Author Topic: Do you speak English with an accent?  (Read 18731 times)

mgriffin

  • Hypnos Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7167
  • Life is a memory, and then it is nothing.
    • View Profile
    • www.hypnos.com
Do you speak English with an accent?
« on: September 26, 2008, 01:21:05 PM »
I stumbled onto this interesting web site today:

http://accent.gmu.edu/

It's a reference web site set up by academic linguists studying the differences in accented pronunciation of English, in different parts of the world.  There are maps you can click on, and listen to a recording of someone from that area on the map reading a standardized little text-bit.  It's pretty interesting to hear how differently English is pronounced all over the world, but what might be most interesting to me is the weird little exceptions... like strong accents in one part of a certain area, but not in another close-by part of that area.

Am I crazy to think that the English spoken by people on the West Coast of the USA speak as close to a straight, unaccented version of American English as is possible?  I mean, I (and my friends and family) speak in a way that seems neutral -- I've never had anyone anywhere in the world say anything about my "accent." I speak the way most people on TV speak (well, not the way they speak on Gunsmoke or Andy Griffith or Hill Street Blues).  When I hear someone from Texas or New York or Alabama or Minnesota speak, I can hear their accent and place it right away.  When I hear someone from Seattle or Portland or San Francisco speak, they seem to be speaking neutrally.

So, I'm wondering what people who are English-speakers have to say about their own version of English.  Do you consider yourself to have an accent?  What do you consider "unaccented" English to be, whether American or British?  Or is there no such thing -- is there an accent no matter where you're from?
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

APK

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2666
    • View Profile
    • DataObscura
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2008, 01:40:30 PM »
I don't think there is an unaccented english.
And its natural, psychologically, to think of your personal accent as the norm.
But knowledge is comparison, and until you compare you don't see how your accent is just one among many, and not the standard.
In England there are varying accents about every 100 miles.
Of course, it good that we have the Queen ... so everyone can know how english really should be spoken.
 :P
www.dataobscura.com
http://dataobscura.bandcamp.com
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans

jim brenholts

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 513
    • View Profile
    • rigel orionis
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2008, 01:46:00 PM »
many years ago (19) i spoke at a large convention in london, england. i started by saying "i don't have an accent but all of you do!" it got a pretty good laugh.
i was working in sw wales at the time and the language barrier was insurmountable at times. very different ways of speaking the same language.
all the best and God bless
jim
www.rigelorionis.com

mgriffin

  • Hypnos Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7167
  • Life is a memory, and then it is nothing.
    • View Profile
    • www.hypnos.com
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2008, 02:06:37 PM »
When I was in Ireland several years ago, with a group of people from Portland, this subject came up several times.  One local Irish person talking with our group said something along the lines of "Your group don't have an accent, other than speaking American-style.  You talk like the people on American TV."

Add to that the fact that I've spoken with people from all over the USA and the world, and have never heard anyone say anything about a "Portland accent" or an "Oregon accent" or a "West-coast accent."  Now of course, people from England or Ireland or Australia think Americans have an accent... I realize that.  I'm saying within the realm of Americanized English, there are several identifiable accents, and also a large number of people who speak a fairly "neutral" version.

I'm not saying I absolutely disbelieve that theory that "everyone speaks with an accent," just that I've never encountered a single person who listened to me speak and said "Oh, you have an accent."  Other than, as I said, an American accent, whatever that is.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Wayne Higgins

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
    • View Profile
    • Oenyaw
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2008, 02:25:15 PM »
Naw, ya'll! No accent hayer. ;D
So, I'm a "Sr Member", huh?  In June it's SENIOR DISCOUNT TIME!!!
http://oenyaw.net/
http://oenyaw.blogspot.com/

petekelly

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 929
    • View Profile
    • LuminaSounds
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2008, 02:38:14 PM »
I have to say that I couldn't differentiate between most american accents (with the exception of a New
York accent perhaps).

Having lived in Northern England all my life, I have the same trouble with southern accents. London,
Essex, Somerset yeah, but the rest just sound generically 'southern'. However, I can certainly pick up on
most Northern accents. I'm from the North East (Middlesbrough) and we have a very strong accent,
particularly the 'Geordies' (Newcastle), apparently it's more akin to Norwegian (those dashed Viking
invaders) than the rest of the country. Mancs (people from Manchester), Scousers (Liverpuddlians) and
Brummies (citizens of Birmingham) all have very recogniseable accents, as do Leeds and Lancashire folk.

In my experience, there's far less of an accent from people living in Hull, York, Nottingham and
Leicester. For such a small country, there's a lot of diversity.
 
