A Dialect Coach Attempts to Unpack What's Going on with Lindsay Lohan's Voice

"For her to forget how to make an 'a' sound is like, Lindsay..."

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Nov 3 2016, 4:00pm

Photo by Mark Robert Milan / Stringer via Getty Images

In an accent that sounded like an amalgam of every language ever spoken, citizen-of-the-world Lindsay Lohan stood outside her newly-opened Athens nightclub, LOHAN, and intoned on the importance of clubbing to the resistance of oppression.

"We can make everything have a difference," she said. "Life should be about celebrating each other's lives. We should create places that make people happy. And maybe one of the refugees will open a place with us. Maybe we can create a sustainable future for them."

Lohan, of course, has been traipsing around the globe, lending her celebrity aura to the Quran, getting deep into transcendental meditation and helping Syrian refugees as a brand ambassador for a German caffeinated lemonade called Mintanine. But all the Internet seems to care about is her newly-acquired inflections, which seem to leap across borders with every breath she takes. Like a different study abroad trip in every sentence, one minute Lohan sounds like a French film star from the 1920s, the next a recent Turkish immigrant.

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Confronted by a Daily Mail social media manager on Twitter, Lohan told the paper that her new accent is a "mixture of most of the languages I can understand or am trying to learn." She dubs the accent "Lilohan." Her parents say the raison pourquoi she sounds so strange is that Lohan is a precocious language learner who taught herself French, Arabic, Hebrew, and Italian. "Lindsay picks up languages like I pick up a coffee!" her father told Entertainment Tonight.

Like a different study abroad trip in every sentence, one minute Lohan sounds like a French film star from the 1920s, the next a recent Turkish immigrant.

Still, this doesn't explain why Lohan can't drop the accent in interviews conducted in English. While some believe her accent may be paid for by the Turkish government, another theory is that Lohan has so immersed herself in the ESL community that she can't turn off the voice she uses to connect with people who don't speak English well, even when she's talking to a camera. It's a known fact that mirroring someone's affectations can also help you empathize with them, which Lohan presumably has been trying to do with Syrian refugees across Turkey. A 2010 study from the University of California found that mirroring also has emotional benefits. "Humans are incessant imitators," professor Lawrence Rosenbaum said in an interview with the Telegraph. "This unintentional imitation could serve as social glue, helping us to affiliate and empathize with each other."

Another study found that mimicking someone's accent makes it easier for us to understand them. In a study titled "Imitation Improves Language Comprehension," researchers at the University of Manchester found that those who employed this strategy of imitation improved spoken-language comprehension "under adverse listening conditions."

Samara Bay, a dialect coach to stars like Keegan-Michael Key, Aaron Ekhart, and Rita Wilson, believes it's normal for Lohan to have picked up various affectations from around the world while attempting to connect with others, but finds it strange that she seems to have forgotten how to make certain sounds with her mouth.

"It's one thing to change inflection and even to start changing up some of the obvious English things like dropping R's in British English, but it's another thing to pronounce sounds that are completely native to you as if they're not," she says. "Either she's spent so much time with ESL people that she's forgotten how her muscles work in her mouth, or she's doing something deliberate."

"It's weird that when she says, 'I want to go back,' she swaps out the 'a as in apple' sound for the 'ah as in father' sound and pronounces it 'bahck,'" Bay continues. "For her to forget how to make an 'a' sound is like, Lindsay..."

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Bay also noticed that Lohan has a much less "open-mouthed" sound than the general American accent. "You might call this a purse-lip sound. When you purse your lips and say 'partner' it sounds more like 'perdner' and indeed, that's what she sounds like. This may be why people suggest a French influence -- the French do a strong lip."

Another curious element in Lohan's speech are her "t's", which she pronounces in a particularly breathy way that seems like a "foreign affectation."

As to why she's being attacked by the Internet for her new dialect, Bay thinks the answer is obvious. "We, as a culture, don't like affectations," Bay says. "We prize authenticity so much that for someone to be doing something inauthentic, it makes her an easy mark."

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