Recognizing the 'East L.A. accent'

Some linguists believe that aspects of the pronunciation and usage heard on L.A.'s Eastside for generations can be traced to Nahuatl, a group of indigenous tongues still spoken in parts of Mexico, reporter Hector Becerra writes in an interesting story in today's L.A. Times.

The East L.A. accent is not as well-known as some other Southern California styles of speech — the Valley Girl accent or the surfer dude patois. But it is a distinct, instantly recognizable way of talking, associated with a part of L.A. famous as a melting pot of Mexicans, Japanese, Jews, Armenians and other ethnic groups.

The accent — also known as Chicano English — crosses racial and ethnic lines and inspires a certain pride even in those who have long since left the neighborhoods where it prevails, most notably East L.A., Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and City Terrace....

The East L.A. accent is marked by a higher vowel sound at the end of words, so that "talking" is often pronounced "talk-een."

Many speakers pronounce the "eh" sound before the letter L as an "ah" — as in "ash" — so that elevator becomes "alavator" and L.A. becomes "all-ay."

In a slightly Canadian-sounding twist, some people will add "ey" to the end of a sentence, in a vaguely questioning tone: "Someone's on the phone for you, ey."


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