View Full Version : Colonial accents and their development
09-10-2001, 10:13 PM
In one of Bill Bryson's books (Made in America, I think), he says, from memory, that the American accent is actually more or less the original English accent. As people moved further out West, those people's accents resembled the original settler's accents. More people came from England and elsewhere, and they brought with them the "newer" English accent. Is this correct?
Also, what accounts for differences between Canadian, American, Australian and New Zealand accents? Someone told me, fallaciously I think, that Australian accents are influenced by Irish accents.
How does "accent evolution" work?
09-10-2001, 10:16 PM
Do a search, Dave, we've done this one to death.
09-10-2001, 10:39 PM
I highly recommend the book "The Language Instinct" by Stever Pinker.
09-11-2001, 12:01 AM
I highly recommend you quit reading books by Bill Bryson.
Unless you can remember that it is strictly for entertainment.
09-11-2001, 12:29 AM
Just having a look at the old threads now...
This is interesting, from Jeremytt
I once heard a voice recording of King Edward, who I believe died in the 'teens. Funny thing: he sounded much more American than today's Englishmen, and somewhat similar, indeed, to Bostonese English. More accurately, he sounded nearly identical to speakers from Southern Massachusetts (below Boston) who have a subdialect somewhat different from Boston.
With this in mind, it's possible British English has been the dialect to change, not American English in its variations.
The threads I've found concentrate on US accents.
(although this seems to be a defunct link)
although this last one which deals with other English language accents:
Still the principles seem to be the same, regardless of whichever region you look at. The key points seem to be:
When two peoples speaking the same language are geographically separated, their accents evolve in different directions over time.
Languages generally mutate faster in urban areas than in rural areas.
Which is interesting when you look at accents in other languages. In Japanese, regional accents almost become dialects. Even between Osaka and Kyoto, two very close cities, there is a distinct and different accent (and sub-culture).
So, do we blame mountains and seas for accents? And otherwise are accents becoming more uniform with the advent of television?
09-11-2001, 01:27 AM
Originally posted by Dave Stewart
And otherwise are accents becoming more uniform with the advent of television?
Actually, this has come up a couple times as well. Both myself and hazel-rah (where he?) have referred to Bauer and Trudgill's refutation in their book Language Myths, but neither of us had the book around at the times we posted to those threads. I have it now, so I'll quote:
[T]here is no evidence for television or the other popular media disseminating or influencing sound changes or grammatical innovations.
Regional dialects continue to diverge from standard dialects despite the exposure of speakers of those dialects to television, radio, movies and other media.
09-11-2001, 02:06 AM
Osaka and Kyoto are the exception to the rules I set out above, perhaps. I was just talking to a friend of mine who is Japanese about this. There is no body of water or mountain range separating these two close cities, and communications between them even in pre-modern days was constant.
Yet Osaka people, being merchants, developed a loud and boisterous version of Japanese, while the people in Kyoto (the old capital) were, and remain, much more refined and polite. It was a cultural difference, which led to two very different accents.
I'm trying to think of an English parallel of this, without success...
Milton De La Warre
09-11-2001, 04:08 PM
Perhaps the merchants of NY, and the government people originating in VA. I'm thinking of the pre-civil war days, and the various Presidents like Washington, Madison, and Jefferson.
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.