1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

Southern American accent (Georgia...)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hamlet, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    Hey. Could you tell me what the particularities of that kind of accent are? I've kinda grown tired of the british stuck-up-upper-class accent I got and something that sounds like sawyer in that tv show would suit me well I think.
     
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Here's a web page that might interest you:
    http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/48382

    I've always thought that the accent from Georgia (and parts of the Carolinas) was the most refined, elegant-sounding accent of all U.S. accents. Jimmy Carter is a good example of that accent, in my opinion (a non-Georgian, so take it for what it's worth. :) ) The web page I cited has several more film sources for you, if that helps.

    The speech is slow and measured and the Rs are soft, almost non-existent, in my experience. It has a relaxed, languid kind of pace to it and a sweet softness. The vowels are broad and open and the diphthongs are smoothed over. I've always enjoyed hearing accents from this region of our country.

    The Carolinas are a hodgepodge of accents, though. Maybe Georgia is as well. Maybe I'm only thinking of the "posh" Georgia accent. I don't know. I've never lived in Georgia. I know that I didn't hear the accent I expected when I traveled to Atlanta. Most of the people around me in Atlanta spoke with some variety of northern accent. I was disappointed.

    P.S. Who's Sawyer? What tv show?
     
  3. ash93

    ash93 Senior Member

    London
    England, United Kingdom - English but can speak Urdu, Memon and Hindi
    British stuck-up-upper-class accent? Nobody I know has an accent like that and according to my friends I sound American.
     
  4. palomnik Senior Member

    Vietnam
    English
    Actually, the southern accent in the USA is in many ways closest US accent to a standard south British accent, although a lot of Americans don't realize that until they stop to think about it. It's one reason why some better known British actors played southerners when they had to do American - Leslie Howard of "Gone with the Wind" fame is probably the best known, but Michael Caine has played southerners too.

    Georgia country accents are marked by a strange pronunciation of the vocalic "r's" - they say boid for bird, for example.
     
  5. pidgeon

    pidgeon Junior Member

    English/Swedish
    I know what you mean about the british stuck-up-upper-class accent like in films etc. but if you come to the UK, very few people speak like that.

    I think that when you are learning a language, you tend to speak it very well and you learn the formal aspect of the language, and then as you start to develop you can learn slang and you will speak faster and miss out letters, and that it is only then that you can really speak the language like locals, and are truly fluent.
     
  6. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    It might help if you could give us an example of someone famous who speaks with the "British stuck-up-upper-class accent" you have mentioned.

    Regarding Georgia: I taught music in the southern part of Georgia for a few years. I met some very fine people there, but I would not describe the accent as pleasing in any way.

    It was nothing like Jimmy Carter's accent, and it is important to know that Carter was anything but rich while growing up.

    There are many accents in Georgia (and probably in all US states). Reading about accents is a waste of time, I think. It would be best for you to listen to someone who uses an accent that is admired and that appeals to you. :)

    Gaer
     
  7. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    I was referring to the way Hugh Grant for example speaks. I used to have that accent (the Brits I met were really impressed I was no native - though I make kind of a lot of grammatical mistakes) but I'm really trying to change it. (I have the feeling some of you are upset about me saying-stuck-up upper-class ^^ it was no insult of course)
    In fact an accent I like is Josh Holloway's (Sawyer in Lost) but I'm so used to the british way that it's quite difficult to really understand how it works
    in addition I got a problem with the pronounced "r" at the end of the words..so if anyone's got a tip
     
  8. charisma_classic

    charisma_classic Senior Member

    Tennessee
    English, U.S.A.
    When I studied theatre I had to learn various accents for various stage roles. I often used tapes by David A. Stern which teach speakers of English to speak English with a variety of accents. Each accent is broken down into the sounds that are the most distinguishing and then there are series of exercises for the actor to practice with. You can also find books with the same goal.

    The character of Sawyer is actually from Tennessee, not Georgia. I am not sure how much of a difference that makes...
     
