SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — If you were born in the South, your accent is probably different from your parents, whose accent is different from their parents. Why? And could the accent make a comeback?
The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech recently collaborated on a study researching the shift in dialect among white southerners.
They found that the traditional southern accent saw a decline between the Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) and Generation X (1965 to 1980) populations.
An example of the change can be seen with the word “prize.” In the southern drawl accent, it’s prahz but for younger generations, you will hear prah-eez. “Face,” in southern drawl is fuheece versus the growing standard fayce.
Why is the accent disappearing?
Co-author Jon Forrest, UGA assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics explained his reasoning on the phenomenon in a news release.
“The demographics of the South have changed a lot with people moving into the area, especially post World War II,” said Forrest.
After the war, Hartsfield Jackson Airport saw a boom after the introduction of the four-engine Douglas, DC-4, which was faster and could carry more, promoting travel to Atlanta.
“We are seeing similar shifts across many regions, and we might find people in California, Atlanta, Boston and Detroit that have similar speech characteristics,” said Forrest.
The Southern accent does not have the best reputation, with some viewing others as uneducated and speaking poor English.
A study of 3,000 adults by writingtips.org found that 38% of job applicants soften their regional accent during interviews to avoid negative stereotypes.
Studies have shown a wage gap between those with regional accents make 20% less than those with standard English accents.
Media plays a role in the changes in dialect, reflecting ways of speaking that are popular, while social platforms are influencing how the younger generations communicate.
Y’all is making a comeback
The southern staple “y’all” has taken on a new life as many in Generation Z adopt the conjunction.
The word is quick and easy to say and has migrated across the globe from New York, even starting as a joke on Australian X (Twitter) that has grown.
The term has become popular in the queer community as a genderless alternative to the more common “you guys,” because it is all gender inclusive.
The changes in dialect and accents have happened suddenly across the past 50 years, and trends change constantly — so don’t worry y’all.