“I guess when I hear someone with the Miami accent I think of the diversity,” Espinosa said. “I think of how cultured Miami is.”
An accent — and the stereotypes associated with it — can prejudice a listener against the speaker, even unconsciously. A 2010 study by the University of Chicago found that Americans are less likely to trust people with accents that sound foreign.
To non-Miamians, the Miami dialect can sound foreign, or at least unprofessional. Jeffery is sometimes directly contacted by employers asking her to reduce their employees’ accents, which can make them seem overly cute and diffident.
People with accented speech can even be held to a higher standard. Listeners tend to notice the “gonnas” and “wannas” of accented speakers more often than those of people who speak the standard American dialect. She tells her clients to watch their contractions, and to speak more grammatically correct than the average American.
Learning to speak Standard American English has helped Dumornay get more roles, and has let him avoid being mistaken for a foreigner.
Antelo, an actor with a job in real estate, said she doesn’t think her accent will jeopardize her career. She said it can even make her a more interesting person when she walks into a casting office.
“I think having a Hispanic giveaway, so they can see I have a kind of culture to me, makes me more interesting, just by me opening my mouth. So I think it’s like putting seasoning on a steak,” Antelo explained.
Carter hopes to undertake a large-scale study of the Miami dialect, which would involve interviewing about 100 speakers of different age groups and backgrounds. To him, the Miami dialect is at the core of the city’s culture.
“Can you imagine your own identity without your language?” Carter asked. “The answer is probably no. So it is a fundamental, quintessential part of who we are.”
For any region or culture, language reflects a group’s identity and social history. The Miami dialect, which will continue to evolve as demographic and social groups shift, is part and parcel of the area’s unique history, a feature that will continues to be shaped by the city’s story.
“Language,” Carter said, “is the cornerstone of human experience.”
To read the original WLRN article on the Miami accent, follow this link: wlrn.org/post/miami-accents-why-locals-embrace-heavy-l-or-not?nopop=1
Gabriella Watts, Isabel Echarte, Julia Duba and Karelia Arauz of WLRN/Miami Herald News and Miami Herald staff writer Ana Veciana-Suarez contributed to this article.