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Dialects, accents and usage

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Hutschi, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    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.
     
  2. Sallyb36

    Sallyb36 Senior Member

    Liverpool UK
    British UK
    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.
     
  3. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    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. :D
     
  4. Luke Warm Junior Member

    Germany
    English USA
    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.
     
  5. Sallyb36

    Sallyb36 Senior Member

    Liverpool UK
    British UK
    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".
     
  6. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    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).
     
  7. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    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 :D... or just leave. To my experience the people in Munich and Saare acted not differently.
     
  8. Thomas F. O'Gara Senior Member

    English USA
    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.
     
  9. invictaspirit Senior Member

    Kent, SE England
    English English
    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.
     
  10. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    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.
     
  11. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    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!
     
  12. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    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.
     
  13. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    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)
     
  14. federicoft Senior Member

    Italian
    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.
     
  15. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    I think you've just proved Shaw's point, stevea! :rolleyes:

    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. :(
     
  16. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    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.
     
  17. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    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.
     
  18. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    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.
     
  19. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    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! :D

    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
     
  20. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    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.
     
  21. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    Spot on, nose in the air! :D I think the Swedes have done away with most class distinctions after so many decades of social democracy, and I am not aware of any 'aristocratic' Swedish accent that exists today, but then I don't get to speak to them a great deal... The Swedish Royal family don't sound different from ordinary people except our Queen, who still has a German accent even after 30+ years in Sweden....

    /Wilma
     
  22. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    I disagree that accents are always regional. RP is widespread and is perfectly natural because children have had it from their parents. It has been around in one form or another for over 200 years.

    Even among regional accents, there are the "educated" and uneducated" versions.

    The queen speaks like her parents and grandparents did. Her speech isn't the product of special training. However, if you compare her vowel sounds now with those that she had as a young woman, she has obviously made a deliberate effort to "commonise" her own speech, no doubt because of the bigotry of inverted snobs.
     
  23. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    Isn't it feasible that it's the other way round, i.e. that in the early days she was told to put on a 'special accent' for public speeches whereas now she needn't bother, and her speech today his her normal everyday way of speaking?

    /Wilma
     
  24. miguel64086

    miguel64086 Senior Member

    Iowa, USA
    Chile, but living in USA (Spanish/English)
    In South America we have very different accent in the different countries... I would not call it dialects, but we do have different words for certain things and our slang is different too... So, living in the US, I find myself speaking a very "neutral Spanish" with other latinos, but I still keep my "chilenismos" with family and friends from home.
    It's natural to do so. It helps the communication process.
     
  25. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    This is my view of it. Another example can be seen from the difference in the accents of the queen's children. Charles (the eldest) sounds like his father whereas the younger sons sound far more like other RP English speakers. I don't think inverted snobbery had any bearing on it. Times change.

    Listen to the old broadcasts from the BBC and compare them with what you hear now. As long as the accent is understandable then you are likely to find an example in the BBC. The link below was quite interesting. John Wells who is mentioned in it is an interesting man not least for his expertise in Esperanto.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/22/news/mn-3366
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  26. Basaloe Junior Member

    Swedish
    Okey Wilma you are true the royal family does speak somewhat like normal stockholm-people, but i would guess their "overclass-accent" takes over at the dinner-table.

    Of course there are class differencies among dialects in Sweden. I live in Stockholm and have a pretty "urban" dialect. In my work I meet many people from the rich parts of stockholm and the difference is huge although we come from the same city.
     
  27. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    Thanks for the input. We all know our local dialects better than anyone else's.

    /Wilma
     
  28. El intérprete Senior Member

    US
    US English
    Miguel's right. In Chile there are several different versions of Spanish. The two categories of people that stand out are "cuicos" (people with money) and "gente flaite" (people who speak very informal Spanish and usually vulgar). Standard Spanish that I hear every day in Santiago is somewhere in between. The intonation is what distinguishes a Chilean from me, along with my appearance. :) pooorfa, sííí po. That sort of thing is hard for me to imitate, but I try!

    Thomas is right. In the US, a person's English is not much of an indication of their social class. Someone who speaks perfect English may be a pauper. In rural areas English tends to be less formal, but that doesn't mean that people are poor by any means!

    Accents rapidly change in the US depending on the location. I grew up in a city with a pretty standard accent, but when I see my grandparents in the country, I relax a bit and say Whacha been doin' (What have you been doing?) and stuff like that. I don't recommend that kind of language, but if I actually pronounce perfectly "What have you been doing?", it is somehow less personal. I don't know how to explain it.
     
  29. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    So far a lot of the discussion on this thread relates to the perceived value of having a "cultured" accent and the status that derives from it. There is another strand to this discussion that relates to popular culture or what might be called "street cred". There has been a tendency over the years for singers in the UK to try to pretend that they have American accents when singing certain styles of music. It's always made me laugh when I think of someone from Yorkshire trying to sound like they have come from California. I've also noticed some people trying to adopt a London accent when they have moved there from less urbanised areas.
     