Naturally, I'm one of the few people who can 'speak proper'.

'innit ?'

cheers
Pete

sraymar

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 159
    • View Profile
    • Steve Raymar
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2008, 05:24:02 PM »
I think I speak more neuturally with less slang and hippie accent now that I'm older. But here in So Cal its a mishmash of accents depending on the county, gender, race, age group, and quite often music preference. Still working on my ambient accent.   ;D

Steve


Ambient isn't just for technicians!

The artist isn't a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.

Don't be afraid to grow, give yourself a chance.

Bebbo

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 50
    • View Profile
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2008, 01:22:33 AM »
I don't think there is an unaccented english.
And its natural, psychologically, to think of your personal accent as the norm.
But knowledge is comparison, and until you compare you don't see how your accent is just one among many, and not the standard.
In England there are varying accents about every 100 miles.
Of course, it good that we have the Queen ... so everyone can know how english really should be spoken.
 :P


More like every 50 miles, or less in some parts of the country!

Bebbo

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 50
    • View Profile
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2008, 01:27:58 AM »
I have to say that I couldn't differentiate between most american accents (with the exception of a New
York accent perhaps).

Having lived in Northern England all my life, I have the same trouble with southern accents. London,
Essex, Somerset yeah, but the rest just sound generically 'southern'. However, I can certainly pick up on
most Northern accents. I'm from the North East (Middlesbrough) and we have a very strong accent,
particularly the 'Geordies' (Newcastle), apparently it's more akin to Norwegian (those dashed Viking
invaders) than the rest of the country. Mancs (people from Manchester), Scousers (Liverpuddlians) and
Brummies (citizens of Birmingham) all have very recogniseable accents, as do Leeds and Lancashire folk.

In my experience, there's far less of an accent from people living in Hull, York, Nottingham and
Leicester. For such a small country, there's a lot of diversity.
 
Naturally, I'm one of the few people who can 'speak proper'.

'innit ?'

cheers
Pete

Ay Up Pete. I don't think tha lot from "wehay the lads" land speak proper English, even if yeh are a canny lot  :) ;D

jim brenholts

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 513
    • View Profile
    • rigel orionis
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2008, 08:58:06 AM »
there are several variations on what we call a "southern accent," a distinct chicago accent, new york and boston accents and a definite pittsburgh accent - although that is also a matter of terms unique to this area. there might be an accent unique to folks in appalachia but that is probably a cross between pittsburgh and southern (poor folks!).
all the best and God bless
jim
www.rigelorionis.com

Undershadow

  • Guest
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2008, 12:05:23 PM »

I don't think there is an unaccented english.
And its natural, psychologically, to think of your personal accent as the norm.
But knowledge is comparison, and until you compare you don't see how your accent is just one among many, and not the standard.


Anthony's right.
If I might presume to make a pronouncement, as I am in fact a linguist (in the sense of being a scholar of Linguistics, not a speaker of many languages):
As defined in linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation of a language. The concept of "unaccented" delivery of language is therefore meaningless, as it is impossible to deliver an utterance without pronouncing it in a certain manner (try it!). Accents such as “BBC English” (or, relatedly, “Received Pronunciation”) or “General American” may sometimes be informally designated in their countries of origin as "accentless" to indicate that they offer no obvious clue to the speaker's regional background. But standard speech patterns still constitute an accent, albeit non-localised. Put simply, when a group defines a standard pronunciation, speakers who deviate from it are often said to “speak with an accent".


Wayne Higgins

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
    • View Profile
    • Oenyaw
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2008, 09:46:04 AM »
Southern accents.  I can tell the difference between Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Lousianna and Texas.  It's not as much the accent as it is the words used.  North Florida is just "trickled down" from Georgia or Alabama.  Listen to Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Trent Lock, and Strom Thurmond, and Jessie Helms.  There are distinct differences.  (Maybe I have jsut been down here too dang long).