  9. ernest_

    ernest_ Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Catalan, Spain
    I've listened to some of these tapes ("Acting with an accent," isn't it?). Maybe they are useful for an actor, but quite frankly you won't fool anybody with these. Even to me, that can barely recognise a particular English accent, sounded totally fake.
    I think the best way to pick an accent is first learn the phonetics, and then do a lot of listening (the radio is your friend). But, most important thing, stick to a single accent! It is not trivial if you've learned Received Pronunciation to change to an American accent. It'd be a lot easier to learn some "lower-class" London accent, which you could use at will depending on the situation you were in.
     
  10. I was about to say the same thing too. I was reading a while back that the southern US accent is descended from various accents in southern England. I'm sure many people will reply to this and disagree, but there's a similarity. If you try imitating some varieties of southern English accents and slow down your speech, you get what sounds like an accent from places like Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, etc.

    Also there are times when listening to Australians, it takes me a couple sentences to realize they aren't from the south. I mistook a woman from Texas once for being Australian but that was when she first started speaking.
     
  11. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    It is no small task to learn a new accent. The ones who are often the best at it are natives who have heard the accent for a very long time and can figure out the subtle nuances. You might do better to stick with what you have. I don't think anyone worthwhile will think less or more of you based on your accent.

    Also, having a refined accent is nothing to be ashamed of, though if you are truly not native, I find it a bit hard to believe that natives couldn't tell you weren't English. My Mom has been speaking English since she was little and only moved to the U.S. at age 25. She's now 48 and is fully Americanized and holds a high position at an accounting firm. She knows English better than a fairly large percentage of natives and she never misses out on an idiomatic or slangy expression. That said, she still has a slight German accent to go with her New York-New Jersey AE accent. I don't notice it much as her son, but others hear it. Your Swiss accent will probably be what people notice more.
     
  12. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    There are a few talented people who master new "accents" as adults.

    I knew a lady from Germany who spoke with a completely convincing US accent. In fact, when she made mistakes, they were typical American mistakes.

    I don't think a Tennessee accent sounds at all like a Georgia accent, so confusing them would be something that people would do who have not had personal contact with people from either state.

    The guy who plays "Apollo" on the new Battlestar Galactica series, Jamie Bamber, has a strong British accent, yet on the show I had no idea. His accent fooled me completely. To this moment I don't understand how he manages the change!

    Gaer
     
  13. mrtom2985 New Member

    English, UK
    I'd love to be good enough at a language to be able to choose my accent! One thing I will add is that if you're trying to model yourself on the average English person, then Hugh Grant is definitely NOT the way to go!

    With regards to the "r" sound at the end of words, you need to remember that in UK English, in most cases, when preceded by a vowel e.g. "ir", "er", "ar", "or", "our", this makes the last syllable of the word a "neutral" sound (fairly similar to the "e" sound in French e.x. "Au revoir", but softer and less pronounced). The best thing to do would be to look for an online dictionary with sound samples, and listen to words like "colour", "calendar" and "flower". You will hear that they all have this same sound at the end of the word. Or if you had some English friends to ask, that would be even better. As long as they don't have a strong accent from somewhere like London, Liverpool, Bristol or Newcastle though, as they will pronounce it differently!
     
  14. difficult cuss Senior Member

    English England
    Hamlet, you are on your way to having a US manner of speaking with your use of " I got a problem". I have heard US English usage of "got" instead of "have" many times (such as "do you got a burger").
    I agree with mrtom2985, please do not confuse blubber-mouthed Hugh Grant with an average English accent, he makes me shudder.
     
  15. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    concerning Hugh Grant that's precisely what I call stuck-up accent now you see what I mean.

    as to the "r", in BE I've got no problem to pronouce this sound but in AE I have because you pronounce it each time (e.g. "rare" is easier to pronounce in BE don't you agree?)