  30. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Saxony-Anhalt
    German
    I noticed that as well, but I think this is not THAT new. Neither Phil Collins or Mick Jagger sing a British English "can´t" (a : ) Or is there any regional accent using the American "can´t" (ae).
     
  31. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    Frank78 - you've pointed out a very curious example with Mick Jagger. Someone from a fairly middle class background whom I would have expected to have spoken in a far more orthodox manner. For some reason he needs to tone down his accent to include not only American drawl but he added some cockney stuff to it as well.

    Imitating Americans isn't new I'd agree. I can't think of anywhere in the UK where your example would be part of the natural accent.
     
  32. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The reason why those English singers have some features of an American accent may be simply because the kind of music they sing originated in America, and they tend to unconsciously imitate the voice of their (American) idols.
     
  33. El intérprete Senior Member

    US
    US English
    In the United States, having an English accent is about the most feminine thing a guy can have in early school years. I'd hate to be English and move to the US at a young age. Not that there's anything wrong with England, but the accent is definitely not cool in public schools. The abuse would be constant, at least in the schools I went to. I don't know what the case is in London, but the people you mention may just be trying to fit in.
     
  34. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    This is another interesting observation. Is it just English accents or do all British accents carry the same social burden?

    One small comment, the point I made about people copying London accents was not just for people fitting in when they moved into a new location, I've seen it being used to make a person stand out in their original location.
     
  35. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    I'd say most people would agree with you. It's odd though that accent plays a part in it. Having said that there seems to be a type of accent that is very commonly used by British folk singers. I don't know how to describe it exactly but if you've listened to traditional folk music then you'll know what I mean. To my ears, this accent often sounds a bit exagerated at times.
     
  36. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    Richard Stilgoe made the observation that such an accent was used by folk singers "to hide their grammar school accents".

    Except when necessitated so that you can be understood, changing an accent seems to be all about social acceptability and it operates in both directions. It is a bit like wearing the right clothes.

    Although it may operate in both directions it is of course the case that it is usually the one with the non-prestige accent who changes it. It is more or less obligatory if you want to be taken seriously. It should not be the case, but it is. However liberal one is it is not easy to get rid of one's prejudices completely. I am always going to find two people discussing Kant in a non-prestige accent amusing despite myself. Which of us would feel really confident about taking advice from a lawyer who did not speak with a prestige accent? We expect him/her to have a prestige accent just as we expect him/her to be suitably dressed.
     
  37. stevea Senior Member

    Wales
    UK English
    Unfortunately, all too true, I would have to agree.
     
  38. El intérprete Senior Member

    US
    US English
    I'd say they all carry the same social burden. I mean, not all people are that mean, but if you go around saying,

    Hello, mate.
    Please queue up at the box office.
    We have to sit an exam in a fortnight.
    My father drives a lorry.
    Pay attention to the lollipop man.

    then people will make fun of you. Now, I'm sure not everyone in England talks like that by any means. But words and names like "mate, queue, fortnight, lorry, lollipop man" will make people laugh. Have you ever seen Flight of the Conchords? They are from New Zealand, but still get made fun of and are thought to be English at times. :)
     
  39. Orpington Senior Member

    Spain
    UK- English
    To be honest we do say those things all the time. They are just our words for things, we dont say 'get in line', 'truck' or whatever the american is for lollipop man.

    I don't get what's so funny about fortnight. But I do have to admit lollipop man sounds funny.

    I guess it's the same though when an American kid moves to a school in the UK. Although there were American kids in my school and they didn't get made fun of that harshly, just when they said something that sounded funny to us, like 'duty' (Pronounced doody in the US)
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  40. El intérprete Senior Member

    US
    US English
    I guess fortnight is not that funny, but it sounds rather elegant. :) Lollipop man sounds funny though. As you said, I bet the situation is similar when an American kid moves to a school in the UK. I guess you pronounce duty like doo tee.
     
  41. Orpington Senior Member

    Spain
    UK- English
    Nah more like joo tee. Or where I live joo.ee (like with a glottal stop instead of a T, we don't pronounce our T's in my part of the country)

    But yeah different accents will always sound strange to people who aren't used to them.

    Also I don't think we really sound feminine.. they always make english people sound feminine though on TV shows though like Family Guy (I find it hilarious btw). But really we don't sound remotely like that. I've never met anyone that speaks like that anyway.

    If you wanna hear like a normal english accent maybe watch a video of sir alan sugar speaking (I think he's quite representative of a london accent). Or for a northern accent (Manchester) try Liam Gallagher.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  42. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    That figures: I spoke to an Irish solicitor recently who spoke totally RP without the slightest hint of an Irish accent. He said that an Irish accent simply didn't give enough credibilty in the court room, particularly if the judge had trouble understanding! :D

    Folk singers certainly need a regional accent of some sort, it just doesn't sound 'right' if you sing 'Whisky in the Jar' in the Queen's English! And talking about celebrities: I've been curious about Amy Winehouse. She sounds more American than English when singing (I think), but her speech sounds definitely London-ish.