I do have trouble, however at drive throughs.  I give the order and hear "fofiffyfo, drive 'round to fus windough" and just reply "OK".  My family is from Maryland/Pennsylvania.  People down here can tell I am from somewhere else, people in Maryland know I'm from the south. ???
So, I'm a "Sr Member", huh?  In June it's SENIOR DISCOUNT TIME!!!
http://oenyaw.net/
http://oenyaw.blogspot.com/

judd stephens

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 499
    • View Profile
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2008, 06:42:02 PM »
Speaking of the South, when I first moved to South Carolina I remember being confused by the way some of the black people spoke here.  There was a woman who worked in a convenient store, speaking what I thought sounded like a Jamaican accent.   I had to ask her where she was from, and she explained, a little hesitantly, what area she lived in.  Now I know it only bothered her because it looked like I was being nosy, you know, gettin' up in her business.  But her accent turned out to be something of a Gullah accent, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you have to hear it.   There's a little hint of Gullah at the end of this video (which is interesting in its entirety): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPGx1icFdLQ

jkn

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2801
  • cake or death? cake please.
    • View Profile
    • Relaxed Machinery
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2008, 06:19:14 AM »
I always thought the American neutral accent - the one people strive for in newscasts and such was generally midwestern.    I could easily be remembering that incorrectly.

There's definitely a difference in speech patterns from state to state generally - and in Illinois - people from Chicago think I talk fairly "southern" (I live in central Illinois about 3 hours south of Chicago and 4 hours north of St. Louis) - which I find humorous as I'm still very far from the "southern states".   Get to the very southern tip of Illinois - and yeah - in smaller towns it starts getting more and more southern.   

Mike mentioned Andy Griffith - which ummm... yeah, I admit it - I'm a fan.  Interestingly - the southern accent thing on that show was only in the first 4 or 5 episodes.  Both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts dropped the really heavily 'faked' southern accent thing (although Griffith is southern - Knotts wasn't) - and just fell into fairly - nearly neutral / natural sounding accents for each of them.   Most of the actors were more neutral - well until they added Gomer Pyle for a series of episodes.   :)     
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

Wayne Higgins

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
    • View Profile
    • Oenyaw
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2008, 08:11:52 AM »
Speaking of accents, there are some British movies I need subtitles for. "The Madness of King George" seemed like a foriegn film.  People in Tallahassee at the theatre were just lookin at each other, quite confuesd. ::)
So, I'm a "Sr Member", huh?  In June it's SENIOR DISCOUNT TIME!!!
http://oenyaw.net/
http://oenyaw.blogspot.com/

jim brenholts

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 513
    • View Profile
    • rigel orionis
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2008, 02:16:41 PM »
Speaking of accents, there are some British movies I need subtitles for. "The Madness of King George" seemed like a foriegn film.  People in Tallahassee at the theatre were just lookin at each other, quite confuesd. ::)
that could be indicative of the relative iq of the people in talahassee, too.
 :D ;D ;) :o ::)
all the best and God bless
jim
www.rigelorionis.com

Exuviae

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 63
    • View Profile
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2008, 04:18:58 PM »
Yah, you betcha'. Real good, now. Im from Minnesoata doan'tcha knoa!

Yes, I have noticed differences in speech patterns varying from state to state and sometimes different parts within the same state. A big one that I've noticed about most Minnesotans-regardless of state locale- is the seeming addition of an "a" towards the end of certain words. If I pay close attention any given day, I can usually hear it from most people. I thought for sure I noticed other non-Minnesota midwesterners pronounce things like "milk" and "pillow" closer to "melk" and "pellow", which is funny because my wife (total Minnesotan says "Melk" very distinctly!

Interesting stuff!

.b

SunDummy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 478
  • "Calm seas do not create good mariners."
    • View Profile
    • SunDummy.com
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2008, 07:03:46 PM »
Quote
and have never heard anyone say anything about a "Portland accent" or an "Oregon accent" or a "West-coast accent."

I've noticed a slight "Canadian" accent in Spokane; very slight, but definite.  Words like "about" sound like a cross between "about" and "aboot".  Must be too close to BC.

People can usually tell I'm from Minnesota when I open my pie-hole.   ;D
I wish I was a Glowworm; a Glowworm's never glum. 'Cause how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum?

www.sundummy.com

Wayne Higgins

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
    • View Profile
    • Oenyaw
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2008, 01:31:39 PM »
from Jim Brenholts
Quote
that could be indicative of the relative iq of the people in talahassee, too.
We commonly refer to Tallahassee as Hooterville.(Green Acres, ect.)  You should see them drive. :o
So, I'm a "Sr Member", huh?  In June it's SENIOR DISCOUNT TIME!!!
http://oenyaw.net/
http://oenyaw.blogspot.com/

uhurit

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 155
    • View Profile
Re: Do you speak English with an accent?
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2008, 01:33:23 PM »
The standard norm of pronunciation, known as General American, is based on speech patterns of a well-educated Midwesterner (St.Louis, MO/Chicago,IL/Indianapolis, IN).Well established and recorded regional variations are generally known as "dialects" (southern, etc...)

Strictly speaking, "accent" is applicable only to non-native English speakers (German accent etc)