If the colonies in Virginia and Massachussets were founded at approximately the same time (early 1600s), both by British immigrants, why do today they have such different accents from each other, and why are both accents different than the current British accent and what can be called the “typical” American accent?
I believe the two groups of settlers came from two different areas of England, which was chock full of regional accents.
There are still quite a few, but the typical “British” accent originated in one small area of England, and probably not the same one as the settlers. That would account for the difference.
I don’t know if there’s a “typical” American accent.
I think I have the “typical” American accent. Parents from the Midwest, raised in California. I speak almost entirely in unaccented vowels. According to one woman I dated, she said I should spell my name with schwas instead of vowels.
On an unrelated note, I can speak Spanish with a more authentic Spanish accent than either George W. Bush or Al Gore. It’s fun to listen to them speak Spanish.
If I remember correctly from my college linguistics courses, SAE (Standard American English) is spoken without regional accent in Northern California (north of the Bay Area), much of Oregon, and some of Washington State. I don’t remember the reasons. My question is, if those folks speak differently than folks in other parts of the country, isn’[t that considered an accent also?
BobT - an unaccented vowel is not the same meaning of the word “accent” as in regional accent. A schwa is a distinct vowel sound (the ‘o’ in ‘carrot’) and not a synonym for ‘any unaccented vowel.’
My personal favorite vowel has always been “syllabic rhotic r,” which is the ‘er’ in ‘paper.’ Just felt like sharing.
New England accents are indeed more similar to BrE (British English) than elsewhere in the country. I suspect that the influx of new immigrants, like from other parts of Jolly Old England as RealityChuck said, made the accent a melange of old and new, similar and dissimilar.
I thought my vowels were accented. My girlfriend just told me they were schwas. She was an English literature major, I deferred to her wisdom.
In my college days, we learned that broadcasters in other countries that wanted to use English were taught what was called “California English”. Who knows if this is true or not, but it is supposed to be a broacast standard.
In my college linguistics, we were taught that the University of California Drinking Song, which features this refrain:
makes sense in California because all of the vowel sounds in Harry, carry, and ferry are essentially the same sound when spoken by Californians.
According to the book The Story of English, the Southern White accent owes much to accent of black slaves. Remember that many upper-class southern whites were cared for by black slaves. See a synopsis
Long ago, my high school history teacher told us that Virginians sound the way they do because the immigrants who worked VA’s mines were mostly Celtic (Scots, Irish, and Welsh.)
I too have often wondered how accents came to be. In American there are also many different accents, such as the Southern drawl or the Bronx accent. Altho many of us in America don’t think of ourseleves as having a accent. You do wonder tho how these things start. Does one guy start talking funny and the others say… I kinda like the way he says that, I think I’ll try it. Makes you think
I think military brats have what can be termed the ‘standard American accent.’
I am one of them. I have called many places home, from New England, to Hawaii, to Japan. No one I have met can detect an accent of any sort.
Any other adult ‘brats’ notice this?
I’m not a “brat” and don’t play one on TV, but I’ve known a lot of them and I think madd1 is correct, they usually speak what I think of as an unaccented American English. (As for unaccented English, I think it continues south along the West Coast past the Bay Area all the way to the Mexican border (although there seem to be pockets in LA where even native-born Angelenos speak with a New York accent). One other place where people seem to me to speak without a regional accent is Ohio.
You’re kidding me, right? This must be a class thing. Everyone I know from Ohio has a strong Midwestern accent, which to my untrained ear sounds like a cross between Minnesotan and Chicagoan. The Ohioans I know are also all working- to middle-class. It’s the lower classes, of course, that tend to have the more distinct regional accents. I guess the upper crust of Ohio society doesn’t sound like the bleachers at Jacobs Field?
There is no such thing as a “typical” accent. EVERYONE speaks a dialect of some sort - by the very definition of the word “language”. One person’s “accent” is another’s “typical” speach pattern.
No, no, no…don’t make the mistake of confusing or interchanging ‘dialect’ with ‘accent.’ One is about the words we know, the other is about phonology (pronunciation).
Yes, there is such a thing as a “typical” accent, it is easy to point out a “typical” South Bronx accent or the “typical” accent of a Cuban ex-pat living in Miami.
What is called SAE (Standard American English) is, while a bit subjective, a classification of the most grammatically preferred, phonologically non-distinct English spoken in America. Let’s put it this way: a person from Tennessee hears and understands SAE perfectly. A person who speaks SAE (if any exist) may not hear and understand a Tennessee accent perfectly.
Don’t get people started on dialects. It’s Ebonics all over again…
In Utah there doesn’t seem to be a strong " regional accent" My bosses daughter-in-law worked for American Express Customer Service, and she said that they had their customer service offices there because Utahns had the clearest accent to understand. Though I noticed since I moved to CA that I speak with a very slight drawl, extending my long vowels. But nobody really notices it unless they listen for it.
Pepperland – I notice it. I’ve noticed that native Californians tend to have a little “lilt” in their speech pattern, as you said, drawing out some of the vowel sounds. It’s not terribly intrusive, and kinda pleasant sounding, but I’d definitely categorize it as an accent.
By the way, when I was in college (a long time ago) they held up the late Harry Reasoner as the having the closest thing to a perfectly neutral accent.