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Thread: Dialects, accents and usage

  1. #1
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    Dialects, accents and usage

    Hi,

    when I was a very young child, I lived in a village, where they spoke a German dialect. Later I moved to Dresden and my parents used the standard language and they taught me the standard language. When I come to the village, they switch to the standard (with some accent), when a non-dialect speaker attends. They switch to dialect, when they speak to each other.

    Is this the normal behavior of dialect speakers, or does it depend on the dialect? (They know that I understand the dialect. But I cannot speak it properly anymore.)

    My father speaks dialect when speaking with his sister on telephone, but nether when I attend the conversation. He wanted to avoid that I learn the dialect, but I learned it until we changed the region.

    I read in a book, that such things are normal that they switch to standard, when they feel, you do not belong to the group.

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    When I was young I lived in Eastbourne on the South coast of England, and moved up North when I was 9. My accent when I moved up here was very Southern, so I had to adopt a Northern accent, with much trauma and being ostracised because of my accent. Now I have a slight Northern accent, but not the accent of the region where I live, so here I'm looked at as a Southerner, and when I go there to visit family I am looked at as a Northerner. I don't really fit in either place with my accent, but I like it that way. It is normal to adpot the accent of where you live as an overriding human need is to be accepted amongst your peers.
    Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one!

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sallyb36 View Post
    Now I have a slight Northern accent, but not the accent of the region where I live,
    Even though you've been there 34 years (if I'm counting right)?
    Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?
    Some do here. Mostly old people. One of the reasons is that they're the only ones who can speak it really fluently. When we arrived in Normandy, my wife had a conversation with our neighbour, an old Norman lady. My wife didn't understand a word of what she said to her. So she just went nodding her head and saying "yes" and "really?" from time to time.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them....well, I have others." (Groucho Marx).

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    I agree that it is natural to change one's accent/way of speaking when one moves to another place. This is especially evident in children-- I have a nephew who moved with his family from the US to the UK and his accent has changed completely. In fact, he corrects his parents' pronunciation. In adulthood, I think the changes are more subtle, though when I go back to the US, I definitely recognize a specific accent and way of speaking that were "normal" to my ear when I lived there. I still have a good deal of that accent and hear myself speaking the same way at times, but I'm far more conscious of it and have developed more of an unidentifiable American English speech. When I speak German, people will more often ask if I'm French than American.

    As for dialects, I have a colleague and also often see people on television who seem practically unable to differentiate between their dialect and standard German. I guess it's difficult for some people to switch away from the dialect that dominates their experience. Still, there are probably many others who are easily able to switch, but as a foreigner, the better a person is able to switch back and forth, the harder it is for me to recognize the distinctions.
    Last edited by Luke Warm; 2nd November 2006 at 12:15 PM.

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    Quote Originally Posted by LV4-26 View Post
    Even though you've been there 34 years (if I'm counting right)?

    Some do here. Mostly old people. One of the reasons is that they're the only ones who can speak it really fluently. When we arrived in Normandy, my wife had a conversation with our neighbour, an old Norman lady. My wife didn't understand a word of what she said to her. So she just went nodding her head and saying "yes" and "really?" from time to time.
    You are counting right, and yes, even though! Partly because I don't really want to develop a completely Liverpool accent, it can sound really horrible, and also I went to a private school (won a scholarship, not rich parents!!), so we were taught to speak "properly".
    Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one!

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    There's not really such a thing as standard Norwegian, as dialects in general have a pretty strong position in society (for instance, one of the largest national channels, TV2, usually broadcast their news with news anchors with Bergen accents).
    (The closest thing to "standard" is the eastern dialect spoken in the Oslo area, which is the closest to written bokmål)

    Some decades ago though, the situation was a little different, and people who moved to Oslo from small towns or other parts of the country usually switched to the local dialect.
    Nowadays the tendency is rather to keep your own dialect and be proud of it.

    My father is from the northern parts and switched when he moved down to Oslo, but he has some traces of it left, and use it when speaking to his siblings over the phone (or in person of course).
    Любовь — это слово из четырёх букв

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    I speak a Frk. German dialect and do not switch if the other speaks standard as it's harder to pronounce and it sounds worse anyway - it usually works the other way round - if it doesn't I first repeat the dialectal phraze hoping the other guy just misheared me. If she still doesn't get what it's about I get very disappointed but do switch to High German ... or just leave. To my experience the people in Munich and Saare acted not differently.
    אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    I don't know whether this question is one that an American can address in a coherent way. While there are to be sure dialects in the USA, I don't thik they address anything like the variation in speech habits and the differentiation in social status that Europeans describe.

