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Texans’ pride in their state is as swelling and unmatched as their hospitality. The Lone Star State offers a lot to be proud of, from its rich history and diverse culture to its stunning landscapes and thriving economy.
The list of things that make Texas unique is by no means short, but here’s another item to add: the Texas accent. It’s one of the most recognizable accents across the country, frequently featured in Western and Southern films and TV.
In today’s guide, we’re discussing all things Texas accent, including what it is, its classification, and how to speak it.
What Is the Texas Accent?
The Texas accent is a term that refers to the range of American English dialects in which people from Texas speak.
According to linguistics professor Guy Bailey, the simplest way to define a Texas accent is to view it as a Southern accent/twang, but with a twist.
It’s that twist in Texan that makes it distinct. He says it resulted from the merger of two populations:
- Settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee with their South Midland dialect
- Settlers from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi with their Lower South dialect
Besides these Anglo settlers, there was also a Spanish-speaking population and immigrants from Mexico, Czech, and German.
The Texas accent is special in that it represents the combination of all these different accents/dialects. This probably explains why the Texas accent doesn’t signify a single accent.
Is Texas Accent Southern?
According to the US Census Bureau, Texas is considered part of the American South Region. Specifically, it belongs to Division 7 of the South Region, which represents the West South Central zone.
Because Texas is officially recognized as part of the South by the US government, Texans should be generally considered Southerners and their accent should be classified Southern as well.
But since Texas isn’t located in the deep South and is more situated where the West ends and the South begins, many Texans identify as Westerners or Southwesterners. This means their accent can be referred to as Western or a mix of both.
That said, the unique culture, history, and laws of Texas have the majority of Texans self-identifying as Texans before anything else. So Texans speak a Texan accent first, and then they may view their accent as Southern, Western, or Southwestern.
Do All Texans Have Accents?
As published by The University of Texas at Austin, linguist Lars Hinrichs says that most Texans use an accent when they talk even though the iconic twang has experienced drastic changes and become much less prominent.
He reports that Texans nowadays use a Texas accent in certain situations depending on what they’re talking about, who they’re talking to, and whether their Texas pride is triggered.
Hinrichs adds that technology, urbanization, and increasing numbers of newcomers to Texas are the main factors causing the Texas dialect to fade away.
According to Dr. John D. Cook, most people in Texas don’t speak in the stereotypical Texan despite them having a Texas accent.
He arrived at this conclusion after being served by a waitress in Texas who had a Texas accent so strong that she surprised him even though he was a Texas resident.
How Do Texans Talk?
Multiple accents are present across the Lone Star State, from the tight twang of West Texas and the Panhandle to the Tex-Mex Spanglish that transcended borders and the slow stretched-out drawl of East Texas.
As such, you can’t really pin down a dialect that covers all of Texas. The best you can do is figure out how people in different regions add spice to the general Southern accent.
You can also determine common phrases and slang that Texans use to get a better and broader idea of how Texans talk. Here are a few examples:
- “Y’all”, which is the mashup of “You all”, refers to a single group of two people or more. But if you’re talking to more than one group of people or a particularly large group, “All Y’all” steps into action.
- “Howdy” is the staple greeting among true Texans, formed by mashing up the words “How do ye?” or the proper “How do you do?”.
- ” Bless your heart” to make fun of someone for doing something unwise or stupid and then reaping a logical, unfavorable consequence or getting hurt.
- Losing the last ‘G’ in present participle verbs, so eating becomes eatin’, playing becomes playin’, and so on.
- “Fixin’ to” doesn’t mean repairing something broken, but getting ready to do something, whether it’s a planned event or you’re just about to do it. For example, “She’s fixin’ to have a baby” or “I’m fixin’ to pay the bills”.
- The frequent use of “sir” and “ma’am” both formally and informally. Phrases such as “yessir”, “nosir”, and “thank you, ma’am” are pretty common.
- “Lit out” refers to someone taking off in a big hurry.
How to Speak Texan?
Talking like a Texan is a lot more work than just learning common slang and phrases. Speaking a Texas accent involves understanding the distinct sounds of the twang, tweaking your pronunciation, and then expanding your Texas vocabulary.
