Listen: Can You Pick Out The Northwest Accent? (And Yes, We Have One!)
By Bellamy Pailthorp & Martha Kang
Think we don’t have an accent here in the Pacific Northwest? Think again.
Scientists say we do, in fact, have an accent, though our native ears may not always pick up on it. The longer we’ve lived here, the harder it is for us to hear our own distinct subtleties, according to experts.
So let’s put our ears to the test. We asked three people to say the same sentence: “Please put the fish you caught at dawn in the bag, not in the bowl.” Click on the three audio clips below to hear them, then pick out the voice you think belongs to a native Northwesterner.
This voice belongs to a native Idahoan who also studies linguistics at the University of Washington. The other two belong to transplants from different parts of the Midwest.
The Tell-Tale Signs Of The Northwest Accent
So how do you identify the Northwest accent? Look for these two traits.
1. The Way We Say Similar-Sounding Words
One of the most distinguishing features has to deal with words that sound similar but are spelled differently, like cot vs. caught and don vs. dawn. Northwesterners don’t differentiate between these words, says University of Washington linguistics professor Alicia Wassink
“Even after I’ve pronounced the pair of words several times for my students, many of the ones that are from the Pacific Northwest can’t hear the distinction,” Wassink said.
Here's how our native Northwesterner, heard above, pronounces the words cot vs. caught, don vs. dawn, odd vs. ought and bull vs. bowl.
2. We Drop The Final G
Another characteristic: We tend to leave the final G off of words that end in “-ing,” says speech pathologist Sandy Hirsch. One famous example of someone who speaks this way: Bill Gates.
During a six-minute speech by Gates, Hirsch counted 16 instances in which he dropped the final G.
Want to learn more about the Northwest accent? Here’s what we gathered as part of our “I Wonder Why” series.