ones.

Trends in pronunciation began changing with those born after 1940.  The accent has become less in some aspects, but stronger in others.  For example, “bike” is moving towards (but not yet there) “boik,” “eight” toward “eat.”

Sorry I will not be around a hunnret years from now to witness the full change.

As an aside, I like the writing style of Joanne Loviglio and the few other topics of hers I was able to find on the Internet.  I will try to track her articles in the future.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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