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Is the Northwest accent the same as the Midwest accent, or are they different?
The Midwest has a large variety of accents, as Travis could probably explain better than me. Southern parts of the Midwest are influenced by the South, and may have features like the pin-pen merger. The Northern parts are often influenced by substrate features from the languages of the early-20th century settlers there (Swedish, German, etc.). They may also be affected by Canadian Raising and/or the Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCVS). From what I've read, the central area seems to be least affected by outside influences, and would probably be closest to the Pacific Northwest. However, the Pacific Northwest accent is probably closest to the Canadian accent (cot-caught merged, no California Vowel Shift).
Based on my observations, it seems that the general accent of the Pacific Northwest is very closely related to the speech found in the Northern Midlands. Of course, it all depends on which part of the Pacific Northwest.
As Josh Lalonde pointed out, there are many types of Midwestern accents, and it is rare to find any dialects in the Pacific Northwest that have been heavily influenced by the southern portion of the Midwest. There are variable influences from the northern Midwest, but the NCVS seems rare in both Washington and Oregon.
The Pacific Nortwest is one of those regions that is populated by a large majority of non-natives. However, it is more common west of the Cascades in larger cities such as Seattle and Portland. In Portland, Southern Washington State, and even in Seattle, you will find speakers that have more of a Californian accent. This is especially true among younger speakers, even if they are not originally from California.
I am not saying that all of the speech is influenced by California, but there seems to be sort of a gap between many younger speakers and older speakers. Older and middle age speakers tend to be more Conservative, and their accent reflects a combination of Midland, North Midwestern, and subtle Canadian influences.
Over in the Eastern Cascades, the accent is a bit different in some cases. It can have a bit of a twang, but it is not the same as a Southern twang. I can't exactly explain it, but it sounds a bit different. I suppose, it would be more related to the accents found in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and western South Dakota.
Canadian raising seems to be rare in Southern Washington and Oregon. As you get closer to the California border, you will encounter more and more influences from California. What is odd is that I notice a subtle difference in the way people from Eugene, Oregon speak compared to the natives of Portland.
Canadian raising is more common in Northern Washington, and there are slight, subtle examples of it found in the Seattle area. However, Seattle is a big place, and it is hard to say that the area has one general accent.
It has been pointed out before that native Washingtonians (with the exception of Southern Washington) say "tomohrrow" instead of "tomarrow". In general, they say "sarri" instead of "sorri", but it is also possible to find "sorri" in Washington State.
I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I am frequently mistaken for Canadian. I certainly have more of a general Canadian intonation and I say both "tomohrrow" and "sori". Of course, in many cases, I blend in rather well and no one really says anything about my accent. It all depends on where you are in the Northwest and the age group. However, based on my observations, my accent blends in better in Seattle as opposed to Portland. However, many Portland natives have assumed than I am a Portland native. On the other hand, transplants from California love to comment on my accent.
I'm 16, a native of North Western Washington, and have never been out of the state so I don't know a whole lot about accents but I have noticed these things about the accent. I do have friends from Louisiana and California comment on my accent though.
As others have said a lot of people say WARSHington.
Everyone native to Washington I know says yer and fer in some instances in place of your and for.
The or sound seems to be pronounced in words like wash (warsh) or horse.
As far as the tone goes I think we have sort of a lower pitch.
I have also been ask if I am Canadian a lot, I and most people I know say ya know and eh a lot so that might be part of it. And I've been asked a couple of times if I was from North Dakota, so I think the Washington, or Northwest accent has a lot of Northern Midwest and Canadian influences.
There is no way Seattleites have Canadian accents!. I have family Vancouver, BC that come down at least 4 times a year and their accents are so terrible it makes one eyebrows raise! Also, I spent some time in Kalispell, MT and I could discern a huge distinction in their accent vs. ours. I'm not a linguist, just a native Seattleite. Both sides of the family came to Seattle during the depression (Anglo-Saxon British/German ancestry) from the mid-west. In fact you can trace my family back to the second mayflower! I also lived in Chicago for a while and have never been asked if I was from any particular part of the country based on my accent. Which leads me to believe that there is almost an urban/rural variation in accents. I couldn't tell a well educated, well rounded, and worldly NY'er from a well educated Californian for the life of me! People who pronounce words as the dictionary advises. LOL Is this possible?
Also, I wanted to comment that I was in the Navy, so I was serving with so many people from different parts of the country and remember going home with friends on holidays. Those people never had accents before but as soon as they get home they all of a sudden re-adopt it. For example, I went home with a friend from Southern, IL. He spoke as well as a new-castor, but as soon as we got to his home town he sounded like the character in Huckleberry Fin! I swear accents are people just speaking lazily!
>>The Midwest has a large variety of accents, as Travis could probably explain better than me. Southern parts of the Midwest are influenced by the South, and may have features like the pin-pen merger. The Northern parts are often influenced by substrate features from the languages of the early-20th century settlers there (Swedish, German, etc.). They may also be affected by Canadian Raising and/or the Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCVS). From what I've read, the central area seems to be least affected by outside influences, and would probably be closest to the Pacific Northwest. However, the Pacific Northwest accent is probably closest to the Canadian accent (cot-caught merged, no California Vowel Shift).<<
That basically sums it up pretty well without getting into too many details (as I would probably do). Note that Canadian Raising is strongest in the northern Midwest and weakest in the southern Midwest, and the NCVS is strongest in the eastern Midwest and weakest in the western Midwest. Similarly, the eastern and central parts of the Midwest are cot-caught-unmerged while the western and extreme northern parts of the Midwest are cot-caught-merged. I myself would probably say that west-central Midwestern dialects would be closest to those in the Pacific Northwest, as such would actually be cot-caught merged.
As for variation over a relatively small distance, that definitely is present here. I, for instance, have a coworker from Rockford, Illinois, and to me at least he sounds practically western even though he is not that far south or west from here in Milwaukee. Conversely, I have encountered people up in Minocqua, Wisconsin while on vacation who definitely sounded different from Milwaukee* and I ran into at least one person who was temporarily confused by some Milwaukee dialect pronunciation... Similarly, I have heard from a friend of mine who knows people in Chicago that people from Chicago often find people from Milwaukee to sound weird, even though Milwaukee and Chicago are actually not that far apart.
* they seemed to actually speak much closer to General American than the dialect I am used to in Milwaukee, but they were in the tourism business directly or indirectly and thus were likely not actually speaking in their native dialect (as from what I know the actual traditional dialects in the far north of the Upper Midwest are actually rather extreme).