Accents, how are they formed?

What I’m wondering, is why regions affect how people speak? The google is not with me, all I get is pages about the “á” type of accent.
Thanks in advance for replies.

Maybe a search for “regional dialects” would do it.

You learn how to talk by hearing other people talk, so if you grow up around people who speak with a certain accent, you’ll speak that way. Or am I misunderstanding the question?

He wants to know where those people got the accent. You answer is like if someone asked where gasoline came from and you said “the gas station.” No offense intended :).

Now that’s a good idea.
:smiley:

My OP was phrased badly, I admit. I should have really asked how different accents have developed based on regions.
:smack:

Kinda like the alphabet? only the the third door down and to the …where you from?

What I remember from my linguistics classes at university is that, in general, distance of some sort is usually involved in creating accents. The distance could be physical, social, or perceived. Sometimes a group of people will deliberately perpetuate an existing difference, or create one where one does not already exist, in order to show solidarity and identity with the group. Gang slang is a good example of this.

There is, technically, no such thing as an accent since all language variations are as natural as any other. What most people think of as a “standard” or accentless dialect is just a social convention. If political power, communications, or social prestige had been associated with the type of English spoken in Tennessee, newscasters in the US would all sound like Johnny Cash.

A man named William Labov did some groundbreaking research on accents in New York and found that actual social position, perceived social position, or an ambition to change one’s social position had a definite impact on word choice, register, care taken in pronunciation, and error detection and correction relative to the “prestige” dialect. Large cities with a strong social hierarchy or ethnically varied population generally tend to have “regional” dialect differences despite the fact that there are no physical barriers and interaction between individuals would, in other circumstances, make the differences less distinct through mutual dialect exchange. London is famous for having a multitude of dialects. The existence of these dialects is usually attributed to the effects of a strong social hierarchy throughout most of London’s history.

English is obviously not the only language with dialect differences. Japan has a word, “hougen,” that refers to regional dialects. One of the characters used in writing that word is also used as a suffix to a place name. For example, “Kyoto-ben” is the dialect spoken in Kyoto. Just within the prefecture I live there are several “hougen.” Using a non-standard dialect gets me some surprised laughs since normally non-Japanese only know a “neutral” form of the language. The linguistic divisions in Japan generally follow the geographic barriers that have historically been an impediment to travel. The geographic barriers were used as a basis for the political barriers, which added some social aspects to the existing physical separation. Due to modern communication, today most people speak the “standard” Tokyo dialect as well as their regional dialect.

As an earlier poster pointed out, if you do a search for “regional dialect” you will find a wealth of information on this topic. Another good search term would be “sociolinguistics,” which would probably give you more information on Labov’s research as well as many other studies relating to the societal aspects of dialect shift.

Many thanks for the information, Sleel.