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Utah English, sometimes humorously referred to as "Utahnics", is a dialect of the English language spoken in the U.S. state of Utah. Influences are as varied as ancestries of its immigrants, from Scottish to Mexican Spanish. Since the field of sociolinguistics is relatively new to academia, very little research has been done on the dialect. However, a research team at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah has begun a comparative project on the topic.
Distinctions of the dialect
- The merger of [oʊ] and [ʊ] to [ʊ] before [ɫ], making pairs like the following homophonous (the second word in the pair is pronounced like the first):
- bowl / bull
- foal / full
- foley / fully
- Folsom / fulsome
- poll, pole / pull
- polar / puller
- Further diphthongization (splitting one sound into two) of [ɛ] as [ɛɪ]: "egg" and "leg" are pronounced "ayg" and "layg", "leisure" and "pleasure" pronounced "layzhur" and "playzhur."
- The merger of /ɑr/ and /ɔr/, such that "born" may be pronounced "barn" and the town of "American Fork" becomes "American Fark."
Introduction, removal, and morphing of stops and plosives
- Introduction of a "T" into certain words: "teacher" pronounced "teat-chur;" "preacher" as "preat-chur;" other examples include between the sounds "L" and "S" ("Nelson" and "Wilson" pronounced as "Neltson" and "Wiltson").
- Shortening of some words from several syllables to one or two (different from general consonant cluster reduction): "corral" as "crall", "probably" to "probly" or "prolly."
- the final "T" is frequently voiced as a glottal stop: "cute" becomes [cuʔ] and "late" becomes [laʔ]. Non-native speakers often have trouble distinguishing between the local pronunciation of words like "can" and "can't". The same also applies to the letter "T" in the middle of a word such as "mountain," "button," or the Northern Utah town of "Layton;" the "T" is replaced with a glottal stop (becoming, roughly, "mahw-uhn," "buh-uhn," or "Lay-uhn"). (This is possibly the most widespread element of the dialect.)
The unique pronunciations of the dialect, as is typical of American accents, are most marked in the speech of rural and older residents. Much of the state continues to move towards the General American accent (due in large part to immigration and technological/communication advances within the last fifty years, specifically the ubiquity of the television). More extreme elements of traditional "Utahnics" are sometimes used sarcastically by teenagers, in jest of the "older" accent; for example, "fer cute" or an exaggerated "see-ick" (for "sick") may be observed, especially among teenage females.
- Rainey, Virginia, (2004) Insiders' Guide: Salt Lake City (4th ed.), The Globe Pequot Press, ISBN 0-7627-2836-1
- Brigham Young University Linguistics Department Research Teams
- BYU "Utah English" Research Team's Homepage
- Article about "Utahnics" (social satire)
- "How We Talk: American Regional English Today" by Allan A. Metcalf, 2000, Houghton Mifflin.
- "Utahnics", segment on All Things Considered, National Public Radio February 16, 1997.
Categories: American English | Utah culture