KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first question one Ph.D. candidate has: Does Kansas City have an accent? The answer depends on who you ask and how they answer. The researcher says it's all about the vowels and how you say ‘A-E-I-O-U’ in your words. The differences are vast, but the distances don't have to be.
“In Kansas City we often have this experience of people not knowing where we are from, because we think we sound normal,” University of Missouri Ph.D. candidate Chris Strelluf said.
Strelluf grew up in the Kansas City area. He's always been interested in speech and dialect, so it has been the focus of his research.
“Interviews with people who grew up here, were born here. We talk for a long time and then there’s a few tests. They’ll read lists of words,” he said.
One of the things Strelluf found out pretty quickly, speech patterns can change drastically with just a little bit of distance. For instance, between Kansas City and St. Louis.
“We are saying 'cat' more like 'cot' and St. Louisans are saying 'cat' more like 'cyat',” he said.
The end results aren't quite ready, but Strelluf says there's a chance KC doesn't have an accent.
“It's important to convince the world this is what good speech sounds like, right here in Kansas City,” he said.
He's kidding of course, but some Lee's Summit natives think he's right.
“I'm with him, I think we are the normal ones, right in the middle, so as you progress out, that's where it changes,” Lee's Summit resident Rachel Maxey aid.
As you can probably hear in the video contrasted with her friend, there's a little bit of a flaw in Maxey's theory.
“We sound different than each other? I don’t know, we are from the same town, Lee's Summit. So…,” she said.
That's why Strelluf is doing the research he is, to find out why there are changes in accents. Until he's finished, Maxey is sticking to her own explanation.
“Well, we did go to different high schools, I’m on the west side, makes a difference,” she said.
Strelluf says he's had a great time doing the research. There hasn't been a study like this done in Kansas City since the 70's, so he's hoping it's helpful.