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How are Accents Formed?

Updated on June 17, 2014

Why do you Have an Accent?

I grew up in Brooklyn N.Y. As a child, my family and I would go on vacations often, usually going South like to Virginia, Carolina, Florida etc. I remember always wondering why the people spoke so differently than we did. I would always ask my parents why do those people talk funny?

I have since lived in places other than New York, and still to this day I will hear, wow you have a strong NY accent. And my response is always, I don’t have an accent, you do!

So Where do Accents Come From?

Definition of accent:

Main Entry: 1ac·cent

Pronunciation: \ˈak-ˌsent, ak-ˈ\

Function: transitive verb

Etymology: Middle French accenter, from accent intonation, from Latin accentus, from ad- + cantus song — more at


Date: 1530

1 a : to pronounce with accent :


b : to mark with a written or printed accent
2 : to give prominence to : make more prominent

An accent is really just the manner of pronunciation of a language. As humans began to spread out into isolated communities, peculiarities started to develop. Over a period of time they developed into identifiable accents. So basically the only reason we speak the way we speak is because of what we hear around us. Depending on your social group and where you live will determine what accent we will have.

In North America, because there is a lot of interaction with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, many different types of accents are formed.

It is found that children are able to take on accents quickly. If your family travels very often, your child will be able to change their accent within a short period of time. This can usually occur until a person reaches their 20’s. The older you get, the harder it gets to change sounds that are needed in order to speak another language.

Understanding Foreign Accents

A person trying to pronounce a word or sound that they are not use to will sound "foreign" to us because they are using rules or sounds that are used in their primary language. In each language there are sounds that do not exist in another language, so when trying to speak a new language, the person will choose what sounds the closest.

We are all born with the ability of producing all sounds of the human language. But we only use what hear, disregarding any foreign or unnecessary sounds.

So in reality we all have an accent. What is normal to you is not normal to somebody else.


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    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks lyricwriter, I am happy you found it useful!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting Jenn. What a creative cool article Jenn. I have always wondered about accents. I moved to Arizona a few years back, originally from WV. I came back to WV after 5 years and never lost my accent. My wife, mom, dad, and brother did. I was always curious why. Great job, very creative and useful. Take care and I look forward to reading more.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 7 years ago from Florida

      Lol Dream on. I am from New York, and the word ask is trouble for me. I get comments all the time. For example, if I say: I want to ask you a question, it sounds like this. I want to ax you a question. It is pretty funny.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 7 years ago

      This subject I have often pondered my whole life.I thought it was just people being lazy and speaking or copying others (slang).Until you have a whole region copying each other.Why wouldn't people be influenced by others around them.Like street talk.If you hear it often enough it becomes your language.I grew up in Massachusetts.I don't pronounce my r's to well.So the word car sounds like Kaaa.I went to a running camp in Pennsylvania and I will never forget the story.I was running with a group of other runners and when you see a car coming down the dirt road you yell out car so the person behind you can move out of the way just incase he doesn't see it.The roads where often dirt and small.So you had to quickly move to one side if a car was coming.I yelled out car but it sounded like Kaaaa.So no one moved out of the way.They told me why didn't you say a car was coming.I did.They said you said something not a car.Who would of guessed it.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Because we life in different area and most of area have specific accent. In my country, Indonesia there are hundred of accents. Could you imagine about that? good information and nice topic selection. Thumbs up for you.

    • jennshealthstore profile image

      Jenn 7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks Denise. I know what you mean. When I lived in New York there were different accents within each borough. And it is funny because if I hear a person speak on tv from NY I can more than likely tell you which borough they are from!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      jenn-delightful subject and one I myself have pondered. Growing up in the midwest and specifically MI, and having traveled around, I have noticed a lot of accents. Even within one state there are variations. For instance: you have a 'lower' MI accent and an 'Upper' MI accent that sounds like the Canadian accent. And, here in the south, I stick out like a sore thumb b/c there is no 'southern drawl' to my diction. In fact, just today a patient asked me if I was from England! LOL.