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On the Origin of The American Accent

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posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 08:59 PM
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my wife was originally going to go into broadcast journalism and from what she told me, the preferred regional "accent" for a broadcaster to sound like is from the mid-west. I guess it's something about having the least "accent" in the U.S. or something. I'll try and look this up though.

I just always thought it was funny because she would listen to how I said things and try and copy the way I said them since I am from S.E. Michigan and I guess i spoke "the right way". weird huh?




posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 08:59 PM
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I reslly like the study of American Language and culture. Although some of your points are debatable, your overall premise, I believe is sound.

For instance, I live in NC...on the coast known as the Outer banks...their are folks known as "high tiders." They say it as "hoi toiders." They also use a lot of the old "King's English" sounding almost like southern fried New Englanders.

In the mountains, the dialect and language is more Irish Scot. I laugh when i see "BraveHeart" because if you slow down the dialogue, it sounds much like the "mountain folks"...fit/fight, yonder, me thinks, reckon, etc.

I saw an interview with Michael Caine on his role in "Second Hand Lions." How does an Englishman play a Texan... his coach told him that each syllable leans on the next syllable...slowly. If you notice, many English actors do a better job of duplicating a Southern accent than even Americans... except Southerners.

Anyway, your ideas are interesting and I appreciate them.



posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 09:12 PM
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reply to post by Electric Crown
 


Yeah I know about this. I'm pretty sure it's called General American. It became popular for news broadcasters when radios were invented.



posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 09:14 PM
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Originally posted by Nosred
(in these accents 'sauce' might be pronounced the same as 'source' and 'spa' pronounced the same as 'spar').


LOL.

I supposedly talk in a ''well-spoken'' or ''posh'' accent, but I say ''sauce/source'' and ''spa/spar'' in identical manners, largely neglecting the ''r'' sound.

There's also the example of there/their/they're, that turns into a homophone, because a lot of us ( English ) tend to pronounce them in exactly the same way.

It was a good observation made in the site that you linked to about the lack of pronunciation of the ''r'' sound in general English, compared to the fact that it is heavily pronounced in most other European languages that I know of, and some dialects of Britain !



posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 09:16 PM
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reply to post by AlreadyGone
 


I know what you're talking about, I live near the Outer Banks. They especially talk like that on Ocracoke.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 02:47 AM
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The US accent has very little to do with the British.... That statement that Shakespeare would've sounded more like todays Americans is crazy.

Clearly the US accent is a mixture of lower class Irish and some traces of British English.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 06:27 AM
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That is not really as much on accent as it is on dialect or the colloquial terms. Accents actually are formed based on genetics and weather. The shape of your nose bones and how your speech resonates dictates a lot of your accent. Weather plays in with the amount of moisture and pressure in the area. It's fun to travel the United States and hear the differences in language and pronunciation. I grew up on the East Coast and moved out west and it's an incredible difference. I have lost my accent except for the subtle British manner in which I say my "o"s.. '
'

[edit on 6-9-2010 by ANSPHAR]

[edit on 6-9-2010 by ANSPHAR]



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 07:01 AM
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Originally posted by Nosred
reply to post by stillsearchin
 


That's true. Different accents for different parts of the country are caused by where the settlers came from. In Louisiana they have a more 'French' accent. People in Boston changed their accents along with the British because they had more contact with the British than other parts of the country.


In Louisiana it is not more of a French accent. In south Louisiana it is as many today still speak French. For those of us from northern Louisiana, even though many may have French ancestry, the accent is more of a hodge-podge of Scots-Irish, Germanic and also some influence of the accent that many of the slaves developed as they assimilated into the English language. I think this could also be true for most of the people of the southern states.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 08:36 AM
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Originally posted by EnlightenUp
The isolation causing "freezing" idea does not hold water for me. I would propose it was the opposite and due to integration of people of varyious accents who spoke a native language other than English. There's no good reason to suppose an accent would entirely "freeze". They should both evolve in mutual isolation.

If you listen to the accent in places like Minnesota, they it sounds mixed with a Swedish accent. In the midwest, it probably averaged-out with German and others. In south, I don't know.

I had noticed East-coast seems a bit more to resemble the general British accent more, yes, but it is still very, very different.

I also notice that accents have changed since my grandparents' time. If you listen to older movies or any radio recoded from the time, they speak differently. Much of it sounds a bit more British.

Britian, being as relatively small as it is, has a variety of accents.

The evolution of accents never really stops. I suspect if you time-traveled 200 to 300 years in the future, people would sound different yet again.


