Since I had clipped an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the subject (sorry, I don't have the date), I wanted to share. Here's a synopsis:
Back in 1935, as part of FDR's New Deal program, 203 Midwestern families bankrupted by the Depression were recruited to settle the Matanuska Valley in Alaska. The majority of them came from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both states were settled by Norwegian, Swede and German immigrants.
The Minnesota accent is distinguished by long O's and saying 'Ya' instead of 'You' and 'Yah' for 'Yes". This is amply demonstrated in the movie, Fargo.
Now, I was born and raised in Minnesota. My mother was the youngest of a large Norwegian family that homesteaded in Western Minnesota. Mom didn't even speak English when she started school back in 1926. As a result, she, like many other Minnesotans retained Scandanavian inflections in her speech. This slipped right into our English.
We were pretty much unaware of it until the eighties. Until then, Minnesotans thought of themselves as incredibly average, mostly unremarkable folks. But Garrison Keillor noticed that we were sorta distinctive in our way, and he went with it. After that, The Prairie Home Companion radio show and subsequent books by Keillor, in addition to Howard Mohr's How to Talk Minnesotan and A Minnesota Book of Days turned a spotlight on our (dare I say...) uniqueness!
I'm secretly pleased when someone notices my Minnesota accent and I enjoy being a Minnesotan.
As GK always says, "All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above-average."