Do cats have accents?

Meow, miaou, yaong, nyan, näu: Humans say ‘meow’ in different ways, depending on what part of the world they’re from, but do cats? This is the question researchers at Lund University in Sweden are trying to answer in a new study on feline communication.

Over the course of the next five years, phonetics specialists will look at cats and their human companions from two separate regions of Sweden to study intonation, voice and speaking style in human speech addressed to cats, as well as in cat vocalizations addressed to humans.

“We want to find out if cats from different regions have different ‘accents,’” Susanne Schötz, an associate professor of phonetics at Lund University and one of the researchers involved in the study, tells Newsweek.

“It seems that cats and their human companions together develop some kind of unique ‘pidgin language’ in their vocal communication, and it is not impossible that some of the accent or dialect features of the human speech is included in the vocal signals of the cat as well.”