    Still I grew up in New York City and I had a considerable NY accent growing up. I lost it when I went to school in Washington, and my accent is generally standard American. I put on the NY speech sometimes, as a joke for my friends - a kind of linguistic slumming, I guess - but aside from that I never talk that way, even when I speak to New Yorkers.

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    Re: Do speakers use dialect when you are a speaker of the standard language?

    We don't have a real dialect (in the true sense of the word) in Kent but we do have a very strong accent. My wife is from Sussex, which has a far less strong accent. When I speak to her, I tend subconsciously to moderate my accent. In formal sitations I do the same, as well as when I am teaching in school. But...when talking to an old friend, or my sister or brother, or anyone local who also speaks with a strong accent, I lapse into it.

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    General acceptance of dialects and accents

    Hello everyone

    I´d like to know how in your countries dialects and accents are being accepted by other speakers. So is it something positive or are the people being critised for using variations apart from the standard language?

    In Germany almost everybody speaks (or could speak) in a dialect/with an accent. Our standard language ("High German") is used on TV, radio and among speakers who barely would understand each other if they both speak in their own dialect. There are even a few programmes on TV exclusivly broadcasted in dialectical speak.

    The people are divided on that topic. I think the majority considers dialects/accents as a good element of culture and as expression of regional "patriotism". There are even some clubs which promote rare dialects.
    People even divide accents in how they sound, so there are good and bad ones. Saxonian for example is considered not sounding well.
    On the other hand some people think that dialects/accents are just used by less educated people.

    Another phenomen I experienced is that people from the country usually have heavier accents and they are less willing to use standard language even if they know the other doesn´t understand much.
    It is not necessary that whilst I live I live happily; but it is necessary that so long as I live I should live honourably. (Immanuel Kant)

  11. #11
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    Re: General acceptance of dialects and accents

    The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) commented "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him".

    It isn't quite as true as it was in Shaw's day, but there is still prejudice against both regional and class accents among some people in Britain.

    In Wales and Scotland, because of nationalist tendencies, some people have strong feelings against any English accent.

    Some southern and northern English tend to be prejudiced against each other's accents.

    Some "educated" Britons tend to look down on people with "working class" accents, particularly the London and south-eastern accent.

    Some working class people tend to regard those with "educated" speech as arrogant or conceited.

    Actually, thinking about it, Shaw might say exactly the same thing if he came back and witnessed what is still going on!
    Amo ergo Sum. My words speak for themselves. Between the lines you will find nothing but blank spaces.

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    Re: General acceptance of dialects and accents

    I'd have to agree with Kevin Beach for most of it. However there have been attempts to accommodate regional accents on TV and Radio without it descending into "tokenism". Depsite this however, the standard sort of middle class English accent seems to predominate mainly I'd suspect from the plethora of people in prominent positions who have been educated at private schools.

    It is interesting however that some regional accents seem to be favoured in advertising. A gentle "geordie" accent of a speaker born in Newcastle seems to engender trust in the listener for some reason according to the advertisers.

    From my own point of view it's not the regional accents that bother me. These can be located to areas that have their own character and customs. Personally I can't bear listening to the posh accents of the Royal Family and the rest of the upper classes. The sound of these manufactured accents are ghastly to my ears.

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    Re: Dialects, accents and usage

    Thanks for merging the Threads, Hutschi. "I don't know whether this question is one that an American can address in a coherent way. While there are to be sure dialects in the USA, I don't thik they address anything like the variation in speech habits and the differentiation in social status that Europeans describe" That´s not true for all of Europe, I would even say class related accents are a typical British phenomenon. In Germany accent are among regions not among classes, but better educated people tend (not all do) to speak less dialect/accent but more standard speech, especially in regions with strong feelings for their customs and traditions (Swabian, Bavarian people)
    It is not necessary that whilst I live I live happily; but it is necessary that so long as I live I should live honourably. (Immanuel Kant)

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    Re: Dialects, accents and usage

    Local dialects in Italy are usually restricted to informal settings, i.e. at home, amongst friends, sometimes on the street or to do business in a not so formal way.

    In formal situations or when talking to people from other regions, it's customary to switch to the standard language, although most people do retain their accent. Standard Italian is the only language used by media and in schools, too (except some regions where the local language was declared official).
    Some people, especially old people in the country, are fluent only in their dialects, and there is definitely a strong social stigma associated with this.

