Wednesday, August 22, 2007

California English is a dialect of the English language spoken in the U.S. state of California. The most populous of the United States, California is home to a highly diverse populace, which is reflected in the historical and continuing development of California English. As is the case of English spoken in any particular state, not all features are used by all speakers in the state, and not all features are restricted in use only to the state. However, there are some linguistic features which can be identified as either originally or predominantly Californian, or both.

California English History
As a variety of American English, California English is similar to most other forms of American speech in being a rhotic accent, which is historically a significant marker in differentiating different English varieties. The following chart represents the relative positions of the stressed monophthongs of the accent, based on nine speakers from southern California.. Phonology
The popular image of a typical California speaker often conjures up images of the so-called Valley Girls popularized by the 1982 hit song by Frank Zappa and Moon Unit Zappa or "surfer-dude" speech made famous by movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High. While many phrases found in these extreme versions of California English of the 1980s may now be considered passé, certain words such as awesome and dude have remained popular in California and have spread to a national, even international, level. The use of the word like for numerous grammatical functions or as conversational "filler" has also remained popular in California English and is now found in many other varieties of English.
A word that is used by many Northern California teenagers and younger adults is "hella" (from "hell of a lot of", alternatively, "hecka") to mean "many," "much," or "very".). A person who was hapa was either part European/Islander or part Asian/Islander. Today it refers to a person of mixed racial heritage—especially, but not limited to, half-Asian/half-European-Americans in common California usage) and FOB ("fresh off the boat", often a newly arrived Asian immigrant). Not surprisingly, the popularity of cultural food items such as Vietnamese phở and Taiwanese boba in many areas has led to the general adoption of such words amongst many speakers.

Lexical characteristics
Since the 1950s and 1960s, California culture (and thus its variety of English) has been significantly affected by "car culture" — that is, dependence on private automobile transportation and the effects thereof.
One difference between California and most of the rest of the U.S. has been the way residents refer to highways, or freeways. The term freeway itself is not used in many areas outside California; for instance, in New England, the term highway is universally used. Where most Americans may refer to "I-80" for the east-west Interstate Highway leading from San Francisco to the suburbs of New York, or "I-15" for the north-south artery linking San Diego through Salt Lake City to the Canadian border, Californians are less likely to use the "I" or "interstate" designation in naming highways or freeways.
Northern Californians will typically say "80", "101 (one oh one)" to refer to freeways. Some long-time San Francisco Bay Area residents and many traffic report broadcasts still refer to such highways by name and not number designation: "the Bayshore", for 101, or "the Nimitz" for I-880, which was named for Admiral Chester Nimitz, a prominent World War II hero with strong local ties). California State Route 1 is simply referred to as "One" (ie "take One down the coast").
In Southern California, freeways are called either by name or by route number, but with the addition of the article "the", such as "the 405" or "the 605" (as contrasted with typical Northern California usage, which omits the article). A typical example would be "Take the 101 west, get off at Sepulveda, and make a left to get to Ventura", meaning drive west along Highway 101 (Ventura Freeway), exit at the Sepulveda Blvd offramp, make a left turn and continue until you reach Ventura Blvd. Similarly, California State Route 1, is called "PCH" (for Pacific Coast Highway) in Southern California, occasionally pronounced as "peach" but much more often as "PCH".
The sequential numbering of freeway exits, common in most parts of the United States, has only recently been applied in California and initially appearing only in more populous areas. Thus, virtually all Californians refer to exits by name rather than number (e.g., "take the Grand Avenue exit" rather than "take exit 21.")
In a related vein, when referring to the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or "BART" high-speed subway system located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern Californians will typically refer to "BART" (e.g., "I'm taking BART this afternoon," whereas Southern Californians will refer to the Los Angeles Metro subway system as "the Metro."

Northern California
Southern California Freeway nomenclature

Place names
Another common Northern California expression is the way in which residents refer to San Francisco as "Frisco", its initials SF, or simply "The City", if they live in nearby suburbs (such as San Mateo) or smaller cities, like Oakland or Danville, even as far south as San Jose. Similarly, the city of South San Francisco is sometimes referred to as "South City", especially in the pages of the San Francisco Examiner. The terms "San Fran" and especially "Frisco" are almost never used by residents, except in jest, much as "The Big Apple" is not typically used by native New Yorkers. However, although well-known newspaper columnist Herb Caen once castigated the use of the term "Frisco", he later recanted, and the use of that term continues. . Still, the term "Frisco" continues to be viewed by many northern Californians as being vaguely derogatory. When used, it is typically employed with a sense of knowing irony.
Northern California and Southern California are sometime abbreviated as "NorCal" and "SoCal", respectively. Some Southern Californians refer to Northern California as "NoCal," to emphasize perceived feelings of Southern California's superiority. In exchange, "SoCal" is often used derisively in some areas of Northern California, ("Oh, he's from SoCal, no wonder he's such an airhead.") especially in conversations about water usage or Los Angeles (sometimes referred to as "La La Land").
The metro region often referred to as the Bay Area includes San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties.
Furthermore, the San Francisco Bay Area is occasionally referred to as "the Bay" in mainstream culture as well as hip hop culture. The San Francisco Bay Area is sub-divided into regions such as:
Although the region is known to the U.S. Census Bureau as the San Jose Metro Area, residents continue to use the historic and "San Francisco Bay Area."
Northern Californians refer to Sacramento, the state capital, as "Sac", "Sactown", "Sacra" (by the Chicano community), and various other nicknames.
Residents of the San Fernando Valley (the section of Los Angeles to the north of the Santa Monica mountains), often use the phrase "over the hill" to refer to Los Angeles, where the San Fernando Valley itself is generally called "the Valley". Similarly, Bay Area and Sacramento residents refer to going "up the hill" in to the neighboring mountains to Lake Tahoe or Reno, Nevada and "over the hill" for crossing the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the Sacramento area, "the Valley" refers to the Central Valley. Additionally, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area will sometimes refer to the area of the Santa Clara Valley and surrounding cities as "the Valley" and sometimes as, the more famous term, "Silicon Valley".

The "North Bay" (Marin County, the southern half of Napa County and the southern half of Sonoma County with the northern border of the North Bay ending just north of Santa Rosa). The northern portions of Sonoma and Napa counties are typically considered to be Wine Country, a separate region. Some cities in central areas of these counties are considered to be members of both communities.
The "South Bay" (Santa Clara CountySan Jose, Milpitas, and surrounding cities, sometimes extending as far south as Gilroy)
The "East Bay" (Alameda and Contra Costa counties—Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Fremont, Hayward, Martinez, Pittsburg, etc.)
"The Peninsula" (San Francisco and San Mateo counties, including San Mateo, Redwood City, Menlo Park, etc.). Northern California
In Southern California, the "South Bay" refers to the area between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Los Angeles Harbor. This area is usually downwind from the southern part of Santa Monica Bay.
A common complaint from residents of Southern California's Orange County is the reference to the area as "the OC" instead of just as "OC" proper. Attributed to the Fox television show The O.C., the inclusion of "the" in the county's title is mainly perceived to by those from outside of the area rather than natives. Still, the influence of the show on local youth culture also seems to have made the phrasing more acceptable among residents of the area.

See also

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