    But what are in fact the phonemes (you call them so right?) of those southern accents (so Georgia, Tennessee.. I can't tell the difference between those 2)

    thanks by the way
     
  16. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    If ever we use "got" without "have" (have you got a burger), we certainly don't append it with "do." Do you got a burger sounds a bit extended and long. "You got a burger?" or "Got a burger?" sounds infinitely more colloquial as it implies you've just chopped off the "have."
     
  17. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    I've heard "do you got it?" on many occasions
     
  18. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    It's possible, but it's either uneducated or not from my part of the country. "Have you got it" sounds much better.
     
  19. clairanne Senior Member

    East Sussex
    english UK
    hi

    I think Hugh Grant has a wonderful accent -in fact I think Hugh Grant is wonderful!!!! I don't think he is "stuck up" I know many people with far more "affected" accents than his. If I had to choose an English accent to copy he would be on the list as he sounds educated without sounding superior. In my experience it is the minor privately educated people who have the strongest "posh" accents and these are the sort of people who get labelled "snobs".
    English is definitely mellowing though, even the Queen does not have as strong an accent as she used to have and Prince Edward sounds like many of my friends - we are definitely not upper class.

    As for American accents - I do not personally like Jimmy Carter's accent and always thought of him as vaguely "country bumpkin", but I do like Bill Clinton.
     
  20. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    you're a girl...
     
  21. clairanne Senior Member

    East Sussex
    english UK
    Hi

    Thanks for that comment - I used to be a girl!!!!!!!!! but now I am a Grandmother.
    I think an educated English accent is acceptable anywhere and can think of no reason at all why anyone should be ashamed or concerned about having acquired one. To me it is a definite plus and ticks all the boxes. Do you live in US?
     
  22. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Much of the time "I got" is just a sloppy way of saying: I've got.
    No one I know says, "Do you got a burger?"

    If you hear a lot of people say this, you are in the company of very uneducated people. :)

    Gaer
     
  23. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Jimmy Carter said that he spent most of his time in the company of very poor children (and occasionally adults). He was surrounded by share-croppers. Carter does not have what would ordinarily be called an "upper-class Georgia accent". :)

    Gaer
     
  24. stranger in your midst

    stranger in your midst Senior Member

    English / Scotland
    Why don't you try a regional British accent, or Scots or Irish, rather than American. Too may non-native English speakers already have American accents. And, let's face it (sorry, guys, but it's the truth), the Americans are hardly well received abroad today. Everyone loves the Scots and Irish, however. A Scottish accent is probably easiest - pure wovels (few diphthongs), hard consonants, lovely trilled r's and, of course, the beautiful Scottish 'ch' sound as in 'loch' (pronounces like German 'loch' except meaning l'lake' as opposed to 'hole').

    If you want a regional English accent, I would suggest the West Country is the most melifluous - think Cornwall or Bristol.
     
  25. PianoMan

    PianoMan Senior Member

    California, U.S.
    United States, English
    I think an attempt at an American accent is fine, although you shouldn't be ashamed of a British accent, of course being taught English in Europe, I assume that's the method they use (contrary to Spanish-speakers of Mexico learning English with an American accent). Either way, I think that if you want to get a good idea of a largely used American accent use a more Northern one. Its easier to find more people who talk that way and many prefer it (with all due respect to the South). It's a good combination between "stuck-up" British (which I don't believe a British accent is) and a rural dialect.
     
  26. clairanne Senior Member

    East Sussex
    english UK
    hi

    I'm sorry but us British "Southerners" with our country vowels are always picked on as being stupid, take Dawn French's comedy scetches for example, and Bristol is best known for it's red light district so I don't think it is a very good idea to encourage anyone to acquire such accents artificially. Scottish can be difficult as well so I am told by my scottish singing teacher. She is very touchy about her accent and makes it very clear that she is from Fife. She thinks a Glasgow accent is the lowest of the low and wouldn't even be introduced to a friend of mine from there. Admittedly she is elderly.
    Really the most important thing in speech is to be understood and we should be embraced for our differences. I have never met anyone who sneers at a foreign accent, most of us do not even attempt to speak any language other than our own. I think the best thing to do is to learn a neutral BBC type english and let your own accent show through. You will pick up traces of accents and dialects from wherever you live naturally and that is what makes language fun.
     
