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Hi,
this is an important question.
Do people's accents usually change after they move to a different area, state, country? If they usually don't change, is it possible that it happens for some people?

Examples of what I mean:
A man, 50 years old, who has always lived in Texas, moves to Chicago. Will he still have the same southern accent when he is 70?
A guy, 30 years old, who has always lived in California, moves to Texas. Will he still have the same Californian accent when he is 45? What about when he's 60?
A guy, 20 years old, who has always lived in California, moves to London. Will he still talk with an American accent when he's 40?

And so on. Those are just examples of what I mean by changing accent. From what I see (the situation here in Italy), people only change their accent if they want to and they are willing to change it. Now you will be wondering why this question is important and why I'm interested in this. Here's the answer:

Why am I interested in this?
I started to think about this some time ago, when I thought: "I'm learning American English, I studied some stuff about accent reduction because I'm trying to sound like Americans, I always only listen to American English on the radio... but what if one day I have to move to the UK instead? Or to Australia? I'll be immersed in a variety of English that has always sounded kind of odd to me... will I switch to that accent?"
I think I would be the kind of person that would change their accent. I don't think if I lived in the UK, after 10 years of "non-tapped t's" everywhere, I would keep tapping t's. But that just my opinion, now I'd like to hear yours. Every opinion will be appreciated (maybe Emotion: wink)
Thanks in advance Emotion: smile
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Comments  
Well, it depends on a number of factors. If you know phonetics, you can modify or consciously prevent yourself from modifying your accent. It also depends on how much you like the place that you move to. So, for example, if the 30 year old moved to Texas and loved it, loved the people, and thought of himself as a local, rather than just a Caliornian who moved to Texas, he would readily try to speak with a Texas accent, to differentiate himself from people that just moved moved there from other places. However, if he did not completely assimilate the accent, what is most likely would be that he would sound like a "Yankee" to the Texans, and like a Texan to Californians. The reason being, that he would have some features that sounded like a Texan accent--which would be readily noticible to Californians, but he would have also have some features that would remind Texans of a California accent. However... Texas is a big state, and many people in the major cities, do not have what is thought of as a Texas accent. Also, Western Texas does have a Western or transitional Western accent that is pretty well indistinguishable from a California accent (pretty well indistinguishable from my own accent even...)

But, lets say that the above mentioned ex-Californian, went to Texas and hated it. He did not identify with the people, and wanted to distinguish himself from them as much as possible from the locals. He would hang on to his Californian accent as much as possible, and try to resist any Texas vowels creeping in there. Of course he would have some changes, but chances are his accent would still be pretty darn close to a California accent.

Age (after a certain age) has little to do with it. A 20 year old and a 60 year old that move somewhere else will have about the same changes in accent (depending on the above mentioned factors.) I know someone who is 80, that moved here from Russia when he was twenty, and he still sounds like he just got here a month ago.

Most people in general will get an accent that is somewhere in between--an American that lived in England for 20 years (and moved there when he was 30 lets say), will usually sound perfectly American to the British, and perfectly British to Americans.
Now on to the Texan that moved to Chicago. Like I said, Texas is a big state, with a huge accent continuum. The Westernern most part of Texas has a Western or Western-transitional accent, and thus sounds pretty well identical to a New Mexican accent. Eastern Texas has more of a Southern or Southern-transitional accent. In between, their is a unique Texas accent, which has the Southern vowel shift combined with the low back vowel merger. Not only that, but the major cities in Texas have received a huge influx of Northerners and Westerners who have brought their accent with them. Their is also a rural and urban divide as well. The rural areas (excluding Westernmost Texas) are likely to have more of an accent than the urban areas. So, if the guy that moved to Chicago was from Western Texas, he'd sound pretty much like a Westerner, and although it's different from a Northern accent, to most Northerners, it would usually go unnoticed, because it isn't too different. If on the other hand he was from another area of Texas that had a stronger accent, and moved to Chicago, and didn't want people to know he was from Texas, he would try to supress his accent as much as possible. If he hated Chicago and/or was very proud of his Texas upbringing, he might even exaggerate his Texas accent.

Now, some people do not change their accent at all if they are going somewhere with a similar enough accent. For example, if I decided to move to, say, New Mexico, there are so few differences between my own accent and a New Mexican accent, that I might not even bother to change my accent--as most people probably wouldn't even notice my accent to begin with. Or, I might just naturally pick up the new pronunciations, not even noticing that I am changing my pronunciation.

There are also people that will do anything to blend in with the locals if they move somewhere, and they will try very hard to learn the new accent. Their accent will of course change the most. Whether they perfect the accent or not is based on how difficult it is, but people from where they are originally from will almost always say that they have certainly lost their old accent.
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Some people will even get a sort of neutral accent that has all of the unusual parts removed. The Western US accent was actually formed like that, because speakers from the North, Midlands, and South, all moved to the West, and their accents intermingled and the Western accent was sort of a neutral spot between them. It still is-the Northern US is going through a vowel shift that shifts the vowels in practically opposite directions as the Southern vowel shift. The Western accent for the most part has kept the vowels neutral, but fairly recently has developed its own characteristic system-the low back vowel merger, fronting of the back vowels, and California has developed a vowel shift that is spreading to other areas as well.

Some people are able to code-switch between accents/dialects. Everyone codes switches to a certain extent, but the most extreme example is African-American Vernacular English. People of the African-American cultural group often know two different dialects, and often will not speak pure African-American Vernacular English (which sounds very similar to a Southern accent), or pure General American, but will rather speak with an accent/dialect somewhere in between the two based on the situation: the formality of the situation, as well as to whom they are speaking. So, that is why even when they move to the North or the West, they still can speak in their original Southern-sounding dialect, or code-switch to a more neutral sounding accent. Often they do not pick up the local accent at all, because they identify with their cultural group, rather than region.

Some accents and dialects have nothing to do with region. There are cultural accents: not only is there AAVE, but also Spanish influenced dialects of American English. There are class accents: although much less so in North America than in, say the UK, but they still exist. For example, Middle class people often use prestige forms more often than working class, lower class, and even upper or upper-middle class people. There is also covert prestige: someone that works with working class people that have a distinctive way of speaking may modify his accent to fit in with the group that he is with.

Small children will speak with the accent of their peers, and will assimilate into the new accent more readily than adults and older children. People will often revert to their original accent when they are angry or emotionally distressed, as it is usually the accent that has the most meaning for them.

So, there are numerous factors.
It depends on how easily and willingly a person is influenced by the accent of the people around him.
When I first "went away to college" I encountered for the first time in my life many different people with regional accents. In some conversations it took less than 15 minutes before I would catch myself speaking somewhat more in their accent, completely "automatically". In other cases I sensed no such change. Maybe in the latter cases I did not admire them as much as interesting, intelligent people? I don't know.

CJ
Thank you very much for all your opinions, I understand Emotion: smile
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ya. i went on a trip to DC with a whole group of people who lived in the south. EVERYONE had a (somewhat) southern accent and i was the only one without it (chicago). Within a few days i found myself talking half southern half chicagoan. im positive that if you move somewhere you're accent will adjust with it naturally.
In my opinion, your age also has to do with how easily you pick up on a new accent. For example, my aunt, uncle, and three cousins moved from Pennsylvania to Texas. My cousins were all under eight, and after just a few months, all of them had adopted a slight Southern accent and used "y'all" and the like. My aunt and uncle, however, were not affected because they lived in the north for so long.
I have been wondering the same exact thing about being 20 and moving to London, I think it depends on the person... This probably doesnt help ahahah oh well.
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