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#1 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 09:44 AM

Probably, everyone would have heard of how American english accent sounds. This is because American movies and shows are broadcasted worldwide. The American accent is of course different from British accent.

When I first heard of Australian English accent, I thought it sounds alot like British Accent, largely due to Anglo-British influence. But what about American accent?

I personally feel that American accent was largely evolved and developed from a combination of British, Irish and Scottish accent, followed by some German accent. Some European words such those of Italian, Spanish, French also found their way into American English, when large number of Europeans from the southern parts of Europe migrated to America in late 19th and early 20th century.

Irish accent probably had the greatest influence on American English accent. I've once heard of Irish people speaking English and I've noticed that their English accent sound alot like American accent (esp. with the "R" tongue-curling tone). The British accent probably had an earliest influence on American English accent, but it probably lost its grounds due to the migration of large number of Irish people to America during the 18th and 19th century, which brought the Irish accent into American English. Later, large number of Germans migrants brought the German accent into American English, followed by Italians and Spanish (Hispanics).

Has anyone studied into the history of English linguistic in America? Doe anyone know how American English accent had evolved and developed?

Any input would be appreciated. Can someone comment on whether my above observation is correct?

Wikipedia has a linguistic article on American English at http://en.wikipedia....merican_english (but it's very 'technical')
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#2 scottbajie

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 12:04 PM

The accent used in most movies and national tv programs in the US is a non-accented version. However, accents are often used in certain shows to add realism.

Each region has its own accent.

Southeasterners (my demographic) have for a long time been rural with Scot-Irish-English or African-American backgrounds. We have a distinctive accent that is considered "dumb" to most northerners (we speak slower and run our words together). After the civil war, many Irish people came to the southern US. For me, the word "talk" is pronounced "tawk". If you want to hear a Southern accent - watch an old TV show from the 1960's(?) called Andy Griffith. Dukes of Hazzard is another silly TV show where they used Southern accents (Boss Hog is my favorite - perhaps the American zhu bajie?)

In the Appalachian mountains some places have a strong Scottish background and a distinct accent. They were isolated for a long time.

Florida is more cosmopolitan so it is not like the other parts of the south. Many people from up north come here to retire, many people from South America or the Caribbean come here also.

Texas has its own accent. But they were their own country for a brief time.

Northeasterners have distinct accents in smaller regions - a New York accent or a Boston accent are famous. ("park" becomes "pak")
Some TV shows use this accent - Cop/Mafia type shows come to mind. They usually try to get the accent right. Even different parts of New York have their own accent (the Bronx accent). In New York, the immigrants formed isolated communities and slowly assimilated into the melting pot.

There were a lot of Germans in the Northern areas before the US revolutionary war and their words/accents are still noticeable. The Pennsylvania Dutch are really German (Deutsche was Americanized to Dutch).

Midwesterners have no accent (I was in Iowa a few years). The Upper midwest has a distinctive accent because they had a large population of far northern immigrants - Sweden, Denmark, Norway. The movie Fargo heavily uses this accent.

California is a late comer and has no accent (like midwesterners). There was a significant movement to California during the dust bowl. This might explain why they have no accent. John Wayne was born in Iowa. California has developed its own speech patterns (valley girl talk) but most shows created in California do not have a strong northeastern or southeastern accent.

When movies changed from Silent to Speaking many actors/actresses could not make the change due to their heavy accents.

I am sure someone else can find better data for this question, for every region I mentioned I can think of subregions with their own accent - Louisiana (French), Charleston SC (who knows, they just sound weird). There are many accents I could pick out and most people can tell where someone originated by their accent. Although this will probably diminish in the future with the emphasis on national tv and a mobile population.

I tell anyone who is learning English - do not pick up a southern accent. Up north they would assume you are dumb if you have a southern accent. There is nothing stranger than someone from another country saying "Hi y'all". I do not have a thick southern accent in the south but when I go up north people immediately notice and say "Are you from Georgia?".
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#3 Kimchee

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:00 PM

Midwesterners have no accent (I was in Iowa a few years). The Upper midwest has a distinctive accent because they had a large population of far northern immigrants - Sweden, Denmark, Norway. The movie Fargo heavily uses this accent.

California is a late comer and has no accent (like midwesterners). There was a significant movement to California during the dust bowl. This might explain why they have no accent. John Wayne was born in Iowa. California has developed its own speech patterns (valley girl talk) but most shows created in California do not have a strong northeastern or southeastern accent.

I tell anyone who is learning English - do not pick up a southern accent. Up north they would assume you are dumb if you have a southern accent. There is nothing stranger than someone from another country saying "Hi y'all". I do not have a thick southern accent in the south but when I go up north people immediately notice and say "Are you from Georgia?".


Poor scottbajie!

