Seattle Accent

There is apparently a debate about whether the Northwest has its own accent. It’s surprising that there is even a debate. If you talk to anyone who grew up in this area; especially the non-urban outskirts, you can immediately tell — and the accent is definitely different from California and Canada.

I think the reason that some people have trouble believing that there is a local accent is because there are so few actual locals in the Northwest. Most people in the Northwest have been here less than five years. And many of the people who were raised here (since childhood is when accents most strongly form) were raised by parents who weren’t from the Northwest. Most of the people I work with on a daily basis are from outside the U.S., and certainly aren’t “locals”. Most UW professors I know are not from the area, and don’t have deep roots with the “locals”. Seattle is the typical modern port town; most of the people you meet will not be sporting a local accent.

But when you meet someone born and bred by locals, you hear it in their voices. Ever since moving here, I’ve been interested by the accent, in part because there shouldn’t be one, and in part because I’ve noticed that it’s strongest in women (as the study shows) and particular groups of residents. I theorize that accent is as much an outgrowth of cultural self-identification as geography (how else to explain that people in Vancouver B.C. sound more like people in Toronto than like people in Seattle?). Does this mean that women who move to Seattle are more likely to self-identify with a particular clique or culture?

3 thoughts on “Seattle Accent”

  1. Both my parents and their grandparents were born here and my friends, who are almost all children of transplants to the area frequently mock me for my strange pronounciation of words. For example, I pronounce the word bag like bayg, and it’s always nice to see that other people notice the accent.

  2. I always think that pronouncing “bag” like “bayg” is an indicator of what I call a “Great Lakes accent”, that is someone from the region of the U.S. around Lakes Superior, St. Clair, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario.

  3. Tom, that’s where I grew up. It’s a lot different from a Seattle accent, so I suppose you’re not reading “bayg” with the same sound that VJ intended. “bag” to us doesn’t sound like “bahg”.

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