The Texas Twang is Fixin’ to Slip Away, Y’all

Ick ick ick, I can’t believe I just typed those. The price we pay for our work.

It’s not that I’m above regional accents; far from it. I keep the New York in me mostly hidden, unless bourbon and the wrong side of midnight are involved, which now that I think about it isn’t that rare. BUT even then it’s mostly relegated to a few cauuuufees and I’m on my way. It’s an accent I pick back up every holiday season in Poughkeepsie, when my grandmother asks when I’ll be home again and I get sad and I’m forced to hang out with people named Pizzarelli and Lomuscio at local bars.

That said, KUT, Austin’s NPR station, thinks the Texas twang is on its way out:

“What’s changed over the past few decades is that you don’t automatically have a twang because you’re from here,” says Lars Hinrichs, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas who leads the Texas English Project.

Hinrichs has been comparing recordings of the way Texans spoke decades ago with how they sound now. He has hundreds of tapes, created when students went out and recorded native Texans in the 1980s.

Each recording starts with the subject reading the same passage, containing words full of “I” vowels, like Tyler, five and Whitehouse:

I’ve lived in Texas all my life. I was born in Titus County. And when I was 5 we moved to a farm near Whitehouse, which is southeast of Tyler.

“The issue back then was to study how many, and how frequently, speakers turned that ‘I’ vowel into an ‘AH’ vowel,” Hinrichs says – the “AH” sound being the more traditional Texas pronunciation.

So over the past few years, Hinrichs sent his students to record native Texans reading the same passage. Not only is the “AH” pronunciation fading – other typically Texan sounds are fading, too.

“For example, a more old-time pronunciation of face would be “faice” … A more old-time pronunciation of goose would be “gewse,” Hinrichs says.

The story isn’t embeddable, but the video above gives a decent approximation of it.