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.
- 50 People Show Us Their States’ Accents (June 17, 2019), by Conde Nast at YouTube.com, visited Sept. 8, 2019.
- How Utahns Pronounce Words (July 25, 2019), by Aria F at YouTube.com, visited Sept. 8, 2019.
- North American English Dialects, visited July 24, 2019. The standard Western dialect has only 13 vowels rather than the usual 14 or 15. No difference between caught and cot, or father and bother. However, he seems to miss the rural Utah dialect.
- Utahn Talk (March 20, 2012), by DixieSunLink at YouTube.com, visited Sept. 8, 2019.
- What Living in Utah is Like (June 28, 2014), by Erik Shaw at YouTube.com, visited Sept. 8, 2019.