I would wager many people have had the experience of a long-faded regional accent returning to their speech when they make a visit to the place where they were reared. The classic example is the person who goes to a high school reunion back home with a spouse and in a day the spouse is asking “Why are you suddenly talking so funny?” (Underscoring that the process is not effortful and may therefore not be noticed).
I have observed that “accent relapse” does not require the stimulus of actually being home. In Illinois, I had a roommate who was from Southwest Virginia. He had a slight remaining accent, but when he talked on the phone with his relatives his marked Vah-geenya accent returned. The effect lasted for a few hours, such that at dinner I could usually tell if he had called home that day.
Now, here is where I want to introduce some new data on this phenomenon and ask RBCers if they have had similar experiences. Last week I got an email from West Virginia (i.e., I did not talk to the person and hear their accent). The email invited me to give a talk back home, and as I was practicing it aloud I noticed that a West Virginia accent was returning to my voice. In other words, an entirely internal, cognitive stimulus — imagining I was speaking to an audience of West Virginians — changed my accent.
As as informal study, please post if you have ever had such an experience, for example maybe a dream or a memory or relating the story of a childhood incident caused your accent to come back without the stimuli of actually being back home or talking to someone from home. And as a question for everyone, accent-inflicted or not: What do you think accounts for the phenomenon of “accent relapse”.