The Old Dominion is home to a grab-bag of accents, as if stating that makes the state different than other ones in the union. Most people in the United States have an accent, even if they don’t hear it themselves. Realistically that goes for most people and most places.
When the new world was being settled in the 17th century, many immigrants were from England. With them they brought their language and dialects from different parts of England and nearby countries like Ireland and Scotland. Virginia, settled mainly by affluent English men, is home to 3 strong and unique southern accents. The Piedmont, Appalachian, and Tidewater.
Modern Virginians’ voices are softer than their past counterparts due to immigration, social media, and transient populations. Another reason regional dialects might not be as prominent as they once were is because of Virginia’s proximity to the nation’s capital. Being close to Washington, D.C. means that there are a bunch of people who move to the area for work or stay for a bit and head to another location in the state or in another part of the US.
Depending on where you are in Virginia, the accents nearby will change too. As quickly as the exit numbers climb while you’re driving I-95, Virginia has 3 unique southern dialects. Mentioned above, the Appalachian, Tidewater, and Piedmont accents have individual characteristics that differentiate them from each other and other American dialects.
The Appalachian accent is characterized with Scotch-Irish influence, notable in the Blue Ridge mountains as well as the Appalachian region. The Tidewater accent represents voices you might hear on the coast near the border of North Carolina. The Piedmont accent is exactly what most people assume the southern accent sounds like. Even in other countries, this accent is ranked one of the most easily-recognized according to a BBC feature. Though Brits didn’t necessarily recognize that it was a Virginia Piedmont accent, they recognized the southern overtones versus accents local to deep southern states like Mississippi and Louisiana.
Virginians’ accents change based on where you’re at in the state, but one thing remains the same: they’re all full of southern charm. Along with being ranked for being one of the most notable accents to come from America, the southern accent is ranked as one of the most pleasant of international and domestic accents. This survey asked Americans to compare accents, noting which ones they felt were most annoying, most persuasive, and more.
Interestingly, the survey also found that the southern accent is far more persuasive than accents from further south in the region. Texans, Louisianans, and Mississipians reportedly have less persuasive potential than southerners with a Piedmont dialect. This may be unsurprising, but the harsher accents of New England and New York are ranked pretty low in terms of persuasive abilities.
How would you rank Virginia’s accents?