You've probably heard an impression of a stereotypical California accent or dialect at least once on TV or in the movies. The surfer's slow drawl, the Valley girl's declarative sentence spoken like a question....
But c'mon, Californians don't really have an accent or a dialect.
A team of Stanford researchers is working to find out. They've started recording interviews with native Californians to help determine the state's vernacular for a project called Voices of California.
KQED's Charla Bear recently talked about the project with Penny Eckert, a Stanford professor of linguistics and anthropology, for a story on The California Report.
"We realized that nobody really knows anything to speak of about the dialects of the West, and people can say just about anything they want," she says. "And some people were saying just about anything they wanted. I mean, we're all familiar with Moon Unit Zappa's imitation of valley girls, right?"
Eckert says like, obviously, it's pretty far out to stereotype all Californians as having a San Fernando Valley girl accent. But there aren't many examples of what "authentic" California speech is.
Some Californians agree that it's difficult to describe the state's dialects.