Can you guess where people are from based on their accents?

Can you guess where people are from based on their accents?


If you’ve taken the quiz above, you’re probably wondering about Stella and her very particular trip to the grocery store.

The strange script actually has a purpose. “We needed a paragraph that had almost all of the English sounds in it,” says Steven Weinberger, a professor of linguistics at George Mason University. He created the Speech Accent Archive, an ambitious project that has asked people everywhere to submit recordings of the “please call Stella” paragraph in order to classify how English is spoken around the world. Our quiz draws on 60 of the 1,964 recordings in the crowdsourced archive.

There is some disagreement about the breadth of the paragraph’s phonetic coverage, but in just 69 words, it manages to include the vast majority of all English vowel sounds and consonant clusters.

Having all of the speakers recite the same series of words makes it much easier to identify general trends in spoken English. “You can compare and contrast speakers, because they’re all doing…

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