  27. ash93

    ash93 Senior Member

    London
    England, United Kingdom - English but can speak Urdu, Memon and Hindi
    I completely agree with Clairanne on this one. A neutral accent has always appealed to me (Although I myself speak halfway between "stuck-up-British" and American according to many friends + my dad:D) It keeps people guessing where you're from and if you make mistakes in language, nobody would notice too much. Just speak naturally in your own accent without trying to copy anyone else's and you'll have something that suits you perfectly.
     
  28. mjscott Senior Member

    Whatever you do to change your accent, please focus time and dedicated effort to change it. The most frustrating annoyance on stage is to listen to someone who goes in and out of an accent with inconsistency. After a while, you are only listening for the next time the actor will "slip up"--not to the conversation in the script! I have never heard anyone try out an accent in real-life, but I would imagine that resulting inconsistencies would bring about similar results.
     
  29. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    well basically I have the RP accent. Can you tell me the differences of pronunciation between RP and a pure Georgian accent (thats the one I've chosen)? So phonemes etc.. thanks again
     
  30. GAdixiechick New Member

    US (English)
    The man that plays Sawyer (very good show, btw. you have good taste) is from Smyrna, Georgia, which is about five or ten minutes away from Marietta, where i live (depends entirely on traffic. this is atlanta, after all LOL).

    Gotta love our good ol' boys. LOL

    there are distinct differences to each region's accent...and there are a LOT of regions, even within one state. For someone who is used to hearing them, it's easy to tell the difference. but to someone who isn't used to hearing them, it all sounds the same.

    Telling a Georgia accent from an alabama or kentucky accent for a non-southerner would be like an american trying to tell the difference between the accents of northern and southern britain.

    Basically, the most important thing to remember is that we add syllables almost wherever we can and we speak slowly (it's cause of the heat. believe me when i say that it affects EVERYTHING).

    Really, the only way you're gonna be able to emulate it with any accuracy is if you come over here and hear it for yourself.

    just remember when you come down here, so you're not suprised: there's a reason why we say "if you're from the South, we don't ask if there's insanity in your family; we ask which side." LOL
     
  31. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Oh, yes you can! And sometimes you have to make people believe English is your mother tongue - unless you want (mainly) Americans to treat you like a complete idiot once they detect some foreign accent. And the way to do it is to pick some accent that is compatible with your native accent.
     
  32. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    Frown frown frown. We are not the only xenophobes in the universe. We just happen to be xenophobes who speak the lingua franca of the day.
     
  33. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I am not saying they are unfriendly - probably rather the opposite - but it is really a nuisance when people speak to you as if you were mentally retarded. I suppose it is beyond somebody's imagination that a person can speak and understand a foreign language well. Whatever it is, it can be a PitA.
     
  34. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    I completely understand. I hope I one day don't speak louder to you hoping that will hammer the understanding of a native into your head.

    We could also speak German if you like. :)

    To stay on topic in a remote way, GAdixiechick's explanation for why southerners speak slowly is, perhaps, a bit anecdotal. It is hot in other places as well and they speak quickly or at a regular pace there. See: Mexico.
     
  35. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    Is it worth suggesting that instead of trying to cultivate a bogus accent you instead throw in some regional vocabulary or speech patterns? If you wanted to go Cornish, you could call everybody 'my handsome': 'How are you today, my handsome?' (pronounce it 'moy ansum'). One of our Italian students adopted the stereotypical British 'jolly' - as in 'Jolly nice day, what?' as it amused him.

    The BBC website has a brilliant collection of regional language and soundclips here. Have a listen to some of them. I truly think you'd find it easier to amend your existing Hugh Grant accent (attractive to some ladies, as we've seen!) to something closer than southern AE.

