Idiolects make everyone sound different.
Similar to a dialect, an idiolect is a personal dialect. Just like groups of people have regional dialects and accents, every individual person has a unique way of speaking (or signing). They may vary in how fast or slow they talk, how they pronounce certain words, how breathy or raspy their voice is, or how their pitch rises and falls (or doesn’t!) throughout a sentence.
One place we see idiolects on display are skits like Saturday Night Live, where the actors impersonate political figures. While part of their impersonation includes their costume and physical gestures, one of the most significant parts of their performance is their speech. If they can mimic the idiolect well, their performance is much more convincing.
No two people speak the same way, and these differences show their idiolects. Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters have very pronounced idiolects—that is, their speech style is very distinct and recognizable. One unanswered question in baby language science is how toddlers recognize words, even though the words may sound very different from person-to-person.
Aahnix is a Project Coordinator in the Bergelson lab at Duke University