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Jessi Grieser, assistant professor of English, spoke with American University Radio WAMU 88.5 for a story exploring whether residents of Washington DC have an accent. The story notes that the city is a tough place to tease out the real accent because most people who live there grew up in other places around the country and accents vary depending on whether the speaker is white or black.

Grieser told the news station that many phonetic variations differ by class. In Washington, the African American identity, for example, is “super intersectional,” made up of other kinds of identities.

“So what quadrant you’re from, and whether you’re working class or upper class, that affects your linguistic identity,” she said. “A middle class person who has lived in the Southeast all her life might sound different than one who has lived in Northwest all her life.”

“Language is the key to doing that,” she added,¬†letting people express racial, neighborhood and “quadrant identity” all at once. Read and listen to the story online.