Antarctica might be the only continent on Earth with no natural human habitation, but it’s emerged that an “Antarctica accent” is very much a thing.
Despite having no locals, thousands of scientists have made up an ever-changing population in research stations over the years.
The continent is so isolated and the level of interaction between researchers is so intense, that a common accent is beginning to emerge there despite people coming from different parts of the world.
At its busiest points in the year during the summer, Antarctica is home to around 5,000 people. Only around 1,000 people live there during the winter months.
The idea of accents changing due to human interaction on Antarctica is no different to the phenomenon seen throughout history at a glacial pace. However, given the very specific sample size, it’s an opportunity for scientists to study it at a much quicker rate and on a much smaller scale.
Experts at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich published a study in 2019 which focused on the change in accents observed in 11 people who took part in the British Antarctic Survey.
There’s an Antarctic Accent! #language #linguistics #english #antarctica
Of the 11 who were studied, eight came from England, one from the US, one from Germany and one from Iceland. Their voices were recorded every six weeks, and the team found that over time they developed longer vowel sounds.
There was a physical change too, with participants pronouncing the “ou” sound in the front of their mouths rather than the back of their throats.
Speaking to IFL Science, Jonathan Harrington, study author and Professor of Phonetics and Speech Processing at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich said: "The Antarctic accent is not really perceptible as such – it would take much longer for it to become so – but it is acoustically measurable.
"It's mostly an amalgamation of some aspects of the spoken accents of the winterers before they went to Antarctica, together with an innovation. It's far more embryonic [than conventional English accents] given that it had only a short time to develop and also, of course, because it's only distributed across a small group of speakers.”