February 17, 2016

Accents, Dialects, and Speech Therapy - Part 3 {Guest Blogger}

We are continuing our series on accents, dialects, and speech therapy with another guest blogger.  I am excited to share the following post with you written by Melanie from The Speech Place.

I was raised in the Ohio Valley region about an hour west of Pittsburgh, PA. I have found over the years that my accent is a mixture of Pittsburghese and Ohio Valley, Midwest. Of course like most people I didn’t consider myself to have an accent. It wasn’t until I started grad school in an online program at California State University, Northridge that it was pointed out to me. Previously I had not communicated that much with others outside of my region. 

After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I moved about 4 hours east to another part of West Virginia. This region, eastern panhandle, borders Maryland and Virginia which strongly influences the dialect here. I remember when I first met my husband and he left a message on my answering machine I played it for my friends because I thought he had a heavy southern accent. I don’t really hear it now but in the beginning it was adorable.

To more of the locals around here I have an accent or a different vocabulary from them. One of the main differences is that a carbonated beverage to me is “pop” and here it is “soda”. I may say that “my hair needs cuts” but they say “I need a haircut”. The Pittsburghese dialect adds need, want, or like + past participle to many sentences for example “the baby needs fed” instead of “the baby is hungry”. 

The most distinctive characteristic of Pittsburghese is the use of the pronoun “yinz”. I do not use this but I have many relatives that do.  I usually address a group of people informally as “you guys” The best example of Pittsbughese can be viewed on Pittsburgh Dad videos on YouTube. He is a local celebrity that clearly demonstrates the difference in vocabulary and dialect. They are very funny.

During speech therapy I need to consider the differences between my accent or vocabulary and my students. When I am producing a sentence they may not understand my vocabulary because it is different then what they have learned. I use it as a teaching lesson when it comes up to expose them to more synonyms of words. Here are some more accent/dialect differences from where I grew up to where I live now. 

Where I grew up…
Where I live now…
Tennis shoes
Shopping Cart/Stroller
Aunt pronounced “ant”
Creek pronounced “crik”
Wash pronounced “worsh”
Crayon pronounced “crown”
Doll baby
Baby doll

Since I moved to a new region to practice speech-language pathology there are have been a few examples of when my accent/dialect interfered with my job. My second year as an SLP I was working with a group of students with autism in a following directions activity. The directions were to draw 2 wavy lines. After a couple minutes one student was still working very hard on her lines. When I asked her what she was drawing she said “2 wavy lions”. It was a pretty good drawing of the lions and I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was wrong.

A few years ago I was giving the Test of Auditory Processing to a student. She was scoring in the average to above average range on all subtests. When we got to the segmenting sounds section she only got the first few right and then failed the next several ending the section. It didn’t seem to be an accurate since she had completed all of the others so well. I asked the other therapist in my building to give the student this subtest over. She did and the student scored in the average range. I noted the difference of the results in the report. Even though the other SLP and I grew up both an hour outside of Pittsburgh in opposite directions, her dialect was different than mine.

Since my accent/dialect is not much different than others in the region where I work there has not been many issues. I know that if I moved to the Boston region my years of experience correcting vocalic /r/ sounds would not be applied since their dialect is to not pronounce the vocalic /r/ in many words. 

Thank you to Kristin at Talkin’ With Twang for allowing me to be a part of her series Accents, Dialects, and Speech Therapy. It has been a lot of fun!


Thank you, Melanie, for sharing with us!  To read the previous posts in this series click on the following links:

Part 1 click HERE
Part 2 click HERE

Click HERE for the conclusion of the series and a GIVEAWAY!

February 11, 2016

Accents, Dialects & Speech Therapy - Part 2 {Guest Blogger}

I'm excited to bring you part 2 of our discussion on accents, dialects, and speech therapy.  For this post, the wonderful Ashley from AGB Speech Therapy is sharing her thoughts on the topic. 


I’m so excited to be guest posting today at Talkin’ with Twang. I have quite a lot of experience with accents. Firstly, I’m a southern gal from Arkansas so I have a bit of an accent myself. Then, when my husband’s military service took us to the UK, I was thrilled to be immersed in the variety of British accents as well as the mix of American accents we heard from friends on the base.  I didn’t really notice my own accent though until I moved to Utah. You see, in England, everyone talked with a bit of their own home accent, but here in Utah, I sound different. Very different if you ask some people. In fact, one of my students once told her mother she could recognize me in the school because I was the teacher with “short, brown hair that talks like a cowgirl.”

While I laughed at this, I began to think more about accents and how they play into my daily work as an SLP. The first question I asked myself is why do accents matter? Well, for me personally, I’ve always been interested in the way people talk. I guess that’s why speech pathology was a perfect fit for me professionally. But for others, accents can be a source of pride, a hurdle to opportunities or a cause for prejudice.

For many people, the way you speak is a direct reflection on your social class or upbringing. Received Pronunciation of English in the UK is a perfect example of this (think Masterpiece Theatre). For others, the phonology of their native language when applied to a different language produces an accent that is difficult for listeners to comprehend. This situation may make communication more difficult which will negatively impact the speaker. Unfortunately, accents can also be the cause for stereotyping and prejudice.

Like Kristin previously mentioned, we have to be conscious of the distinction between a disorder and difference. But, when we’ve ruled out disorders and we’re talking about accents, what is it that actually causes the differences in the way people talk? The answer, in part, lies in phonology and geography.

Accents occur because of phonology
Phonology is the set of rules that govern the patterns of sounds in a language. Phonology is the reason British vowels sound different from American vowel sounds and American vowels sound different from Australian vowel sounds, but all three languages are English! These accents exist in part because of the specific rules applied to the production of the sounds.

Accents occur because of geography
Phonology gives us the patterns we use in our language, but these patterns are heavily shaped by geography. If a location is highly accessible, then more people from other places will arrive there and in turn influence the culture by adding their own traits and taking from the existing ones. Conversely, if an area is isolated, the people there do not experience as great a shift in patterns because they are not exposed to differences.

Accents make us unique
There was a time I thought I might need to change my accent or be more aware of how I sound to others. The question, “Where are you from?” once grated on my nerves. Now, I embrace the opportunity to share my background with others and invite them to try out the “twang.” If you’d like to listen to some other accents and learn more about the specific features of regional accents, check out http://dialectblog.com/northamerican-accents/

I have enjoyed sharing with your readers, Kristin, and I hope ya’ll will join me over at AGB Speech Therapy soon!

Thank you, Ashley!  Be sure to read Part 3 of the series written by Melanie from The Speech Place.

Click HERE to read Part 1 of the series.
Click HERE to read Part 3 by The Speech Place
Click HERE for part 4 and a GIVEAWAY!