Philly accent isn’t dying, just evolving

William PennDon’t worry. You can still call it “wooder.”

The Philly accent isn’t dying, but as University of Pennsylvania researchers found in a 100-year study of our muddy mumbles, it’s evolving.

“We’re not saying the Philadelphia accent is going away,” said Burholme native Josef Fruehwald, who co-authored the study with linguistics professor Bill Labov. “It’s just changing in a different direction than it was before.”

The study found the traditional Philadelphia accent has changed in the last century. The strong Southern influence is out, and a more Northern influence is taking over.

Think of the “oww” sound in “cow.” It would find its way into “howwse” and “sowwnd.” Now it’s edging closer to the authentic pronunciations of house and sound. Labov also used the example of how a “snake” in the grass becomes a “sneak” in the grass in Philly dialect.

Labov said some of the differences in the language have been changing in the same direction for more than 100 years.

“And then another surprise we discovered is that it turned around and went the other way,” Labov said.

And it doesn’t matter how your parents spoke.

“No matter what accent your parents have, it you grew up in Philadelphia, you adopt a Philadelphia accent,” Labov said.


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