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Monday, 13 October 2008

Accents - mainly English and American. Origins of.

I was having a discussion with some of my American friends about the way they say certain things. The main thing that was bugging me is their use (or misuse, whichever way you want to look at it) of the vowel 'a'. For example - where I say (with my pristine clipped English accent, of course) apple, camera, Natasha.... they would pronounce it 'eapple, ceamera, Nateasha. Why the E?!? there is no e before any of those 'a's so why pronounce it like there is one?! accents have always fascinated me since I was a kid - I've always tried to imitate them (some successfully, some less so) but I've never really stopped to think about the origins of pronunciation- WHY people say things the way they do.

I haven't looked into this properly yet - i only really had this thought 2 nights ago and haven't really had time to explore the whys and wherefores of it in depth and with actual facts to back it up, so I'm just calling it as I see it from the point of view of young English person who half paid attention to history classes in school.

The English accent goes way back- we have quite a varied history - Vikings, Saxons, Normans etc with their short harsh sounding native accents because of their germanic base which we stole some words of and still use today.... mainly the rude ones from the anglo-saxons, which is why swear words seem quite harsh sounding... fuck, c**t, shit etc from the germanic base. Then then the Romans with their blunt sounding Latin,.... all of which has helped shape the way the English sound - the celts and the gaels have helped the Irish and Scots develop the sing-song accents they have today.

The American accent is a baby if you think about it - the yanks have been 'american' for what, five hundred years tops? they've not had the time for their accent to develop and mature to the extent we have and although it is (now) extremely multicultural, the foundations of it are basically a kind of a mishmash of English and Irish (mainly) coz of all the immigrants that went over there, during the 1700-1900 period right? just in time for the revolution and the potato famine, and great depression. But - to go back to my original point, I can't think of any Irish words where 'a' sounds like 'ea'. Fair enough, I've never actually BEEN to Ireland, but I have Irish family, Irish friends, and in school, Irish teachers - I'm guessing they're not ALL from the same part so I think I have a reasonably broad base for comparison.... so where the heck does the 'ea' come from? is it just something Americans have just made up by themselves? and if yes... for what earthly purpose?!

Some of my American friends deny doing that - and insist they have a 'neutral' accent - but to my english ears, just because it's not as pronounced as, say the south, whurr thuh ceaow bwoys suy 'ceeayat' rayther thayan 'cat' doesn't mean its still there - they just say ceat not c-eat - a shorter word - not as drawn out.

anyway, so cutting to the chase (I am actually interested in this now - I think I'm going to have to find a book about it) one of my americans sent me this quiz.

and here's what I got:

Which American accent do you have?


This could either mean an r-less NYC or Providence accent or one from Jersey which doesn't sound the same. Just because you got this result doesn't mean you don't pronounce R's.(People in Jersey don`t call their state "Joisey" in real life)

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I'm guessing that sounds about right as the New Englanders are the first invaded and oldest established part, aren't they - first contact - most English/anglicised, therefore most likely to have an accent closer to that of the motherland? *shrug*

Try it for yourself - let me know what you get and if you agree with it! :)

1 comment:

mizah-kholil said...
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