ATLANTA — The Southern accent is going away, according to a collaborative study between the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Researchers say this change is thanks to Generation X.
Generation X includes people born between 1965 and 1982, which is when the accent fell off a cliff.
“We found that, here in Georgia, white English speakers’ accents have been shifting away from the traditional Southern pronunciation for the last few generations,” said Margaret Renwick, associate professor in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Department of Linguistics and lead on the study. “Today’s college students don’t sound like their parents, who didn’t sound like their own parents.”
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Researchers focused on recordings of white individuals native to Georgia, born from the late 19th century to the early 2000s, and the way they pronounced vowels.
The team is now pursuing the study of cross-generational accents among the Black population, according to the release.
Researchers said they were the first to identify the accent shift in Georgia.
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“The demographics of the South have changed a lot with people moving into the area, especially post World War II,” said co-author Jon Forrest, UGA assistant professor in the department of linguistics. Forrest noted that what the researchers see in Georgia is part of a shift noted by others across the entire South, and furthermore, other areas of the U.S. now have similar vowel patterns. “We are seeing similar shifts across many regions, and we might find people in California, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit that have similar speech characteristics,” Forrest said.
According to the study, older Georgians pronounced “prize” as “prahz” and “face” as “fuh-eece,” but the youngest speakers said it as “prah-eez” and “fayce”.
Researchers said this study ‘highlights the need for continued exploration, particularly among diverse ethnic groups.’
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