Vancouver or Vang-couver? Is there an Okanagan accent?

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Is there an Okanagan accent? – Feb 27, 2018

Do people from the Okanangan have their own accent?

Researchers at UBC are trying to find out.

Bob Pritchard, an assistant music professor at UBC, grew up in Vernon but works in Vancouver. He says he noticed the Okanagan accent in his students.

“It’s those hard Rs and the nasality, and some of it is cadence,” Pritchard says.

“I noticed sometimes the ‘er’ sound is rather hard. It’s like a wide mouth, high chin.”

A word he suspects may be spoken with an accent is “Vancouver.” He believes those from the Okanagan tend to add more of a G sound, making it sound like “Vang-couver.”

Pritchard contacted Molly Babel, an associate linguistics professor at UBC, and they set up a study to measure the Okanagan accent.

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Babel gave Pritchard more than 100 words that are good indicators of an accent, and he wrote a story using them.

“There’s a lot of research that shows the more you’re paying attention to what you’re producing, the less likely you’re going to produce what you naturally produce. The extreme end point of that is having people read lists of words. The ideal is an impassioned spontaneous speech,” Babel says. “We’re obviously not going to be able to get that from individuals, so reading a story is middle ground.”

The story has been posted to their website, and those who wish to participate in the study can register and then record the passage.

Babel says her research team is looking at sounds like “oo.”

“So in a word like boot or moose, do you say ‘boot, moose’ or do you say ‘booht, moohse,” she said.

Babel’s team will use specialized software to make acoustic measurements.

“First we do the raw visualization ourselves and put in some boundaries of the region we’re interested in measuring, but then we automate that process,” Babel says.

“We can then go in and measure resonant frequencies of your vocal track in order to have an understanding of those differences across dialects.”

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Pritchard says he’s also interested in tracking how accents are changing in the Okanagan based on an individual’s age.

“Certainly we see changes in pronunciation, switching perhaps to a more American version in younger people,” Pritchard says.

Researchers are hoping to collect hundreds of voice samples from people across the province.

They plan to start analyzing the data this summer to determine whether there truly is an Okanagan accent.

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