American accent closer to "original" british accent?

IIRC, it was said of King George II, a member of the House of Hanover, that he sounded like a foreigner whether he spoke German or English.

Your German friend is not entirely facetious. English is a branch of the Germanic linguistic family tree as this chart shows.

I only bring it up when some smug Brit complains about Americans mangling the English language. If English has changed less in the US than in the UK over the intervening 300 years, we can hardly be guilty of “mangling” the language, “innit”?

I recall seeing a show on TV a couple of years back that claimed the New Zealand accent was closest to earlier English accents, determined using recordings made in the 50’s of people born in the previous century. If I could remember more about it I’d Google it, but it was just one of those things that I saw, thought “How 'bout that!” and moved on. Any Kiwis around here recall it? I would think it would be more newsworthy there than anywhere else.

If this is all true, why don’t Australians and New Zealanders sound more like Americans than the English?

Why don’t Australians and New Zealanders sound more like Americans than the English?

Different regional make-up. Transportation targeted the urban poor, especially of London, and it’s the standard explanation that the Australian accent derives from Cockney and similar London accents, with some Irish input.

It’s not really true that American English is less changed from the English of Shakespeare’s time than British English is. They’ve both changed a lot over the past 400 years. It would take a detailed, complete inventory of the two dialects to discover which is closer to the English spoken 400 years ago, and I suspect that it would show that there’s not much difference in the amount of change. In any case, the point is that there’s no such thing as archaic dialects. Language is always changing, and it always changes at about the same rate in any dialect.

Cor blimey! Who’da thunk? Thanks, raygirvan.

That same site, What’s Your English?, is a pretty good study of where various dialects of English, including US, came from. Among other things, it makes the necessary distinction between the different backgrounds of US dialects (“General American”, New England, New York and The South) concluding that minority dialects are closest to English, but that the strongly rhotic General American owes much of its nature to post-1790 Irish immigration.

geeve me eny word and i show you eets grrrrrreek rooot!

In her account of the Constitutional Convention, Miracle at Philadelphia, Catherine Drinker Bowen has chapters on how contemporary America was seen in the eyes of travelers. Some quotes:


Thanks for the correction. After reading your post I realized my mistake: the first episode of “The Story of English” was called “The Mother Tongue”. The PBS series is good because you can hear the various accents as opposed to trying to tease them out of text. There’s some good audio of the Tangiers (sp?) Island folk.