Whether you say hello, ‘ello, hey ya’ll, toe-may-toe or toe-ma-toe, we all have a kind of accent that often comes from where we live or who lives around us.
That’s what I found out from my friend Nancy Bell, a Washington State University professor of linguistics and English as a second language who is really curious about the way language works. She told me more about why we have accents and why we need them.
There are a lot of different accents. You might have friends who speak English but have a Scottish, Irish, Australian, or French accent.
Even in the U.S., there are many accents from the east to the west to the mid-west to the south. In those regions, people also speak many types of English such as Chicano English, African American English, or Indian English.
A lot of times when you see a difference in the way people talk, there is also some kind of physical barrier between them. This might be something like a mountain, a river, or the Atlantic Ocean that separates you and me. When groups of people are isolated from each other, they develop unique ways of speaking, including accents and whole new languages.
We also have social barriers, Bell said. We sometimes see differences in the way people talk when groups are segregated from each other. These social barriers still persist today.