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The Vermont Accent, Explained

A photo collage featuring the faces of Vermonters.
Courtesy images
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Elise Richardson, Linda Benway, Jerold Kinney, Lisa Cicchetti, Lianna Reed, Nathanial Ely, Katie Leavitt and Mary Thon were among the dozens of Vermonters who submitted voice samples showcasing their Vermont accent.

In honor of Brave Little State's 5th birthday, we revisit the show's inaugural episode about the past, present and future of the Vermont accent.

Note: Our show is produced for the ear. We recommend listening to the audio above if you can! But we also provide a written version of the episode below.

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Our people-powered journalism show originally produced this episode in August of 2016. (Find the original episode, and explore our digital feature, here.)

Our first-ever brave question-asker was Erin Creley, of St. Albans.

At the time, Erin was a semi-recent transplant; she had moved to Vermont from her native New Hampshire a few years prior. And when she started to hear how some Vermonters talk, it “flipped my mind,” she said. How could there be a way of speaking unique to the state next door that she’d never even heard before?

As a self-described linguaphile, her experience prompted her to ask Brave Little State

"Where did the Vermont accent come from, and where is it going?"
Erin Creley, St. Albans
erin-creley-brave-little-state-vpr-keefe-2016.jpg
Alex Keefe
Brave Little State's first-ever question-asker was Erin Creley, of St. Albans.

Together with Dr. Julie Roberts at the University of Vermont, Brave Little State developed a prompt that included certain key words and phrases designed to bring out the Vermont accent in someone who has one. We asked you to record yourself reading it and send it along to be part of the episode — and you did! We got responses from all over the world.

Below is a taste of your responses, which we used to help deepen our understanding of the Vermont accent. Listen to the episode or visit the original digital feature for a more detailed breakdown of the accent.

Glottal stop: This action is responsible for the characteristic “t-dropping” that makes words like Vermont sound like Vermon.’ The glottis is the hole between your vocal chords. Roberts says you get a glottal stop when you stop the “t” sound in your throat, instead of enunciating the “t” by touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Long “ow”: this is what turns those Vermont cows into ke-ows.

In the years since we produced this episode, Julie Roberts has continued to research the Vermont accent — and a former student of hers, Sarah Rose Bellavance, recently published a study about the enduring quality of the glottal stop.

What story should Brave Little State tackle next? Vote!

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Submit a question about Vermont below:

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Credits

Thanks to Erin Creley for the great question, and to Alex Keefe for helping found Brave Little State back in 2016.

This episode was edited by Lynne McCrea and remixed by Josh Crane. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music; other music by Taker 51, Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Latché Swing and Blue Dot Sessions.

As always, our journalism is better when you’re a part of it:

Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public Radio.

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Angela Evancie is VPR's Director of Engagement Journalism and the Executive Producer of Brave Little State, the station's people-powered journalism project.
Alex was a reporter and host of VPR's local All Things Considered. He was also the co-host and co-creator of the VPR program Brave Little State.