1. Adjusting Your Sounds
Start by changing the way you sound out vowels so it’s focused at the back of your mouth. In Texan, vowels sound like one another; softer and more homogenized
One of the most evident examples is the vowel “i”. You want to get rid of the “ee” sound and replace it with a “hhh” sound. So instead of saying “I’m”, you want to sound like “Ah’m”.
Also, change the sound of “e” and “i” in the middle of words to an “ay” sound by producing the sound from the back of the tongue and mouth instead of the front. As such, words like “hen” and ‘”fin” should sound like “hayn” and “fayn”.
Additionally, if you’re working with an extended “a” sound like in the word “brain”, draw it out subtly with a “y” sound.
So instead, you’ll say “brayyn”, “playyn”, ” grayyn”, and so on. Even if it’s a word with multiple syllables like “toothpaste” or “distaste”, you can draw it out to be ” toothpaayste” or “distaayste”.
2. Altering Your Pronunciation
After practicing with the vowels, develop your Texas accent further by addressing the “g” sound.
If it’s a word ending in “ing” like the present participle verbs “drawing” or “swimming”, you’ll drop the strong “g” sound altogether. So a Texan would instead say drawin’ or swimmin’.
Another important bit is pronouncing the “ing” when it’s within a word.
While you can’t lose the “g” sound when it’s in the mind, you can soften the “ee” sound to become an “aahh” tone. As such, singing becomes sahngin’ and stinging becomes stahngin’.
The more you listen to Texan speech, the more you’ll learn to embrace the dialect’s flexible pronunciation
3. Learning Vocab
The slang Texans use is an integral part of their accent.
In many cases, Texan slang is made up of multiple words mashed together. Prime examples are “y’all” shortened from “you all”, “howdy” instead of “how do you do”, and “nosir/yessir” condensed from “no, sir/yes, sir”.
Texans also use the word “fixin” a lot to mean multiple things. It can be used to describe an intent such as “I’m fixin’ to go to the game”, or it can mean the typical repair as in “I’m fixin’ my TV”.
“Fixin” can also refer to sauces, dressings, and add-ons in food. A sandwich with all the fixin’s means you’ll get it with cheese, onions, tomatoes, mayo, and so on.
Additionally, metaphors make up a huge part of Texas vocabulary. Being imaginative and rich are characteristics of the Texan dialect, so get ready to use country-inspired metaphors instead of literal sentences as follows:
- Anger: “I’m madder than a wet hen”
- Bragging tendency: “They’re all hat and no cattle”
- Distrust: “I wouldn’t trust them more than I could throw them”
- Trustworthy: “If they crow, the sun’s up”
- Abundance: “More than you can shake a stick at”
- Acceptable: “It beats gettin’ poked in the eye with a sharp stick”
- “Come again?”: “Lick that calf again?”
- Celebration: “Throw the hat over the windmill”
- Luck: “They’re ridin’ a gravy train with biscuit wheels”
How to Say Yes in Texas?
Texans say “yes” in various ways.
They can hit you with an “uh huh” to signify a neutral “yep” or it can be a “yes” when they’re not really paying attention. “Uh huh” can also be sarcastic when they don’t agree with what you’re saying.
When a Texan is with you wholeheartedly, they’ll throw you a “dang”, “darn tootin”, “dern”, or “sure’nuff”.
There you have it, a closer look into the unique and rich Texas accent. While there isn’t a single dialect to assign to all parts of Texas, we can safely say the Lone Star State has a Southern twang with a twist.
Speaking Texan involves a close understanding of when to draw out vowel sounds, how to tweak your pronunciation, and the capacity to learn the state’s distinct vocabulary.
Robert is a native Texan writer for TexasWalkabout, passionate about Texas culture and food, wearing cowboy boots daily. He interviews local pitmasters and chefs, tastes and reviews innovative dishes, and explores hidden gems and iconic landmarks. Graduating magna cum laude in Cyber Security from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Robert excels academically and professionally while also being knowledgeable in Texas history and culture. After living in Texas for over 28 years, he provides first-hand and trustworthy information for all your Texas needs!