    It is the variety that makes accent attractive. Once when I was in North Carolina (a place I'd gladly live) a not unattractive lady heard my Brit accent and said to me:

    'Ah jes' lurv t' hear y'all talk' (take three minutes to say this sentence, make it sing-song, and stretch talk to about five separate syllables:) ). I would have died for her on the spot!
     
  36. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    PS This quiz with soundclips is brilliant fun!
     
  37. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    Or if you wanted to sound like the people who live around Panj, you could put 'now' on the end of every sentence - but pronounce it 'nye'.

    'Have you been down the shops today, nye?'

    Or possibly I'm stereotyping here.. :)
     
  38. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    While I find the story great, I don't think I've ever heard a person from North Carolina say "lurv." :D Also turn that "talk" into "tawk" or even "towuhk." I can imagine it's difficult to hear the differences as much as it is hard for me to hear BE regional differences.
     
  39. GAdixiechick New Member

    US (English)
    it's true that other places are equally as hot, a lot of them hotter. the major difference is that it's also humid, EXTREMELY humid. 90 degrees in california isn't the same thing as 90 degrees here.

    any place with this much humidity (many south american countries, for example) support my arguement.

    Hot weather, the sun beating down on you, and the air so wet that you feel like you can't breath....talking isn't high on your list of priorities. Whatever you have to do, you do it slow. every country and state that is like ours does this.

    Thank god for the air conditioner.

    but it also has to do with the people who settled this region. Mostly, it was scottish, irish, etc. therefore, the way we shape our words is actually fairly close to the way they shape theirs.
     
  40. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    I don't agree with this.

    I agree with this. :D

    I really agree with this. It's not as if southerners speak in slow motion. You can't convince me of it...I've been down there too long. :)
     
  41. jabogitlu Senior Member

    USA-English
    Ah, you're letting your British show through ;) It would be 'lowuv' as 'lurv' would be pronounced close to "curve."

    I probably talk close to her, because I've lived on the Tennessee/North Carolina border (in the mountains, in fact) all my life. Hopefully I won't make you die, though. *grin*

    Oh, to the OP. There are a myriad of Southern accents, and don't let anyone ever tell you different. If you're trying to emulate a certain Georgia accent, the only true way, I feel, to get it down is to go live there and speak - a LOT! But don't live around Atlanta, there are too many non-natives. Go Southern Georgia! ;)

    Or else come up to northeast TN (Greene/Bristol)/northwest NC(Madison/Asheville). I'm quite biased, but I think this is the loveliest of the Southern Accents, save the Coastal Carolinars.
     
  42. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
  43. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I can't speak specifically for Georgia, but southern accents in general, in my experience, actually have a clear distinction between "whine" and "wine", for example. A lot of air is expelled on the "wh" sound (which really sounds more like "hw", if you think about it.)
     
  44. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    In this SA accent, according to what I know, you gotta pronounce all the R's, and rather heavily in addition. How do you manage to say things like 'other than that' quickly? Do you still pronounce the R in other? I'm asking this because I can't do it! That kind of things was a darn lot easier when I spoke like a Brit...
     
  45. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

  46. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    AmEnglish/German
    Indeed, it might be one of the only things pronounced in the sentence...

    Othurn that.

    That's how I would immitate someone from North Carolina. I can't speak for the other states. James, I think the whine-wine merger happened in the northern Bible-belt states. Nobody I've met here in North Carolina says hwine. I believe they say it in parts of texas and a bit further to the east. It seems much more of a deep, deep South thing to do. There's a great map on it on Wikipedia that apparently proves me wrong:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Hw-w_merger.svg

    However, I never trust the color purple...or is that pink?
     
  47. jinti

    jinti Senior Member

    For me (not a Southerner, but still...), it comes out more like "othernnat".
     
  48. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    And for "For the...", would a Southerner say "Foruh..."?
     
  49. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    So would they or not? I find it quite difficult to say "for the" and pronounce the 'r' without making it sound like forathe
     
  50. hamlet Senior Member

    Paris
    Français (FR)
    Moreover, can someone explain to me what "Southern drawl" actually means`?
     

Share This Page