Sounds like you have been teased about your accent! Well, the opposite had happened to me... a Jersey girl going to school in Virginia. So I identify with you. The girls at my school teased me. They'd ask me to say "walk the dog"... or "turn the light off" and they'd laugh and laugh. (Because it sounded like "wawk the dawg." and "turn the light aaaawwwf!" Well, I practiced and practiced and got rid of that accent... however, don't get me angry... you'll hear the "Joisey" come out loud and clear! Ha Ha Ha!

And since I had gone into the broadcasting industry... we had to "clean up" our speech even further to sound like someone who would come from, say, Chicago.

But, I have to disagree with you concerning the mid west and California... my in-laws all came from rural Missouri and they're "o-r's" were pronounced like "a-r's" which initially surprised me because a word like "forty" came out to be "farty"... and yes, I giggled when my mother-in-law said that. Or some words were pronounced differently like the flower, peony. In the East, it's pronounced... "PEE-uh-nee." In Missouri it was "pee-OH-nee."

Also, a friend I knew came from North Dakota where you can definitely hear his Scandinavian lilt come through. His speech was almost sing-songy.

When I lived in San Diego county... I noticed a slightly more nasal sound in Californian's speech... if something was "expensive," it was pronounced "ex-pin-sive."

But one of my secret "games" I like to play when I meet people is to try to detect where they're from by their speech, and try to guess their heritage by their physical attributes. It's quite challenging when most Americans my generation and younger are like Heinz 57! It's fun.

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#4 LongMa

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:40 PM

There is no American or British accent. There is no English accent either.

I will work off of what Scot wrote

The English you here most of the time in America is what we call “Mid Atlantic” it is spoken along the East Coast from Northern Virginia to about south of Philadelphia. One can then argue it is spoken West of Central Pennsylvania pretty much all the way through to California, North or South of that central latitude there are accents:


Upper-southern accent (Tennessee and Kentucky, which to me are the heaviest accents in
America)

Middle Southern (parts of South Central Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina).

Lower Southern – Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi.

Louisiana: The Southern part of Louisiana has its own accent. The North tend to speak like people from the Lower South.

West Southern: Eastern Texas and Okalahoma (maybe Arkansas) seem to share accent.

Southwest: From central Texas on into Arizona, and New Mexico there is an accent.

In the area of the Western Midwest and the Eastern Mountain states, that border Canada there is an accent, it is strongest in South Dakota and Minnesota, it is heavily influenced by Nordic languages (especially Sweden, but also Danish and Norwegian).

One can also argue that Southern California has some type of accent, especially in the “valley” area, but it is isolated to less than a million people or so.

Hawaiin natives of all races have a particular accent and dialect…

Poor Hispanics speak Spanglish…a mix of Spanish and urban lower-class black dialects in the cities around them (this can vary depending on location).

African Americans: Most (maybe 60%) of African Americans have a noticeable accent that developed during slavery in the South but it varied slightly from place to place. As blacks moved North into urban areas and later West the accent consolidated and evolved into what some call “Ebonics”…most Americans can understand what black people from these areas are saying, and this is the common dialect of rap music (that includes more recent slang). Blacks in the South speak an ebonic dialect that is more infused with various Southern white dialects, which makes sense.

That’s about it…besides some Native American or isolated communities.

The Northwest has a range of dialects from Philadelphia to Maine...Boston, Phili, and New York are quite famous for their accents…but New York has several, even in New York the borough of Queens has a distinct accent that New Yorkers recognize.

In the UK dialect changes every 20 miles or so.

How people speak on TV in America is Middle Atlantic English.

How people speak on TV in Britain (like BBC) I’m guessing is some variant of upper-class speech from the counties (South of London)…please someone correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been to London and most people don’t sound like folks on BBC at all. They sound more like people on the TV show Eastenders.


I don't think Standard American English (Mid Atlantic) sounds a bit like Irish or Scottish, I think the dialects of American English that do are in the South, in Appalachia...

Most Americans came from Southern England, but later many people came from Northern England and Southern Scotland, also Scotch-Irish...the latter settled in the Appalachia and the South.

About 50 years later we started to get a lot of Irish Catholics from all over, but usually the poorest areas, they tended to settle in the North, not the South.

[b]American Standard English to me sounds more like the English spoken in Southerns England in the counties but with weaker pronunciation of many consonants.
We often pronounce T as a D sound. We often pronounce "ing" as "in". Sometimes we drop the "T" like in often. We don't usually say "OF-Ten"...it is often more like "Off-in"...

I was born in Ohio in a town that was about 80% white, of Anglo-Saxon and German decent and I've lived in Illinois and now in Northern Virginia so Mid-Atlantic/Mid-Western English is my dialect.

Edited by LongMa, 24 July 2008 - 02:41 PM.

