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 ...

TheRealFellatio Thu 21-Mar-13 05:12:06

Right, I haven't read the thread only the OP, but I am confused.

I was a bit surprised that she did not approve of ny daughter going to a Surrey school to get a posh accent

going to school in Surrey won't give you a posh accent, it will give you a Surrey accent. Going to school at a posh school will give you a posh accent, and that school could be anywhere in the country.

Plenty of people in Surrey speak with as broad a local accent as people in Kent of Essex or Beds, or anywhere else in the south east or home counties. But some northerners seem to think that being 'southern' is synonymous with being 'posh'. And especially being southern and from Surrey. It isn't. You can be very well spoken and be true to your regional accent - just not the quirks of its dialect. I know plenty of slightly posh northerners, but I can still tell they are northerners.

Or you can speak with Received Pronunciation. Two of the people I know with the plummiest RP accents come from near Preston in Lancs, (old money upper MC family with country pile) and Stoke Newington (very aspirational Jewish immigrant parents from around the time of the war.)

Kenlee Tue 19-Mar-13 12:46:21

I do feel sorry for you Pyrrah . One accent I detest is the Cockney accent. It not that I dont understand it. I just dont like the sound. I prefer softer accents...

Pyrrah Tue 19-Mar-13 12:24:12

I speak with an RP accent as do my family and most of our friends.

DD has the most incredible Cockney accent due to school and nursery. The glottal stop and lack of definite articles drives me insane.

I don't mind if she continues to speak Cockney as long as she becomes bilingual and speaks RP as well.

I have found my accent both an advantage and a disadvantage. I've always looked a lot younger than I am and I have been told that my accent gave me an air of confidence and authority above my assumed age. However I spent a lot of my life suffering from inverse snobbery and people making assumptions about my wealth (I wish) and my background.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 19-Mar-13 01:59:51

Ronaldo, Thanks. Yes that answers my question; as a North American I find it very interesting. Regards to you wife.

Ronaldo Mon 18-Mar-13 15:22:56

SconeRhymesWithGone - my DW has sent the following reply to your query
(my paraphrase)

a) her parents speak RP and always have.

b) she had it reinforced at school and she says her Canadian accent is mostly "clipped" English.

c) she travelled as part of her work from a young girl onwards and RP was the best fit for being understood worldwide.

d) she has never had a strong accent of any kind.

Hope that helps

gmrlegal Mon 18-Mar-13 06:28:39

Accent is a way of pronunciation by the speaker. It varies from place to place. I think we should give more emphasis on meaning rather than accent.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 17-Mar-13 17:43:28

Well, it's near my lunch time so I am taking a break,too. Good thread; see y'all later. wink

RooneyMara Sun 17-Mar-13 17:35:25

I am only teasing btw, and being a pedant. I like you Ronaldo smile

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 17:27:22

Ronaldo, Your wife is Canadian and speaks with a British RP accent? How did that happen? (Genuine question, not being snarky, just very interested in how people acquire accents.)

I dont know since I have never considered it a problem. Most of her family seem to have the same non accent.

A Canadian accent isnt a single entity anyway.It is also regional.

I will ask her when she gets home. She and DS have gone off this afternoon. She is due back - which reminds me of the time and I am galley duty. see you later.

RooneyMara Sun 17-Mar-13 17:24:56

Geordie.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 17-Mar-13 17:23:47

Ronaldo, Your wife is Canadian and speaks with a British RP accent? How did that happen? (Genuine question, not being snarky, just very interested in how people acquire accents.)

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 17:21:24

The school chef speaks with the best English of us all - and I guess the school marches on its stomach. The school chef is a product of a top public school too ( I mean as a pupil).

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 17:16:50

I take it the above is addressed to me TP?

I am not sure what the former part of that has to do with anything other than promoting an agenda that everyone should be mixing and matching. In my school we just seem to be a single happy community in that respect.

I have no idea what the students will do in due course. I expect a large proportion will goon to Oxford or Cambridge before launching themselves on the world though.

Our cleaners ( worth their weight in gold for the things they do) tend to speak with a local accent. They are local so that shouldnt be so surprising surely?

PA's and backroom staff ( as you refer to them) have the same diction as those who "actually think they run the place"

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Mar-13 17:09:26

So are your children going to come and work for you rather than making their own way in the world?

and does the office cleaner and do all the PAs and backroom IT staff really have the same accent as those of you who think you actually run the place?

