Particular US Accent Identification

I’ve been listening to a lot of TED talks lately and there is an accent I’ve heard from a couple of speakers which I can’t identify. The best way to describe it to you is to say it sounds like the accent that Jim Parsons gives to his character Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. I know the Cooper character is supposed to be from Texas but it doesn’t sound like a standard Texas accent to me. Parsons is from Texas also. Maybe it’s a Texas accent mixed with California or something. Where is it from?

Jim Parsons went to Klein Oak High School, in a suburb north of Houston. To my ear, Jim Parsons in his TV interviews and Sheldon Cooper have the same accent. Another person from the same area is Lyle Lovett. You tell me if they have a similar accent. You can listen to aLyle Lovett interview here.

Neither of them have the “heavy” Texas accent you may be thinking of which is more common among the older and more “rural” Texans (Tommy Lee Jones.) Many middle class urban and suburban Texans have an accent intermediate between Rural Texan and Standard American English.

I can hear some just very slight similarity between Lyle Lovett and the accent I’m talking about but the very distinctive aspects of the accent I’m hearing are absent from the way Lovett talks.

Hmmm, over 200 views and one reply. I thought this was an easy question!

Perhaps if you could name the TED speakers you heard with this accent?

It’s only an easy question for someone with all the information you haven’t given us.

I don’t think there’s one Texas accent. Far West Texas has an immediately identifiable accent to me. I lived in Dallas during college, and people around Dallas don’t sound like West Texans at all.

http://web.ku.edu/~idea/northamerica/usa/texas/texas.htm

That link gives 18 different samples of Texas accents.

Without really going and listening to the actor speak, I’ll echo the above that there isn’t just one Texas accent. I live in northeast Texas, and we sound more like folks in Alabama and Mississippi than, say, a Central or West Texan would (and, being only about 20 miles from the Louisiana state line, there’s a little of that thrown in for good measure.)

Anyway, I think part of what makes the OP’s question about accent is the mix between urban and rural. Most of the people I know from Dallas or Houston don’t have the heavy twang that I do. They tend to “clip” their vowels, where I stretch them out, or make dipthongs out of letters that aren’t. However, having said that, there is often a little lingering rural sound to some of their vowels…they’re not stretched as much, but they’re pronounced differently than the Standard American Accent. It’s probably very subtle and I imagine easier to identify for those outside of the state–the farther away the easier it’d be to identify.

(Unrelated–one of my key words to determine someone’s accent involves the pronunciation of the word “oil.” I say it like 'ol, completely omitting the long e sound in the middle.)

ETA: If you go here: http://web.ku.edu/~idea/northamerica/usa/texas/texas7.mp3 and listen, about 25 seconds in, the speaker pronounces “duke” like “dew+k” rather than like “dook”. That’s kind of what I mean. Little vowel sounds like that that call back to the more rural accent.