Accent humor is often mean-spirited and stereotypical. But I can’t resist sharing this loving parody of the Pittsburghese (created by comedians who grew up in the area):
The actors are exaggerating this accent a bit, but the salient features of the Pittsburgh accent are all here:
*A back, rounded pronunciation of words like “Donny” and “stop” (“dawny,” “stawp”, i.e. IPA [ɒ:].)
*Very fronted pronunciations of the dipthong “go,” “don’t,” and “no,” (IPA [ɜʊ]) as well as the vowel in “do” and “goofy” (IPA [ʉ]) (similar to London, Philadelphia and many American Southern accents.)*
*And of course, the vowel in downtown or now becomes a low-central monopthong (IPA [a:]), most comically at 1:03 in the video (“Go on and get that nah, stop screwin’ arahnd!”)
The characters here are supposedly from Johnstown, about 60 miles outside Pittsburgh, and I’m guessing the actual Johnstownian accent is milder than Pittsburghese. Accuracy aside, though, this is a pretty spot-on caricature of the regional dialect as a whole.
Pittsburghese has remained a fairly obscure dialect within American culture. (The city has never had been as iconic as New York, Boston or Chicago.) As someone not particularly acquainted with the region, its accents sounds like an interesting mishmash of Eastern New England, American Southern, Philadelphia and Great Lakes accents (which is fitting given Pittsburgh’s location between the East, South, Midwest and North.)
Western PA was the original heartland of the Scots-Irish immigrants who arrived in America in the 18th-Century. There are some indicators of this influence in the dialect, namely the second-person plural yinz (This Pittsburgh verson of “youse” or “y’all.”). Although the accent itself has very little that would suggest an Ulster or Scottish influence.
The funniest part about the above video, of course, is that the characters seem blissfully unaware they even have an accent. It’s an absurdity found wherever English is spoken, whether we’re talking about an Oxford Don who thinks his accent is “neutral,” or a Michigander who thinks he speaks “normal American English.” The English-speaking world is filled with those who think they “don’t have an accent.”
*Rough approximations. As you can tell from the video, these vowels show a lot of variation.