What is in an accent?

(88 Posts)
Kenlee Thu 14-Mar-13 02:38:36

I was talking to my sister about accents today. Her son a final year student at UMIST has the most wonderful Mancunian accent. Whereas I have a very broad Lancashire accent.

I was a bit surprised that she did not approve of ny daughter going to a Surrey school to get a posh accent. Actually it was more to do with logistics than accents.

Anyway di accents really matter...I am of the belief that it doesnt ...

happygardening Thu 14-Mar-13 09:31:36

I dont think accents matter that much as long as they are your accent ie I hate it when people change their accent to fit in/make a statement if that makes sense. I personally love regional accents.
I dont think I speak with a posh accent I think I speak like everyone else but I know other disagree! The only thing I've found is as someone who works with people from all backgrounds it can initially put people off but not for long people often say "I thought you were going to be one of the snobby posh people when I first met you but you're really quite normal!"

Wolfiefan Thu 14-Mar-13 09:36:03

You sent your daughter to Surrey to get a posh accent but accents don't matter? Eh?
I'm afraid some people will still judge you by how you speak. It is also vital to learn to adapt your speech to suit purpose and audience. (I use dialect words when chatting casually but not in a formal situation with someone who wasn't local and wouldn't understand me!) I do love hearing different accents though and wish more presenters on TV had a less RP way of speaking.

scaevola Thu 14-Mar-13 09:41:01

Accents only matter if they impede communication.

But it's no accident that advertisers choose particular accents to create a specific effect (gentle Geordie, or Tennant Scots being popular; and some eg Wolverhampton never being selected). It's the sort of unconscious reaction that study after study shows that we all have. if you recognise that the phenomenon exists, it becomes possible to look beyond it to the person themselves.

Accents only matter if they are so strong that other people can't understand you. If you can't moderate your accent enough to communicate, then people are likely to assume you are thick or at least uneducated, just because it shows you've probably not had to talk to a wide variety of people in your life.

I don't get your comment about sending your daughter to a Surrey school to get a posh acent though, then saying you don't think accents matter. If you were thinking about that when you chose a school, then I think you must value posh accents, else it wouldn't even occur to you to think about it when choosing between schools.

Kenlee Thu 14-Mar-13 12:13:22

It was my sister who said I was sending my daughter to surrey for a posh accent. I am sending her there because she is within walking distance of her Grandma.

I actually prefer the soft Scottish accent as I think that is posher than the Surrey accent. If i was to select one.

Talkinpeace Thu 14-Mar-13 19:18:39

What is an accent?
It is a way of pronouncing your words differently from the person you are addressing such that they notice.
If you have the same accent, neither person will notice.
And accents have NOTHING to do with diction.
I can cope with almost all accents but poor diction drives me UP THE WALL

BooksandaCuppa Fri 15-Mar-13 10:58:26

What talkinpeace said.

Copthallresident Fri 15-Mar-13 16:31:55

When I first started work I soon learned to make full use of the stereotypes associated with my accent, honest, blunt, no nonsense etc. It is the accent favoured by financial services companies for adverts , and call centres. Sadly over time my baths and castles turned into barths and carstles. I kept it going long enough to have little DDs that said bath and castle but they soon lost it come Nursery sad and then I couldn't keep it up in the face of their accents.

Then we moved abroad and they developed the most extraordinary expat brat third country kid accent, a sort of aussie / brit / US hybrid.

That's gone now too sad

Gales Fri 15-Mar-13 16:49:16

Accents are fine, poor spoken grammar is awful and unfortunately for some regional dialects the two go together.

Can't see how Surrey could offend anyone though grin

givemeaclue Fri 15-Mar-13 16:56:43

There are some accents I can't stand (brummie).

freerangeeggs Fri 15-Mar-13 22:37:20

"Accents are fine, poor spoken grammar is awful and unfortunately for some regional dialects the two go together."

Absolute nonsense, sorry. By definition a dialect contains non-standard grammar. That doesn't mean it's ungrammatical - just that its grammar doesn't match with that of Standard English. And it doesn't mean that speakers who use non-standard grammars are incapable of switching to a more standard form when the need arises.

Look at me, for example. I'm Glaswegian and I say 'yous' as a plural of 'you'. Of course the plural 'you' doesn't exist in Standard English, but try telling the French that it's ungrammatical to have such a form. In fact, the Glaswegian version is more expressive because I can express a meaning that yous can't. :P

In fact attitudes to language are closely tied to wealth. Glaswegian accents are considered undesirable because they are associated with deprivation - the same is true of the Liverpudlian accent. However, the Liverpudlian accent was considered desirable a few hundred years ago when Liverpool was very prosperous. The Irish accent was also considered undesirable in recent years until Ireland began to prosper.