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#5 scottbajie

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:45 PM

My accent never bothered me :clapping: but my sister (who lives in the Boston area and went to those snooty Yankee schools) went to a speech therapist to get rid of her accent.

I wonder if the situation is the same in China? Where one region can tell another by accent and has some built in prejudices?
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#6 MengTzu

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 03:25 PM

I personally feel that American accent was largely evolved and developed from a combination of British, Irish and Scottish accent, followed by some German accent. Some European words such those of Italian, Spanish, French also found their way into American English, when large number of Europeans from the southern parts of Europe migrated to America in late 19th and early 20th century.


A professor of mine at UC Berkeley stated that the rhythm of American English was derived from or influenced by the way African slaves talked centuries ago -- he was not referring to hip hop influence, or people "trying to talk black." He was talking about a much earlier time period: that English in American, generally and historically, is influenced by African slaves brought to American centuries ago. In other words, American accent in general, not just ebonics or "talking black", has influence from African slaves. That being said, still keep in mind that there is a diversity of accents in America.

Edited by MengTzu, 24 July 2008 - 03:30 PM.


#7 Kimchee

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 03:45 PM

A professor of mine at UC Berkeley stated that the rhythm of American English was derived from or influenced by the way African slaves talked centuries ago -- he was not referring to hip hop influence, or people "trying to talk black." He was talking about a much earlier time period: that English in American, generally and historically, is influenced by African slaves brought to American centuries ago. In other words, American accent in general, not just ebonics or "talking black", has influence from African slaves. That being said, still keep in mind that there is a diversity of accents in America.


ie: The American expression "Okay" or "OK" was taken directly from an African word. This from Wikipedia:

In particular, Wolof is a West African language which has had an unusually strong influence upon (once) colloquial English, with well documented examples such as banana, jive, dig (it), yam, and sock (someone), along with the contested hip or hip cat.[20] Importantly, a key study claims Wolof to be an important lingua franca among American slaves.[21]

"Waw" means "yes" and the suffix "-kay" or "-kai" adds emphasis. A simplistic word-for-word translation of Wolof's "wawkay" is "yes [emphatically]" or "yes, indeed"; but better usage translations would be "I agree", "I'll comply", "that's good", "that's right", or "all correct". The consonance of this last translation with the first documented usage of okay could be significant, or could be coincidence. However, okay's colloquial rather than formal usage strongly coincides with other Wolof words which have migrated documentedly into the American version of the English language, and its earliest documented usage is explicitly colloquial, not to say jocular. Significantly, the emergence of okay in white Americans' vocabulary dates from a period when many refugees from Southern slavery were arriving in the North of America, where the word was first documented.


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#8 kaiselin

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 04:16 PM

The regional accents from all along the East coast are remnants of the accents of the original settlers. Most of the time when the early settlers chose to come over to America the boat load of them would have come from one particular village or a small region in the British Isles. All along the coast in the more rural areas you will still find variations of accents that can be directly traced back to the exact village the first settlers came from. I read a book on it many years ago and found it quite fascinating.

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#9 MengTzu

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 04:50 PM

ie: The American expression "Okay" or "OK" was taken directly from an African word.


Don't you mean "E.g." as opposed to "I.e."? Just wonderng. Sorry for nitpicking.

Edited by MengTzu, 24 July 2008 - 04:51 PM.


#10 LongMa

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 08:57 PM

A professor of mine at UC Berkeley stated that the rhythm of American English was derived from or influenced by the way African slaves talked centuries ago -- he was not referring to hip hop influence, or people "trying to talk black." He was talking about a much earlier time period: that English in American, generally and historically, is influenced by African slaves brought to American centuries ago. In other words, American accent in general, not just ebonics or "talking black", has influence from African slaves. That being said, still keep in mind that there is a diversity of accents in America.



I am not sure about that, I think definately it had some effect, more so in the last 100 years than before. In the 19th century, at least since the Jazz error "talking black" was cool...most American slang started in black communities.

Hip
cat
cool
"bad"

and a host of other common slang started with blacks.

Jazz was black slang for having an orgasm...they said that is what the music sound like. :clapping:

When my grandfather was a child they started calling each other "man" because whites in the South called any black male a "boy" even if he was 80 years old.

So they would call each other "man" in indirect defiance.

Now almost all Americans say things like "hey man...oh man..." that was not normal for whites to say in the 1920's or even 1930's.

Whites also (especially in the South) say "hey brother"...blacks started saying that in the 1960's and it even spread to the UK with the hippy movement, blacks would say this actually starting in the 1950's during the Civil Rights movement, but the 1960's it was pretty standard for a black man to say "what's up brother" to another black man and "what's up sister"...similar to how Koreans refer to each other as brother and sister I guess (which I found interesting).