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    Re: General acceptance of dialects and accents

    Quote Originally Posted by stevea View Post
    ......From my own point of view it's not the regional accents that bother me. These can be located to areas that have their own character and customs. Personally I can't bear listening to the posh accents of the Royal Family and the rest of the upper classes. The sound of these manufactured accents are ghastly to my ears.
    I think you've just proved Shaw's point, stevea!

    Why are the accents of the "upper classes" (whatever they are) any more manufactured than any other accents? What is "ghastly" about them?

    This is our problem in Britain, particularly in England. We are irrationally prejudiced against each other because of attributes that have nothing whatsoever to do with an individual's quality.
    Amo ergo Sum. My words speak for themselves. Between the lines you will find nothing but blank spaces.

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    Re: General acceptance of dialects and accents

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Beach View Post
    I think you've just proved Shaw's point, stevea!

    Why are the accents of the "upper classes" (whatever they are) any more manufactured than any other accents? What is "ghastly" about them?

    This is our problem in Britain, particularly in England. We are irrationally prejudiced against each other because of attributes that have nothing whatsoever to do with an individual's quality.
    If you hear a Liverpool accent for example, you know that this is a result of something that has arisen from living in that area. There is absolutely nowhere in the UK where accents as used by the Queen and others of upper classes exist as natural regional accents. They are products of elocution lessons and other actions designed to wipe out the traces of "common accents". This is why they sound ridiculous to me.

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    Re: General acceptance of dialects and accents

    Quote Originally Posted by stevea View Post
    If you hear a Liverpool accent for example, you know that this is a result of something that has arisen from living in that area. There is absolutely nowhere in the UK where accents as used by the Queen and others of upper classes exist as natural regional accents. They are products of elocution lessons and other actions designed to wipe out the traces of "common accents". This is why they sound ridiculous to me.
    Isn´t Queensenglish the same as RP? If so then you also hear it on TV,radio and by people living in the south east.
    It is not necessary that whilst I live I live happily; but it is necessary that so long as I live I should live honourably. (Immanuel Kant)

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    Re: Dialects, accents and usage

    Frank 78 - Absolutely not. I'm not talking about grammar etc just the actual accent which to my ears and many others, cannot be identified as belonging to an actual town or region. Look at SallyB's reply further up where she relates her experience at a private school. Despite what people like myself may think, there are many people who find regional accents to be unsophisticated and therefore need correction by elocution teachers. In the past this process has also been used on actors who had strong regional accents. Richard Burton had to have his Welsh accent toned down. These days however, actors don't seem to have this problem.

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    Re: Dialects, accents and usage

    In Sweden, the situation is similar to Norway, in that there is no stigma attached to having a 'non-standard' dialect among adults, and most people seem to bring their accents with them when moving to another part of the country, unless they're kids who get teased at school, in which case they'll switch to the new one PDQ.

    On TV nowadays you can speak with whichever accent you like, within reason, which was certainly not true 50 years ago, when the media standard was an accent based on, but not exactly like, the Stockholm accent. Even in 1969 the general public wasn't ready for local dialects, and complained demanding subtitles for speech in faraway dialects.

    My own dialect, Scanian, is quite different from the other Swedish dialects, particularly the pronunciation, intonation and prosody, but the syntax and vocabulary is mainly standard Swedish. My daughter, who moved to Stockholm a couple of years ago (at 20) has retained our accent out of pride, and tells amusing anecdotes about Stockholmers going Huh? at her, to which we've had endless giggles!

    My ideas about English accents changed dramatically once I went to live in the UK. While before, I regarded RP or the Queen's English as 'nice' and of course easily understandable, I was conditioned in the UK to think of it as 'posh', and negative, just like stevea describes it. If I remember correctly, when there is a 'nasal' sound to it, it sounds particularly 'posh'.

    /Wilma

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    Re: Dialects, accents and usage

    Very interesting post Wilma and surprising for me to find a parallel in Sweden.

    There was a programme on TV a few years back where a reporter (Ray Gosling - sadly missed) went to interview members of the upper classes. Some in the UK like to pretend that class is disappearing but the interviewees were in no doubt about it. Even those who were not rich having fallen on hard times, clung to the pride of their background. One woman said she could spot a member of the aristocracy anywhere by the way they pronounced the word "off" which she spoke as "orf". For her the accent was a sign of breeding. Without it, no matter what your wealth, you were lower class.

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