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Over the past week, my three-year-old son started talking with what I can only describe as a Southern (U.S.) accent.

He has started elongating his pronunciation of "ah" sounds, so that "yeah" sounds more like "yea-ah", with two syllables.

Similarly, he'll say "they-err" instead of "there", and "way-er" instead of "where".

It seems to have developed totally out of the blue. Is this normal? What can cause this? Will he outgrow it?

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Can he turn the accent on and off? More like the accent is something he is "playing with" rather than is general speach pattern? Or is this pronunciation an all-the-time thing now? –  balanced mama Nov 4 '13 at 21:16
    
@balancedmama When it started, we tried correcting him, and each time he repeated it the same way, and became noticeably frustrated that we kept trying to get him to say it differently. It was 100% of the time for the first week or so, but today it was only part of the time (it seemed to come back when he got excited about something). –  Beofett Nov 5 '13 at 13:21
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My son, who is also 3, does this on a regular basis. It took us awhile to realize he was imitating characters from TV shows and friends. He really likes to talk like Curious George and like the Rescuebots. He has gone a couple of entire days where he talks with the accent of one of these characters. Sometimes it gets much more flamboyant when he is sleepy, and much louder. –  Dave Nelson Nov 5 '13 at 18:11
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Agree with Dave Nelson. Could he have made a new friend who has an accent and he's just imitating his friend? –  Meg Coates Nov 6 '13 at 15:40
    
There is a new girl his age at daycare, but I haven't heard her talk enough to know if he's imitating her. He doesn't seem particularly conscious of the difference in his speech, though. –  Beofett Nov 6 '13 at 15:52
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My kids all went through stages like that, but I had always assumed it was because we live in Alabama. My wife and I have relatively "neutral" American accents, having grown up in Arizona.

My guess is it's part of his development of phonological awareness. Age three is when kids generally start becoming aware that words are made up of separate sounds.

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Since it isn't really a 100% of the time kind of a deal, I think Dave Nelson has nailed it on the head. My daughter picked up a french accent for awhile at about the same age (after seeing Rattatouille) and I mysteriously developed a southern drawl when I was three as well. My parents talk about me getting dressed up and using the accent when I was wearing a certain dress and hat.

As Karl Bielefeldt points out, he is experimenting with and discovering a new part of language he hadn't previously connected with. What is funny, is that now, since my daughter is an actress, we encourage it and age seven she has a pretty good standard British accent and can immate a Texan drawl quite well as well. She is also attempting an Italian accent and has mentioned desiring learning an Irish accent as well.

Have some fun with it. Perhaps when he is using his accent, call him "mater" (or wherever he picked up the idea) and call him by his name when he isn't using it. Maybe you could even try on an accent or two. See if he'll use his funny voice when "reading" a character from a favorite story he has memorized - you get the idea. I wouldn't worry about it unless he starts refusing to speak any other way.

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That last paragraph is a fun idea! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 29 at 19:07
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