    /Wilma
     
  43. Orpington Senior Member

    Spain
    UK- English
    Yes Amy Winehouse came to mind for me too readin this thread. I think she sings in an American accent because she mostly sings jazzish songs, and a lot of her influence comes from American musicians. Still strange though.
     
  44. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    I am not convinced it was necessary for him to adopt an RP accent. An Irish accent, whilst not necessarily attracting prestige, does not lack it in England. An Irish accent is considered musical and pleasing to the ear. The English cannot distinguish between the different social and regional accents that exist in Ireland and therefore make no assumptions about the Irish on the basis of the way they speak. The success of the Irish in the broadcasting media is evidence of this.

    A Scottish accent is different. A "broad" Scottish accent can be difficult for the English to understand. A more "genteel" accent though definitely has no stigma attached to it and can be taken to be an indication of being well-educated. Scottish doctors and engineers are considered to be almost infallible!
     
  45. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    Well, since that was the answer I got, I assumed he himself felt the need to acquire a neutral accent, particularly if working outside of Ireland. Presumably, it shouldn't be necessary if you only operated within Ireland, where people are used to the accent. To a foreigner like myself, an Irish accent, like the Scottish one, can be anything from pleasing to totally incomprehensible, depending on how much it deviates from RP.

    /Wilma
     
  46. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    Possibly. The English do tend to think of the Irish as playwrights and poets rather than lawyers.

    No, but he might be subject to prejudice if he did not have the "right" Irish accent.

    The same goes for English (i.e. from England) speakers of RP, except that I doubt they have too much trouble understanding anyone with an Irish accent. The reason is the different histories of English in Ireland and Scotland.

    The varieties of English spoken in the Lowlands of Scotland (Scots) are a parallel development to the varieties of English spoken in England going back well over a thousand years. Without getting into a discusion about whether Scots is a different language from English, there is a continuum of speech varieties from Scots to Scottish English, with many speakers able to move from one to the other. Apart from that, there is a feeling in Scotland that Scottish English is a distinct variety. In fact, for its size, there are more varieties of English (and without expressing any opinion as to the status of Scots I am of course including it in English) in Southern Scotland than in any other English speaking area of the world. The situation in the Highlands of Scotland is similar to that in Ireland.

    English was exported to Ireland by the English and was essentially imposed by them as a colonial power. It did not really start to spread until the 16th century. There is a Gaelic substratum evident to a greater or less extent in some varieties which produces some constructions not found in any other variety of English. There is also a tendency for stress to shift on longer words. Neither of these presents any special impediment to understanding for English (i.e. from England) speakers of RP, though I can see it may do for foreigners.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2009
  47. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Oh, it can be both at the same time! :D
     
  48. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    That would be subject to personal opinion. I don't find incomprehensible speech pleasing in any context.

    I realised that a previous statement I made may have been misunderstood due to flawed grammar:
    When reading it now, it seems that I'm saying the Scottish accent is a subset of the Irish one, which of course is complete codswallop! What I really meant was:
    To a foreigner like myself, an Irish accent, as well as a Scottish one, can be anything ...

    The main problem is, specifically, vowel sounds that deviate from RP(*), until you figure out the vowel & diphthong system of that particular dialect. Unfamilar stress patterns don't help either.

    /Wilma

    (*) I'm using RP as the 'norm' here but of course it applies to whatever is your normal pronunciation pattern, be it UK, American or whatever.
     
  49. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    Because of my background and education I happen to speak what is referred to, amongst other things, as BBC English. People often tell me that I speak beautifully or that they wish they could speak like me. Whilst one naturally prefers to be admired rather than disparaged, I find this mildly annoying as I am more interested in spreading the idea that all speech varieties are acceptable than in being praised for something I do with out having had to put any effort into doing it.

    An interesting experiment was carried out a few years ago. Various varieties of English were recorded and played to Russians who knew no English. They were quite unable to attribute qualities such as "refined", "rural", "ugly" or "beautiful" to any of them.

    This strongly suggests that the idea of quality attached to any particular speech variety derives from those who speak it. "The Queen's English" is refined because the Queen speaks it and she is refined. Liverpool and Birmingham accents are considered ugly because those cities are not generally considered desirable places to live. A West Country accent is considered rural because the West Country is largely rural. And so on.

    As they say in Provence: Le français n'est que le patois du roi.
     
  50. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    It's pretty obvious that you can't begin to distinguish dialects in a language you don't speak. It would have been even more interesting to play those varieties of English to Russians (or any other nationality) that did speak English but never lived in an English-speaking environment. I would argue that they would be able to attribute some qualities, but those qualities would not be consistent with those of native English speakers.

    There is a large and somewhat heated debate going on in a different thread in this forum about the attributes of different Spanish dialects in terms of prestige etc, which illustrates the point beautifully: strong opinions about dialects /accents are mainly delivered by those living in the relevant country/region.

    /Wilma
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2009

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