Utah Accent

For Pioneer Day, some quick examples of the Utah Accent, also called a Mormon Accent or a Pioneer Accent. It’s a little different from a standard American Midwest Accent. I don’t know why linguists so often ignore it. If you know how to hear it, you’ll find it in Utah, eastern Nevada, southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, south Idaho, and western Colorado:

  • When the letter T comes in the middle of word replace it with a glottal stop. For example, mountain is pronounced mou’uhn and kitten is ki’uhn. But sometimes a word needs a T at the end. Across is pronounced acrosst.
  • The letter R gets removed if it’s inconvenient. Library is pronounced lie-berry, and February is Febee-ary. An R can also be moved. Prescription is pronounced per-scription. And, an R can be added if needed. Wash is pronounced wahrsh, but water might or might not be wahrter.
  • And not just Rs. Sometimes other difficult consonants can be eliminated. Picture is pronounced pitcher.
  • The ending -ing becomes either -in’ or -ink. (I spend a lot of time workin’ on Geni.)
  • Diphthongs become single vowels. For example, sale and sail are pronounced sell, and real is pronounced rill.
  • Middle vowels are eliminated. Mirror is pronounced mirr, caramel is kar-muhl, and family is famlee.
  • Labor-intensive vowels get flattened. Miracle is muhr-kuhl or muhr-a-kuhl, creek is crick, milk is melk, pillow is pelluh, and well is wuhl. Then the classics: to is pronounced ta, for is pronounced fur, and your and you’re are pronounced yur.
  • But some vowels are just different. For example, the days of the week are Sundee, Mondee, Tuesdee, etc., and measure is pronounced mayzhure,
  • In some rural areas, OR and AR get switched. Barn is pronounced born, and born in pronounced barn. (This one is said to be the influence of Danish pioneers.)
  • And lots of unique phrases. The classic one is “Oh my heck.”

When I was little we visited my cousins quite regularly. But still it took some time for us kids to understand what they were saying through their thick accent. Nowadays I live in Colorado. I’d swear I can hear a Utah accent a block away. And it always brings a smile, even when it’s me I hear.

Edited Sept. 8, 2019 to add YouTube links.

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