Bruce Neben wrote yesterday:
“I live in Oregon (adult life), grew up in Calif (teens, 20′s and thirties), and (Cleveland) Ohio as a child. I hear none of these accents around the west, generally.”
“But the accents I do hear from people from around the country seem to be disappearing. People from New Orleans interviewed on TV or Radio seem to sound like me, as do many of those I hear from New York and elsewhere. I used to hear distinctive accents from people from Minnesota for example and those also seem to be going. It also seems to be a function of education. The more highly educated, the less the accent. Would you agree with these observations?”
Bruce is absolutely right. Regional accents are dying out, which is why we want to keep a record of them on the alphaDictionary site. In fact, we have been contacted by southern cultural heritage organizations who want to use our material in their activities. We are happy to do so.
However, little can be done to stem the tide of dialect (accent) mergence because there is no way to remove the factors causing that mergence. They include:
Job mobility–people moving in both directions, south-north, north-south, following jobs;
As Bruce points out, the educational system, whose job it is to teach pupils and students to speak the dominant dialect for social and economic reasons;
Radio and television, which brings the dominant dialect to everyone and generally makes fun of the non-dominant ones.
As I mentioned in the NPR interview, the original dialects in this country were the results of the accents of the various immigrants who came to this country looking for a better life. They all landed on the east coast, which is why all the accents are currently in the east.
However, as they migrated to the west, all these accents merged into one, so there are no distinctive regional dialects west or north of southern Ohio (maybe southern Illinois and a bit in northern Minnesota). Accents extended as far west as West Texas in the south but not much beyond that. While there are peculiar pronunciations and slang vocabularies (Valley talk) out West, there are no distinctive dialects, like the Brooklyn accent, Texas accent or southern accent.
Now the regional speech differences are fading in the east, as well. Most of the differences in our Glossary of Quaint Southernisms are terms and pronunciations that I remember from my childhood, many of which already no longer exist.