Yeah I find the south of the USA tends to be more English/British.
But for sure that the USA has more of an olde-worlde vibe to the language and how folk speak.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:00 AM
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Large amount of Galic and Welsh speakers and thier influence not mentioned. Much French as well....some German, Dutch.

Besides if you go around this county today you find local accents still effected by the people that came there. Like Minnesota.

East Coast variations, southern variations, the midwest accent. A story in each.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:03 AM
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[edit on 6-9-2010 by AndersonLee]



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:04 AM
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Originally posted by no special characters
Clearly the US accent is a mixture of lower class Irish and some traces of British English.


And certainly the way many americans talk. If you talk to Irish even today they sound like americans with an Irish accent.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:23 AM
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Linglist is an excellent source, yes. However....


Originally posted by Nosred

A very large change took place in some accents of England that seems to have started in the seventeenth century. Speakers in parts the south and east of England started to pronounce /r/ only when it was followed by a vowel. (etc)


That's exactly what the Wikipedia article was talking about in the rhotic/non-rhotic discussion. It has to do with the pronunciation of one consonant within words and only when it occurs in certain positions.

Not the whole accent, not the whole structure, not the word usage (we do use some words that changed in British English... but this is true of any locally derived subset of a larger language family.)

A more true Shakespearian accent would probably occur in the smaller and more isolated towns of Great Britain... or among some of the people who lived on the islands around it.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:23 AM
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Originally posted by Electric Crown
my wife was originally going to go into broadcast journalism and from what she told me, the preferred regional "accent" for a broadcaster to sound like is from the mid-west. I guess it's something about having the least "accent" in the U.S. or something. I'll try and look this up though.

I just always thought it was funny because she would listen to how I said things and try and copy the way I said them since I am from S.E. Michigan and I guess i spoke "the right way". weird huh?


I can see that. Im orginally from the mid west and people have a hard time guessing where im from. Alot of people where I grew up at add an r after an a. "I'm going to warsh the clothes" lol Good thread op.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 09:59 AM
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There was a programme on TV in the UK recently about the Amish. It was interesting to me to hear that their accents clearly had a Germanic influence to them. They all sounded like my German friends when they speak English, it was pretty weird. People say that the Boston accent sounds Irish but I don't hear the similarity at all - however I could clearly hear the German in the Amish accent. Obviously the more tight-knit the community, the stronger the accent remains. With much of America being such a melting pot, no doubt this has diluted the early accents, which probably more closely resembled British, Irish etc.

Incidentally, I've long though that a strong Northern Irish accent most closely resembles an American accent in the UK, although obviously they're still very different. I think people outside of the UK would be surprised at the huge amount of different accents within our small island. I'm from Newcastle and have what's known as a Geordie accent - I used to work in a supermarket in my home town and occasionally coaches from Scotland would pass through and stop to buy something. On a couple of occasions, I had customers from Glasgow who I literally could not understand a single word they were saying. And Glasgow is only 150 miles north of Newcastle where I'm from. Mind you, people down south probably can't understand a word I say either.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 10:00 AM
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I always thought the American accent sounded the way it did due to a huge migration of Irishman. To be honest, the American accent sounds closer to that of the Irish than it does English. That makes more sense to me!

IRM



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:00 AM
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Mind you, people down south probably can't understand a word I say either.



Come again mate?



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:24 AM
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According to David Hackett Fisher, the New England accent originated withb the Puritans of East Anglia, the Southern accent came from the south and west of England (particularly the gentry there), and the Middle American accent--the low, flat tone that most people call the standard American accent, originated in the middle parts of England, particularly among the Quakers who came to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware from the towns in the English Midlands.

There was also a strong Scots-Irish accent from the north of Britian and Ireland, commonly heard among the mountain people and settlers on the Western frontier--a kind of Scottish or Irish burr or brogue. You can still find traces of it today it some parts of the U.S.

The American way of speaking (or lecturing) was heavily influenced by the Puritans and Quakers, who insisted on a very "plain style" of speaking and writing, without any ornamentation, excess or flowery language.

[edit on 6-9-2010 by witness63]



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 11:27 AM
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Originally posted by Lurch
There was a programme on TV in the UK recently about the Amish. It was interesting to me to hear that their accents clearly had a Germanic influence to them. They all sounded like my German friends when they speak English, it was pretty weird. People say that the Boston accent sounds Irish but I don't hear the similarity at all - however I could clearly hear the German in the Amish accent. Obviously the more tight-knit the community, the stronger the accent remains. With much of America being such a melting pot, no doubt this has diluted the early accents, which probably more closely resembled British, Irish etc.

