How to Speak With a Texan Accent

by Boze Herrington
Texas has one of the most distinctive accents in the United States.

Texas has one of the most distinctive accents in the United States.

One of the best-known American accents, the Texan accent has been prominently featured in television and movies and used by former presidents Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush. Today, a prominent Texan accent remains a fact of life for many Texans, in spite of the state’s increasing urbanization and the growing influence of standard American dialects on Texas.

Types of Texan Accents

The precise variation of Texan that a person speaks may depend on where she lives in the state, because different regions have their own variations on the standard accent. The two largest regional dialects are West Texan and East Texan. Former President George W. Bush and actor John Wayne both spoke or adopted a West Texan accent. The East Texan dialect combines elements of the West Texan and Southern American accents. However, both dialects, along with their urban and rural variations, share distinct similarities.

Texan Syllables

Like many Southerners, native Texan speakers have a tendency to emphasize the first syllables of words, creating pronunciations that are foreign to most Americans. For example, a Texan might say, “UM-brella” rather than “um-BRELL-a” or “IN-surance” rather than “in-SUR-ance.” Texans also speak in a drawl that makes pronunciation of certain words more fluid. For this reason, they have a tendency to drop their g’s and to hurry syllables in certain words by speaking from the back of their throat. For example, they might say, “Couldn’t of” instead of the more clearly enunciated “Couldn’t have.” On the other hand, certain words, like “nuclear” or “partner,” might get an extra syllable, becoming “nuc-u-lar” or “part-e-ner.”

Vowel Pronunciation

Texans have a tendency to elongate their vowels, stretching out single syllables until they become two or three syllables. In addition, while people in the Northern and Midwestern United States pronounce certain vowels with a diphthong, Texans, like many Southerners, pronounce those same vowels with a monophthong. This has the result of flattening the vowel, giving it an “ahh” sound. For example, “pie” and “night” sound more like “pah” and “naught.” Consequently, a Texan might say phonetically, “I traveled real far to git some white rah-ce.”

Developing a Believable Texan Accent

Study movies like "Giant," "The Last Picture Show" or "No Country for Old Men" and mouth the words along with the actors, paying special attention to pronunciations that sound awkward in your mouth because you’re not used to talking in that way. Some of the classic speakers of Texan accents in cinema include Sam Elliott, Slim Pickens and Matthew McConaughey. Drop g’s from the ends of words when necessary and use classically Texan phrases like “fixin’ to” and "all y'all" to give your words an authentic flair.

About the Author

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."

Photo Credits

  • DC Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images