Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
US & World

American accents will change by 2050: Take our quiz to ID these speakers




"Now and Then." As generations pass, how will the sound of language change?
Rising Damp via Flickr

Listen to story

13:49
Download this story 6MB

The sounds of the English language and the way it is spoken has changed over the last 35 years and will likely change even more over the next 35.

From colloquialisms and slang all the way down to the way we pronounce vowel sounds, you’ll find a different pattern of linguistic evolution in just about every part of the country. As part of a series on America in 2050, an article in The Week this week explores what Americans will sound like 35 years from now.

How has the English language changed in your lifetime in terms of dialect, construction, and word use? Do you see regional accents becoming more or less prevalent?

Linguists use a text called "The Rainbow Passage" to compare the sounds of different dialects and accents applied to a standard text. We asked some friends and colleagues to read this part of it:

"When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act as a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is , according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

We recruited some friends and colleagues from different parts of North America to read this portion of the text. Listen to each of the samples and then take our quiz to see if you can identify all four accents.

Now, see if you can pick out where each of the speakers are from:

For more on dialects and accents, and to find the full text of "The Rainbow Passage," you can visit the International Dialects of English Archive. You can also check out the piece KPCC's Take Two did back in 2013 on the California accent.
 
The New York Times also developed a quiz that pinpoints where you're from based on your regional dialect. Take it here.
 

Guest:

Charles Boberg, associate professor of linguistics at McGill University whose research focuses on language variation and change and dialectology. He’s also a co-author of the book “The Atlas of North American English.”