This past spring, amateur linguist (and Pasadena native) Sam Luddy did a survey of Southern California accents and found confirmation of a strange change going on in Northeast LA and other areas--young speakers are becoming non-rhotic, meaning they "don't pronounce the 'r' sound at the end of a syllable" except when the next syllable or word starts with a vowel, as Luddy explains in an interview with LA Taco (this is one of the primary distinctions in English accents). The most famous non-rhotic speakers are in Boston, where they pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd. Los Angeles speakers have always been rhotic, but back in high school, Luddy started noticing that the kids at rival Cathedral High School in Downtown had "startling" accents with dropped "r"s.
When Luddy did his survey this year, he found that "Not only were a lot of the people I interviewed aware of [the non-rhotic change], for the first time I was encountering people talking like that who weren't wearing Cathedral uniforms! Somebody in Echo Park called it a 'hipster accent.'" However, he didn't manage to talk to many people who'd made the change; his only samples come, oddly, from Altadena and Sherman Oaks, according to his blog post on the subject (he adds that "All of the speakers I've found are middle-class white people (including hispanics and Jews), from middle-class white areas, with rhotic parents. All are under the age of 30." The non-rhoticity also isn't very strong yet: "I have a friend now who speaks this way strongly and she only drops her coda r's about 50% of the time."
Luddy offers a few possibilities for why Los Angeles pronunciation might be becoming non-rhotic, but the most compelling (to us, anyway) is that "a hypercorrection of the long retroflex r's evinced by stereotypical 'valley girls' and 'surfer dudes.'" In other words, people rebelling against that much-mocked variety of Southern California accent. He also notes that the Los Angeles accent has changed "rapidly and dramatically" over the years. Image via Look at This Fucking Hipster
· Is Los Angeles Becoming Non-Rhotic? [The Writer Sam Huddy]
· Do Northeast Los Angeles Hipsters Have a New Accent? [LA Taco]