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06-04-1999, 10:15 AM
When I was in high school, I remember a lecturer who came in and told us that in Shakespeare's time, people in Britain had an accent similar to American's today. And, that sometime after that, the British accent was adopted.

It sounds like a bunch of crap to me (I think the guy was trying to show us how accessible Shakespeare really is...) but I was wondering if anyone has heard this before.

06-04-1999, 11:21 AM
There have certainly been changes in English pronunciation since Shakespeare's day. But saying that he was nearer to present-day American is a vast oversimplification.

The US southeast barrier islands, western Tennessee and Scotland all have some speech characteristics that are closer to Shakespeare than contemporary southern England. (But the notion that there is someplace where people speak exactly as Shakespeare did is an urban myth.)

One important thing to remember is that England is full of regional dialects, and before radio, it was far more so. (Henry Higgins in "Pygmalion", boasts that he can tell where a Londoner lives to within as little as one block, just by his accent; Higgins is a fictional character, but he is based on a real person.)

Because of the tremendous pull of the London dialect, Shakespeare would probably think all of us, English and American alike, as terrible cockneys!

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John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays."
-- Charles Williams

06-04-1999, 11:23 AM
Hey Pru, I vote for the bunch of crap, unless this guy had a bootleg tape from the Globe Theater!

JWK has intersting points.

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Carpe Diem!

06-04-1999, 06:52 PM
I happen to have grown up in eastern Tennessee and when reading older versions of English, some of it sounds somewhat familiar. I've heard this theory posed by many people, the similarities between Appalachian dialect and Old English. Althought its most frequent sponsor around me was my father, a mechanical engineer, not a linguist.

06-04-1999, 07:57 PM
>>When I was in high school, I remember a lecturer who came in and told us that in Shakespeare's time, people in Britain had an
accent similar to American's today. And, that sometime after that, the British accent was adopted.

It sounds like a bunch of crap to me (I think the guy was trying to show us how accessible Shakespeare really is...) but I was
wondering if anyone has heard this before.<< --Prufrock

Are you he told you the ACCENT is similar? Are you sure he didn't tell you the DIALECT is similar?

The latter is actually true, in that isolated pockets of people in the South have speech that is relatively unchanged, and preserves grammatical structures, as well as words, that are obsolete is Standard American English, or in the so-called Queen's English.

For example, they've never adopted the "going to" future. They don't say "I'm going to walk the dog." They still say "I shall," or "I'll walk the dog,"-- the latter NOT to mean I'LL do it, as opposed to someone else.

They also still use "sup" as a verb. "Come sup with us on Thursday."

And they use "over" to mean "more than." "His farm is over mine" means it's bigger than mine, not on higher ground.

But the accent-- the way words are pronounced is different. Actually, Scottish Highland English may be pronounced more like Shakespeare's English-- "love" rhyming with "behoove"-- than other modern forms of English. But that may be a coincidence.


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--Rowan
Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny

06-04-1999, 07:57 PM
>>When I was in high school, I remember a lecturer who came in and told us that in Shakespeare's time, people in Britain had an
accent similar to American's today. And, that sometime after that, the British accent was adopted.

It sounds like a bunch of crap to me (I think the guy was trying to show us how accessible Shakespeare really is...) but I was
wondering if anyone has heard this before.<< --Prufrock

Are you he told you the ACCENT is similar? Are you sure he didn't tell you the DIALECT is similar?

The latter is actually true, in that isolated pockets of people in the South have speech that is relatively unchanged, and preserves grammatical structures, as well as words, that are obsolete is Standard American English, or in the so-called Queen's English.

For example, they've never adopted the "going to" future. They don't say "I'm going to walk the dog." They still say "I shall," or "I'll walk the dog,"-- the latter NOT to mean I'LL do it, as opposed to someone else.

They also still use "sup" as a verb. "Come sup with us on Thursday."

And they use "over" to mean "more than." "His farm is over mine" means it's bigger than mine, not on higher ground.

But the accent-- the way words are pronounced is different. Actually, Scottish Highland English may be pronounced more like Shakespeare's English-- "love" rhyming with "behoove"-- than other modern forms of English. But that may be a coincidence.


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--Rowan
Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny

06-04-1999, 08:05 PM
Being a former Londoner myself, I can assure you that there are many similarities between "The Queen's English" and the ways that southern americans speak. When listening to a very heavy southern "drawl", you can hear words reminiscent (sp?) of a cockney accent. Also, Bluegrass music has very definite roots in the medieval English style. So, with all this said... I find it quite probable that your lecturer knew a thing or two.

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"Man prefers to believe what her prefers to be true" -Albert Einstein

06-06-1999, 01:09 AM
"Man prefers to believe what her prefers to be true" -Albert Einstein Shouldn't that "her" be "she"? ;)

06-06-1999, 05:26 AM
Being a former Londoner myself, I can assure you that there are many similarities between "The Queen's English" and the ways
that southern americans speak. When listening to a very heavy southern "drawl", you can hear words reminiscent (sp?) of a
cockney accent. Also, Bluegrass music has very definite roots in the medieval English style. So, with all this said... I find it quite
probable that your lecturer knew a thing or two.

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No no; agree with you. I never said the Southern American speeh is isn't closer to The Queen's English then Northern English. On the contrary-- I believe that it is.

I was talking about comapring SHAKESPEARE's English and all forms of modern English.

I don't believe that any American English accent is as much like Shakespeare's English accentas the Scottish accent.



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--Rowan
Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny

AK84
11-23-2012, 09:42 AM
13 years, still no answer. So what's the Straight Dope? Would an original Shakespearean actor have sounded more like Al Gore than Patrick Stewart?

Small Clanger
11-23-2012, 10:17 AM
...Would an original Shakespearean actor have sounded more like Al Gore than Patrick Stewart?Possibly more like Patrick Stewart's original accent, have you heard him revert to Yorkshire?

April R
11-23-2012, 10:23 AM
This doth be a weird thread.

Colibri
11-23-2012, 10:23 AM
13 years, still no answer. So what's the Straight Dope? Would an original Shakespearean actor have sounded more like Al Gore than Patrick Stewart?

Actually, there was a recent thread on this. In any case, since this thread is so old the usernames are no longer associated with it, I'm going to close it. If you can't locate the recent thread, you may open a new thread on the subject.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Colibri
11-23-2012, 11:18 AM
Here's a recent thread on the subject. The last post has links to many previous threads.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=671551