The Southern Accent Is Disappearing From Parts Of The US, Y'all

Linguists think it's a part of a wider trend across the US, you hear?


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

American US flags wave on a green field.

“Today’s college students don’t sound like their parents, who didn’t sound like their own parents,” said one of the researchers.

Image credit: William Hunton/

The sun is setting on the old Southern drawl, y’all. The classic Southern accent is fading away in parts of the US, according to a new study that’s looked at pronunciation shifts in the state of Georgia. 

Linguists at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have found there has been a significant shift in the accents used by Generation X, born from 1965 to 1982, compared to older people from the baby boomer generation, born from 1943 to 1964.


In Georgia, the quintessential elongated vowel sounds associated with the Southern accent rapidly disappeared among Gen X speakers, shifting towards a vowel system spoken more broadly across the US. 

For instance, a word like “prize” was pronounced by Southern speakers as “prahz,” while “face” was pronounced, “fuh-eece”. Nowadays, however, younger generations pronounce these words as “prah-eez” and “fayce,” which is more typical of wider US accents. 

“We found that, here in Georgia, white English speakers’ accents have been shifting away from the traditional Southern pronunciation for the last few generations,” Margaret Renwick, lead study author and associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Linguistics, said in a statement

“Today’s college students don’t sound like their parents, who didn’t sound like their own parents.”


To reach their findings, the researchers studied recordings of 135 white people born in Georgia from the late 19th century to the early 2000s. They found that the classic Southern accent reached its peak with the boomers, then (in their words) “fell off a cliff” with Generation X, who rapidly abandoned its characteristic drawl.

“We had been listening to hundreds of hours of speech recorded in Georgia and we noticed that older speakers often had a thick Southern drawl, while current college students didn’t,” Renwick added. “We started asking, which generation of Georgians sounds the most Southern of all? We surmised that it was baby boomers, born around the mid-20th century. We were surprised to see how rapidly the Southern accent drops away starting with Gen X.”

The reason behind this radical shift isn’t crystal clear, but the researchers speculate it has something to do with the demographic shifts in the area. 

“The demographics of the South have changed a lot with people moving into the area, especially post World War II,” explained co-author Jon Forrest, assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Linguistics.


Furthermore, this is a trend that’s being seen across the US, from Boston to all the way to Texas. Linguists have previously noticed that the rich array of regional accents formerly found in the US may be undergoing “dialect leveling” or “accent leveling.” Essentially, the diversity is being lost and accents are becoming more uniform. 

Many will mourn the loss of this cultural diversity – and understandably so. Language is intimately tied to identity and the squandering of an accent can make people feel that part of themselves is also being lost. 

However, it’s worth remembering that accents are always changing, constantly evolving in the face of new social pressures. It’s not certain where the accents of the US will be in years to come, but it’s certain that they won’t stay constant for long. 

Just as old accents drift away, new ones can emerge. Case in point: linguists have noted that a new dialect – complete with its own unique expressions and pronunciations – has recently been emerging in the south of Florida.


The study is published in the journal Language Variation and Change.


  • tag
  • language,

  • speech,

  • dialect,

  • culture,

  • US,

  • accent,

  • Georgia