A new dialect is forming in Raleigh, and Scarlett O’Hara it ain’t.
There’s a gradual shift toward a less distinctive regional accent, and our vowel sounds are leading the way.
“Language is always changing, always in flux,” said Robin Dodsworth, an associate linguistics professor at N.C. State University. “Over time in Raleigh, the Southern variant is disappearing.”
Since 2008, Dodsworth has collected recordings of native Raleighites, analyzing their vowel sounds to uncover how the local accent has changed through time.
The major difference is in something linguists call the “Southern vowel shift,” the way of speaking that makes words like “bait” sound more like “bet,” and turns “bed” into a two-syllable word. Those Southern quirks of speech are less noticeable with each generation Dodsworth interviews.
You could try blaming the influx of Yankees over the past couple decades, but the regional quirks of, say, New York- or Chicago-area speech patterns aren’t being picked up locally, Dodsworth said. Rather, the Raleigh dialect is becoming less traditionally “Southern,” smoothing out into an accent that is recognizably American but difficult to place.