This isn't just anecdotal - it's borne out by lots of research. Judging a person based on their accent is a very sneaky form of classism. No better than judging a person by the colour of their skin.

Talkinpeace Fri 15-Mar-13 22:46:42

freerange
you are so right.
the accent does not define the person, merely where they went to primary school.
the diction and grammar define the class - and THEY are worth the effort.

my children get leeway for sounding more Hampshire than I do
but bugger all wiggle room for slurring and blech.

Kenlee Fri 15-Mar-13 23:08:47

Aye I have to admit you be right there lass. Actually I have used my Lancashire accent as an ice breaker for goodness how many years.

My Daughter also speaks with a mixed up I don`t know where you are from accent. Ex pats kids have this.

My father first generation Chinese has a great Mancunian accent.

I`m not sure why people don't like the brummie accent ... I think its ok...I do find Cockney hard on the ears though..

lrichmondgabber Sat 16-Mar-13 12:33:14

Freerange eggs has a class aspects right.

lrichmondgabber Sat 16-Mar-13 12:37:04

There are different levels of posh speaking. Frostrop is ok. The Queen is unique and monosylabic. (Less said the better is her motto) Victoria Derbyshire and some BBC types follow that didictum

lrichmondgabber Sat 16-Mar-13 12:38:17

If you want to get to someone roots way of talking make them angry.

RooneyMara Sat 16-Mar-13 12:42:13

I don't know what my accent is.

My mum is from Leics, my dad's from southampton. Both talk radio 4 as they had either london parents or went to boarding school in, of all places, Surrey smile
so we grew up talking the same, and being called posh by our school friends, until we learned to talk more like them (Kent) and I have been compensating ever since - whoever I'm talking to I take on their accent. I have been known to fake an accent in a waiting room or shop because I feel so uncomfortable and want to pretend I'm not really me.

I don't think it is a pure thing although I envy people who seem to have a steady accent and not drift between others.

There's a few I dislike - Manchester being one, Northern Irish is a bit difficult for me because of associations. I regularly get asked if I'm Irish though due to having gone out with a chap from Galway for a while - I took on his accent quite strongly at times without even meaning to.

I'm sure it means I'm fucked up but I cannot help it.

chicaguapa Sat 16-Mar-13 12:46:05

Being able to switch accents according to who you're speaking to is a sign of linguistic intelligence. It's called codeswitching. grin

RooneyMara Sat 16-Mar-13 12:56:43

Oh is it? <chuffed>

I've always thought it was a bit rude of me. Someone told me once I was taking the piss, but I wasn't.

Ronaldo Sat 16-Mar-13 18:50:56

I am firmly ( and possibly alone on this board) in the camp of disliking accents of any kind. As someone has said accents do carry with them steotypes. However, I do not think it is possible for most people to look beyond than as claimed. They are powerful. Accents also do denote class. This country is class ridden and pretending it is not does not help matters.

In my home we all speak received pronunciation. I believe it will give DS the best opportunities in life.

On a more practical note, as one becomes older ( and I am older now) ones hearing acuity fails ( this is not the same as deafness and is not rectificable and it starts when you reach 30 although it may be a few years later beforeyou begin to realise it). Regional accents are incredibly difficult to hear. I get very annoyed when an accent - usually Scottish ( the faniced Tennent one or I belong to Glasgow - both the same) and the Gentle Gordie being particularly easily misheard at my age. Of course the Irish accent is even worse (swallowed words often). RP on the other hand is always clear and audible. I say this from experience.

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Sat 16-Mar-13 18:56:24

I think what a person says is more important than the accent they have.
Ronaldo You sound quite snobby. I wonder if this is intentional?

Ronaldo Sat 16-Mar-13 19:00:33

Depends on how you define snobby.Its a word I often see used here but frankly it has no meaning to me. I generally means " I dont agree with you and I cant find a good reason to argue so I will pull a word out and use that
(rather like bigot and racist and homophobe are used these days).

JustGiveMeFiveMinutes Sat 16-Mar-13 19:02:53

I think the word 'snobby' is a word most people would be able to define in simple enough terms. I haven't come across anybody before you Ronaldo who's struggled to understand it smile

Ronaldo Sat 16-Mar-13 19:04:16

Then define it please and educate me.

I can tell you what the dictionary says - and that is certainly not true of me.

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