Incidentally, I've long though that a strong Northern Irish accent most closely resembles an American accent in the UK, although obviously they're still very different. I think people outside of the UK would be surprised at the huge amount of different accents within our small island. I'm from Newcastle and have what's known as a Geordie accent - I used to work in a supermarket in my home town and occasionally coaches from Scotland would pass through and stop to buy something. On a couple of occasions, I had customers from Glasgow who I literally could not understand a single word they were saying. And Glasgow is only 150 miles north of Newcastle where I'm from. Mind you, people down south probably can't understand a word I say either.



The Amish and Mennonites still speak a dialect of Plattdeutsch (Low German) which is very difficult from outsiders to understand. That's the language they originally spoke in the north of Germany.



posted on Sep, 6 2010 @ 12:38 PM
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Great subject, although claims that the U.S. accent is closer to Shakespearean, I think is a stretch.

When I think about U.S. accents, starting at the East coast and moving West, there are clear regional differences.

There are distinct Boston, New York, and Phillie accents, and yet the people outside of these big cities have a different accent. Pittsburgh even has its own unique accent, and arguably Chicago.

The Southern accent seems much more homogeneous to me. From Virginia to Georgia, to the Mississippi River, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, the accents sounds fairly similar.

Then there is the hillbilly accent, as I would call it. This would be Kentucky, Northern Tennessee, Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and maybe even Southern Ohio. This particular version of English would use phrases like Y'all reckon, and Warsh yourself. These areas are originally the first wave from the Northern Colonies following the trail blazed by Daniel Boone, and I had an ancestor who helped explore and survey the Ohio River Valley who came from New York, outside of the city. I would also add, that where I grew up, there were many people who had some native American heritage. Living in California where there are many mixed European Asian children, I can clearly see that many of the people who can't trace their ancestry back to immigrants from a few generations have this mixed look.

New York was originally settled by the Dutch, and after the Revolutionary War, a great many Germans migrated to the U.S.. I thought that the Irish immigration, along with the Italian, came much later. Of course, there has always been a steady stream of Eastern Europeans as well, and the French had a considerable presence in Canada, New Orleans, and a smattering throughout the Louisiana Purchase territories.

It also seems to me that there is a particular Western Accent that is developing from the rocky mountain states, a California surfer based accent, and a North West Coast accent.

It seems that accents drift fairly quickly.

I would think that there would be a lot more influence to change the U.S. accent than the British accent, or the English accent.

Wasn't there a feud that developed between Britain and Europe over whether or not Newton or Leibniz developed calculus, and a period of time where Britain and Europe were somewhat isolated from each other?

I also have to wonder how much India influences the development of the modern day British accent.

There is a standard American accent taught in schools, popularly used by broadcasters, and in most movies, that I believe is Northern Midwest based.

Here is a site in linguistic, and what it has to say.

linguistlist.org...


The two most commonly taught accents (in the world as a whole) are both rather artificial: 'General American' (more or less a Mid-Western and West Coast accent, and used by some high prestige speakers outside this region too); and the British accent 'RP' (which developed in the private boarding schools of the nineteenth century, and is associated with high prestige groups in England). Both these accents are used over a wide geographical area, though in world terms both are regional accents (General American is a US accent, and RP is an accent of England). They are heard more, by more people in the country, than are accents which are associated with a smaller area: so people are familiar with them. These accents are the ones transcribed in dictionaries. Because they are used over wide areas, and used by people of high social class, they are seen as being suitable to teach to foreign learners of English. For this reason, they are called 'reference varieties'.


Now here is a funny one to think about.

pandora.cii.wwu.edu...


One island of early Scotch-Irish English speech was left behind and preserved during the push west. This special, archaic variety of English is known as Appalachian English. It preserves many archaic features that date back to earlier stages in the development of English in Britain. Forms thought to be substandard today are actually the outmoded standard of yesterday. A good example is the use of double negatives such as 'not nobody.' Linguists have dubbed this variety of English as "American Old English" or "American Anglo Saxon". Other mountainous, relatively isolated areas of the American East show a similar preservation of archaic speech. Mario Pei, a popular writer on linguistics, said that "The speech of the Ozarks comes closer to Elizabethan English in many ways than the speech of modern London."

--Retention of preposition in the progressive aspect: I'm a talking to you.

--propensity to use compound nouns: men-folk, man-child, kin folks

--fixin to, pert near, afeared, beholden (indebted), took sick, upped an, mess of (lot of)

--Rhyming euphemisms: swan, swanny = swear, land sakes alive, golly, dad blamed.

--Special distance words: This here, that there, that yonder.


So Shakespeare actually spoke more like a hillbilly from the Missouri area, Ah reckon.






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