Why Do People from Missouri Have Such a Strong Accent:?

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The state of Missouri, situated in the Midwestern region of the United States, has a unique linguistic characteristic. Many people from Missouri have strong accents, which may be reminiscent of Southern dialects. While accents tend to vary from region to region, the Missouri accent has some distinct features that make it stand out from other American accents.

One explanation for the strong accent in Missouri can be attributed to its geographic location. Missouri is influenced by different regional dialects due to its proximity to the South and the Midwest. This blending of dialects contributes to the distinctive accent of Missouri residents. As a result, locals may exhibit features of both Midland American English and Southern American English in their speech.

Furthermore, shared cultural and historical roots in the region have played a significant role in shaping the Missouri accent, as people in groups that interact with each other are likely to adopt similar speech patterns. Consequently, the Missouri accent has become a unique and defining aspect of the state’s identity, making it a fascinating topic of study for linguists and language enthusiasts alike.

Missouri Accents and Variations

Missouri, known for its unique blend of Midwest and Southern influences, showcases a variety of accents within the state. In this section, we will explore regional influences, the impact of Southern American English, and the Northern Cities Vowel Shift on Missouri accents.

Regional Influences

Missouri accents vary greatly depending on the region within the state. For instance, residents of St. Louis and St. Peters tend to have a distinct accent that differs from those in areas like Odessa or Mexico, Missouri. This is primarily due to the state’s diverse geography and historical connections to both the South and the Midwest.

Southern American English Influence

Missouri’s southern regions, especially the area around the Ozarks, have accents more closely aligned with Southern American English. This is because Missouri was a border state during the American Civil War and has had a strong cultural connection to the South. As a result, some Missourians may have a noticeable southern drawl, while others, particularly in the northern and central parts of the state, may not.

Northern Cities Vowel Shift Influence

In contrast to the southern influence, the Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCVS) has had a significant impact on accents in cities such as St. Louis. The NCVS is a sound change that has affected many urban areas in the northern United States and has led to unique pronunciation patterns. This is particularly apparent in St. Louis, where some local speech patterns have been influenced by the NCVS.

In conclusion, Missouri accents encompass a diverse range of variations due to regional location, historical connections to the South and the Midwest, and influences from other linguistic shifts, such as the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

Linguistic Elements of Missouri Accent

Missouri is known for its unique accent, which varies depending on the region within the state. This distinctive accent is a result of various linguistic elements that contribute to its sound. In this section, we will discuss three major linguistic features of the Missouri accent: vowel sounds, diphthongs, and consonants.

Vowel Sounds

The Missouri accent heavily influences the pronunciation of vowels. The vowel sounds in Missouri English can be quite different from those in General American or Canadian English. For instance, the pronunciation of the short ‘a’ and short ‘o’ sounds are typically more open and shifted towards the back of the mouth. Additionally, the pronunciation of the ‘uh’ sound could be more nasal and closed, giving it a distinct tone.


Diphthongs, which are two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable, also play a significant role in shaping the Missouri accent. The pronunciation of these diphthongs differs from North American English, often resulting in a more elongated and drawl-like sound. For example, the ‘oi’ diphthong in words like “boy” and “join” may be characterized by a more extended glide between the two vowel sounds compared to other English accents.


Consonants are another essential aspect of the Missouri accent. Some unique consonant pronunciations can trace their roots back to the influence of German and other European settlers in the region. For instance, the ‘r’ sound is often pronounced as a uvular ‘r,’ similar to the German pronunciation. Another distinct feature is the devoicing of some consonants at the end of words, making them sound more like their unvoiced counterparts.

The Missouri accent draws from a rich history of linguistic influences, making it an interesting and diverse subsect of American English. Understanding the nuances in vowel sounds, diphthongs, and consonants can help language learners and those interested in the phonetic intricacies of this regional dialect.

Perception and Impact of Missouri Accent

Quality of Missouri Accent

The Missouri accent lies within the Midland American English dialect, which is often considered the closest to General American speech. This accent is primarily associated with Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Illinois. While people from rural areas in Missouri might have a stronger Southern influence in their accent, urban areas like St. Louis share linguistic similarities with Chicago and other Midwestern cities.

Influence on Communication

Accents can have a substantial impact on the way people perceive and communicate with one another. Missouri’s Midland American English accent is generally neutral, making it easily understandable by individuals from other parts of the country. This neutrality can be advantageous for people from Missouri, as they are less likely to face communication barriers with individuals from different regions.

Foreign Accent Perception

Perception plays a significant role when it comes to understanding foreign accents. People tend to have a harder time processing and comprehending speech when a speaker has an accent different from their own. However, the relatively neutral nature of the Missouri accent may make it easier for non-native English speakers to understand Missourians when compared to individuals with more distinct regional accents.

Other Regional Accents in the United States

Kansas and Texas

In Kansas, the accent is influenced by Southern American English, while Texas has a distinct accent known as Texan English. Texan English is a Southern dialect characterized by drawls and the use of “y’all” as a plural form of “you”.

Nebraska, Iowa, and Oklahoma

Nebraska and Iowa have accents that are part of the Midwestern American English dialect group, known for their lack of a strong regional accent. Oklahoma, however, has an accent more influenced by Southern American English due to its proximity to Texas.

Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois

These three states are also part of the Midwestern American English dialect group. The accent in this region is relatively neutral, but it can have some features of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, which involves changes in vowel pronunciations.

Wisconsin and Minnesota

The accents in Wisconsin and Minnesota are influenced by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and are characterized by distinct vowel pronunciations. The “Fargo” accent, named after the movie and TV series, is a notable example of this accent. It features longer, nasal vowel sounds and a unique intonation pattern.


In summary, the strong accents in Missouri can be attributed to its culturally mixed background and geographic location. With its proximity to the Southern United States, it is not surprising that some residents of the state, especially those in the southern part, exhibit a Southern twang or colloquialisms. Additionally, the Midwestern American English accent, which is associated with several states including Missouri, has been evolving and displaying similarities with dialects spoken in other regions like Texas and central Florida, according to Babbel.com.

Accents, as Psychology Today points out, are influenced by people’s inherent social nature. Individuals adopt accents as a way to fit in with their communities and these accents continue to evolve over time. This is reflected in the diverse dialects found within Missouri, as recorded in the International Dialects of English Archive.

Ultimately, Missouri’s strong accents and their variations are influenced by a combination of geographical factors, cultural influences, and the natural inclination of individuals to adapt to their social surroundings. The dynamic nature of accents in the state serves as an interesting linguistic phenomenon worth further exploration.