An article from Schwa Fire about the YouTube accent tag, the linguistic studies where the words used in the accent challenge come from, and how linguists and media are now using the accent tag videos for further linguistic analysis. Excerpt:
Chicago’s National Public Radio station WBEZ did a program about the Chicago accent, accompanied by a blog post. The producers were white, and the program’s focus was almost exclusively on how white Chicagoans use vowels differently from people in other parts of the country (many Chicagoans pronounce the word jockey just like Jackie, for instance). The program went on to say that African Americans in Chicago don’t use these vowels, and further, it claimed that they have an alternate set of vowels that are invariable, no matter what city they live in. “AAE is remarkable for being consistent across urban areas,” WBEZ said. “Boston AAE sounds like New York AAE sounds like L.A. AAE, etc. So while an African-American Chicagoan might not sound like a white Chicagoan, he or she may sound a whole lot like an African-American Washingtonian.”
What happened next depended in large part on YouTube’s Accent Tag phenomenon. WBEZ ended up doing a second, mea culpa, program dedicated to African-American English and recognizing that African-American English pronunciation varies from city to city.
The new show was created after the radio station was contacted by Amanda Hope, who was indignant about the first program. She left a comment on WBEZ’s blog: “I’m an African-American woman who was born and raised on Chicago’s Southside but I’ve lived in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. I’ve also spent a significant amount of time in the South. Let me be the first to tell you that AAE has a variety of accents. In fact, Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD are about a 45-minute car drive away from one another and there is a stark contrast between the accents of blacks from Baltimore and the accents of blacks from DC. To take my point even further, Black Chicagoans make fun of the accent of Black St. Louis residents all the time because of their “errrrrr” sound. I’m so tired of articles and studies suggesting that African Americans are comprised of some homogenous group.”
When WBEZ contacted Hope, she buttressed her argument by pointing the radio people to Accent Tag videos by blacks across the country, including Chicago. The videos impressed the producers, and the station’s subsequent “Chicago blaccent” show gave African-American taggers a day in the elite-media sun. WBEZ staff posted black tagger videos, and searched out some of the Chicago creators for lengthy interviews about their perceptions of regional differences in African-American English.
(Read the rest.)