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The Philadelphia Accent Is As Distinctive As Ever, But Changing

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia accent is as familiar as KYW Newsradio.

You hear it every day so you may not realize, but it’s changing and linguists at the University of Pennsylvania are tracking the changes.

The tortured vowels, the dropped syllables, the added consonants — they’re all still here but they’ve changed ever so subtly. Penn’s renowned linguist Bill Labov and his team have been comparing older residents’s accents with younger ones.

He finds Philadelphia following a national trend to pronouncing vowels more and more in the Northern style.

“Our country is dividing right in half,” Labov says. “North of a certain line, people say ‘oat and aboat’ and south of the line, people say ‘owlt and abowlt’.”

If this continues, somebody we may not be going “dalna shore,” but Labov says the trend also means some traits are intensifying, so we’ll always be ready to “foit for our roits.”

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