As far as rhythm of speech, I don't know...I'm no linguist, but I don't think so...if it is true maybe more in the South. If you want to hear how people of West African decent spoke English with limited white influence go to the Carribean...Jamaica is a good place but also some of the smaller islands. They have a definite non-IndoEuropean rhythm to their speech and the grammar is slightly different as well as tense and sex. I find Jamaican Patois very hard to understand, if Jamaicans are not trying to speak "standard" and speaking to each other I can probably only understand about 25% of what they are saying.

http://en.wikipedia....Jamaican_Creole

* Three men swam.
o /tri man did a suim/
* I nearly hit him
o /a didn mek dʒuok fi lik im/[32]
* He can't beat me, he simply got lucky and won.
o /im kiaan biit mi, a dʒos bokop im bokop an win/[33]
* Those children are disobedient
o /dem pikni de aad iez/
* What are you doing?
o /we ju a du/
* /siin/ - Affirmative particle[34]
* /papiˈʃuo/ - Foolish exhibition, a person who makes a foolish exhibition of themself, or an exclamation of surprise.[35]
* /dem/ 'them' (also indicates plural when placed after a noun)
* /se/ 'that' (conjunction for relative clauses)
* /disia/ 'this' (used before nouns)
* /ooman/ 'woman'
* /buai/ 'boy'
* /gial/ 'girl'


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#11 frithbjorn

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 12:06 AM

The American English accent was affected more by the native americans, listen to the way an american inuit (indian) speaks, compare to an american, add a dash of gaelic/english/Norse you have yourself an american accent....

Specifically, for example, in the film "dances with wolves" you will receive authentic ancient indian accent in this film because the natives are original descendents and are still fluent in those native tonges...

Notice in the scene when they are exchanging information about the buffalo, the indian word is "ta-tonk-a" when he pronounces the english word buffalo, it comes out.. "buff-a-low" very clearly american accents, barely off key at all... because american indians have the basic american accent... naturally because they more less invented it....

The other benefit to this film as an example is the indians generally speak rather slowly, as is acceptible in their respective tongues...

The american indians were assimilated, but we whites were also assimilated, for example, I am a white, blue eyed, blonde haired american... but my grandmother was half cherokee indian, her father was a red skinned cherokee, tall, slim, black hair, handsome and proud with slight asian/inuit features... although I cannot remember his accents... her accents are an example of those grandmothers of the early years that affected us here in america with their original american accents...

#12 William O'Chee

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 05:14 AM

England has a variety of different regional accents. The same is true to a lesser extent in Ireland and Scotland. The American accent is originally drived from an amalgam of some of these regional accents or dialects of English.

For those who are interested, Melvyn Bragg does a very good explanation of this in his book The Story of English.

#13 Boleslaw I

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 03:44 AM

England has a variety of different regional accents. The same is true to a lesser extent in Ireland and Scotland. The American accent is originally drived from an amalgam of some of these regional accents or dialects of English.

For those who are interested, Melvyn Bragg does a very good explanation of this in his book The Story of English.


Just from a perspective of a second speaker who have relentless struggled with IELTS and TOEFL IBt, British accent sounds a bit hard to listen to, while American accent is a bit easier. And then Australian is just...
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#14 kaiselin

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 08:46 AM

The American English accent was affected more by the native americans, listen to the way an american inuit (indian) speaks, compare to an american, add a dash of gaelic/english/Norse you have yourself an american accent....

Specifically, for example, in the film "dances with wolves" you will receive authentic ancient indian accent in this film because the natives are original descendents and are still fluent in those native tonges...

Notice in the scene when they are exchanging information about the buffalo, the indian word is "ta-tonk-a" when he pronounces the english word buffalo, it comes out.. "buff-a-low" very clearly american accents, barely off key at all... because american indians have the basic american accent... naturally because they more less invented it....

The other benefit to this film as an example is the indians generally speak rather slowly, as is acceptible in their respective tongues...

The american indians were assimilated, but we whites were also assimilated, for example, I am a white, blue eyed, blonde haired american... but my grandmother was half cherokee indian, her father was a red skinned cherokee, tall, slim, black hair, handsome and proud with slight asian/inuit features... although I cannot remember his accents... her accents are an example of those grandmothers of the early years that affected us here in america with their original american accents...



Interesting post, I have never heard this before and I am stunned that it has been over looked. How typically arrogant of white American not to give credit where credit is due.

All you have to do is look at many American city and river names to realize how much influence the Native Americans actually had on our language.

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#15 liuzg150181

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 09:32 AM

Just from a perspective of a second speaker who have relentless struggled with IELTS and TOEFL IBt, British accent sounds a bit hard to listen to, while American accent is a bit easier. And then Australian is just...

I concur with your sentiment,sometimes I thought it sounds too 'high-brow' and pretentious~~~ :b_woot:




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