British Columbia

DRAW-ma or DRA-ma: Is there an Okanagan accent?

Researchers at UBC Okanagan are asking British Columbians to submit voice recordings to help them determine if people from the Okanagan have certain characteristics that separate their accents from other parts of the province.

How people pronounce words like pasta, drama, and Vancouver provide clues, say researchers

Researchers from UBC Okanagan are trying to determine if there is such a thing as an Okanagan accent. (Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association)

Researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan hope to determine if people who live in the Okanagan have a unique accent.

They've launched a website where British Columbians can record themselves reading a specific passage and submit it as part of the research into what characteristics separate an Okanagan accent from others across the province.

Molly Babel, an associate professor of linguistics and co-lead on the project, says not much research has been done on dialects outside urban areas in the province.

Testing accents

"Most of what we know about the varieties of English that are spoken in B.C. are really based around places like Vancouver and Victoria," Babel said.

The idea for the study came when Babel's colleague and co-lead of the study, Bob Pritchard, emailed her with a question.

"One day last year he emailed me and said 'Hey I'm from Vernon and I think I can tell when my students are from the Okanagan. Is there such a thing as an Okanagan accent?'"

That got Babel thinking and now the pair have set out to prove it.

They launched a website, which asks people from the province to submit a recording of their voice reading a story, created to include certain words and sounds.

"The story is based around sounds and words that we found to be particularly variable across the UBC student population," Babel said.

"So the idea is maybe those words and sounds will also be what kind of varies a lot across the province to give us an idea into what we might find."

PAHS-ta or PASS-ta?

Because the project is new, Babel says researchers do not have definitive answers yet, but they do have some ideas.

Words like: Pasta, drama, and Vancouver are some of the words the researchers are finding that reveal differences between native Okanagan speakers and other British Columbians.

For instance, many people across the province will pronounce pasta like 'PAHS-ta', whereas those from the Okanagan may pronounce it more like 'PASS-ta'.

Where those from Vancouver might pronounce the word drama like 'DRAW-ma', those from the Okanagan may pronounce it 'DRA-ma'.

With files from Daybreak South