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 17:06:07

They speak with the same kind of accent ( or lack of ) as any other student in school

I reiterate what I said on Thursday

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

I think your answer to that is in my brackets . I know that we all speak the same way where I work. Thats it as I am concerned.

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Mar-13 16:58:51

They speak with the same kind of accent ( or lack of ) as any other student in school

I reiterate what I said on Thursday

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.

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 16:53:57

I seem to recall that your DW is Canadian. Have you told her how incomprehensible you find her accent, or is it only UK and Irish accents and dialects you hold in contempt?

Thats a rather nasty and uncalled for comment. My DW is not a topic here. I said she spoke RP as I do. She did this before I met her, so nothing to do with me. I find her spken English quite clear ,thank you.

And students who have been to International Schools don't speak RP - they tend to speak SAE, often with a marked high rising terminal. They find RP hilariously quaint though

Mine dont. They speak with the same kind of accent ( or lack of ) as any other student in school. Some of the weaker ones may have trouble with pronunciation sometimes but that isnt something to snigger at.

Clearly those people you mix with are not the sameas those I mix with - or are they all as nasty as you? In which case I am glad I do not have to meet you in person.

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Mar-13 16:49:16

the "Oxbridge" accent is absolutely fine in certain circles and professional suicide in others.
ditto the "scouse" accent
BUT
accents cease to be relevant so long as the grammar and diction are clear
and only a narrow minded snob thinks otherwise

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 17-Mar-13 15:49:36

Facinating topic. As someone upthread said, everyone has an accent. Years ago I remember a drama teacher (this was an American in the US so could be completely wrong) discussing British RP and explaining that it was not quite the same as British upper class ("gel, etc."), that the upper class accent was as distinctive as cockney, but just not regional.

The Standard American accent that is used by newspeople and most actors is actually a form of the midwest accent (Western New York, Ohio, Michigan).
Many Americans with regional accents can switch to it easily if need be. I do it when in other parts of the US or in the UK almost without thinking about it (I have a mild Southern accent.)

I have travelled all over the UK and usually have no trouble understanding anyone but I have a good ear. My husband does have trouble sometimes; he says the easiest accents for him to understand are the ones from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

VenusRising Sun 17-Mar-13 14:56:46

I codeswitch in every language I speak.

I just can't help it: when in Rome you know.

I find it's easier to be understood if you mirror the accent of those you're with.

I went to speech and drama classes as a youngster and learned rp.

I have no idea what my 'real' accent is, as wherever I am I'm seen as being slightly different and unclassifiable - suits me Ma'am, as in ham!

malinois Sun 17-Mar-13 14:47:21

I find in Canada ( where I spend a lot of time) , speaking proper English is an advantage.

I seem to recall that your DW is Canadian. Have you told her how incomprehensible you find her accent, or is it only UK and Irish accents and dialects you hold in contempt?

And students who have been to International Schools don't speak RP - they tend to speak SAE, often with a marked high rising terminal. They find RP hilariously quaint though.

Kenlee Sun 17-Mar-13 14:23:19

I never wanted to convey that non native speakers feel that people who have accented English have something wrong with them. Although, I have done presentations to the Non native speakers (NNS). I have found that the message is more easily conveyed when the accent is more neutral. I do suppress my Lancashire accent because I have been told on numerous occasions that they do not understand the accent. I do realize that some accents are more easily understood than others.

I certainly do not feel that any particular accent conveys intelligence. Although some accents are much easier on the ears than others.

MsAverage Sun 17-Mar-13 14:02:33

Kenlee, non native speakers do not give a toss for RP. If they do not understand a word, they do not think that it is something wrong with the speaker, and "gap ya" is no better than "Oh mi lads, you shudv seen us gunning" in that sense.

What matters is the clarity of individual pronunciation, not the dialect spoken. And that clarity, yes, correlates positively with higher educational level and a habit of public speaking.

Ronaldo Sun 17-Mar-13 14:02:24

I am not a Christian. I prefer an eye for an eye myself

Copthallresident Sun 17-Mar-13 13:56:15

And actually my hearing is terrible, inherited from deaf grandfather but I have never noticed it being selectively worse depending on accent.

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