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At a party one night a visitor from another country remarks that "You don't have so strong an accent as your friends". You had previously believed that you had no accent and that you spoke like your friends, but the statement helps you to realize that you carry a regional accent, just like everyone else around you. What explanation could you offer your visitor for why you never realized that fact before and why you really do have an accent just like the one your friends have?
What explanation could you offer your visitor for why you never realized that fact before?
What explanation could you offer your visitor for why you really do have an accent just like the one your friends have?
1) Why I never realised that:
a) I had no accent.
b) My accent is not as strong as my friends.
c) I have an accent just like one of my friends.
WHY I NEVER REALISED THAT I HAD AN ACCENT.
Most people don't realize that they have an accent because they are accustom to the pronunciation and rhythm of speech in their country. It sounds normal hearing other Trinidadian speak.
Whenever I meet foreigners, it intrigues me to hear their accent and I try to figure out which country they are from.
Hearing a foreigner's accent sounds strange to me because it is not the norm in my place of abode.
Although most people have an accent they do not acknowledge this greatly.
We live in a society where mostly everyone speaks and sounds the same, with the exception of foreigners and those with speak difficulties.
We always consider the main accent as normal and any other accent as funny or strange.
I never realized this because I lived my entire in Trinidad and never travelled or lived abroad where my accent was not the popular.
Hearing you speak to me makes me realize that the way I speak
Everyone has an accent.
Some readers might think, 'No shit! That's obvious!'
But it's not obvious, smart arse.
A survey held in Britain in 2005 revealed that 7% of respondents don't believe they have an accent.
I would claim that the actual figure is even much higher than that.
We're all prisoners of our own culture.
Living within a society, we're surrounded and bombarded by a majority accent.
To us, that accent sounds natural and other accents sound different.
Sometimes we confuse the familiar accent as being 'right', and the different ones as being 'wrong'.
It may sound silly, but I never realised I had an accent until I set foot in England at age 25.
Having lived in Trinidad for my whole life, to me when Trinis spoke it sounded normal.
But in England, as soon as I said something people would look at me.
The funny thing too is that I had to learn what my accent sounded like by listening to my other Trini friends, and still I didn't think they had an accent.
Then I realised I had to listen to intonations of how Trinidadians spoke.
Some people change their accents to blend in. However, I think my accent got even thicker, as my way to hold on to my Caribbean identity, and I revelled in speaking Trinidadian Creole (which is a dialect that was formed by slaves mixing English with their own language, and includes unique words and sayings). People say Trinidadians' accent sounds happy. To quote a previous boss, she said it sounded like a lilt.
When I speak Standard English people understand it quite well. Like Paull says, it depends on how it's delivered; it's the slang/ dialect that can confuse people. I've spoken with Paull, and another Aussie and had no problems understanding them. Seems they understood me quite well also, and our accents are quite different.
Ask A Linguist FAQ
What is an accent?
An accent is a way of pronouncing a language. It is therefore impossible to speak without an accent.
Some people may think they do not have an accent. Or you may think that there are other people who do not have an accent. Everyone has an accent. The term 'accentless' is sometimes used (by non-linguists) about people who speak one of the high prestige 'reference' accents (such as 'General American' or, less commonly, 'RP'), which are associated with people from a fairly wide region and with people of high social class. But these are also accents. I will mention them again later in this FAQ.
MY ACCENT IS NOT AS STRONG AS MY FRIENDS
Accents don't just vary at the level of nationality (e.g., Aussie) or region (e.g., Boston). They also vary with the individual (e.g., you). Your accent is a 'fingerprint', a totally unique, distinctive way of talking (linguists call this an 'idiolect'). It isn't fixed though. It can change, with the right combination of influence and interest.
Recently, some twit asked me, "Why don't you sound American yet?" Okay, I've been in the States for two and a half years now, and my accent now sounds a little different to me. But, by contrast, this difference is generally imperceptible to Americans (and non-linguists). Your accent does leave a Hansel and Gretel-like trail of where you've been. Obviously, it takes awhile for a new accent to 'kick in'. Other factors can influence this process too, whether you want to adopt an accent (convergence) or don't want to adopt it (divergence).
Accents are like 'tracking devices' that can reveal where you've been. The field of Forensic Linguistics investigates this area. In August 2005, a militant video of an al-Qaeda fighter was found. A forensic linguist was able to determine several aspects of the fighter's identity, that he had been raised in Australia and possibly had parents of Middle Eastern descent. This area is useful in legal cases, especially for identification, transcription and in authenticating recordings.
Certain accents are perceived to carry more prestige in a society than other accents. This is often due to their association with the elite part of society. For example in the United Kingdom, Received Pronunciation of the English language is associated with the traditional upper class.
I HAVE AN ACCENT JUST LIKE ONE OF MY FRIENDS
Another twit drives around with a bumper sticker on his SUV proclaiming: 'Welcome to America. Nowâ€¦speak English or get out!' What a funny fuck! This pseudo-patriotic, prejudiced twit has no control over who speaks what and where. This is a dynamic process that he can only witness. American English may be the fastest growing version of Englishâ€¦but Spanish is the fastest growing language in Americaâ€¦
So, accents can reveal our regional origins, but they can also suggest what kind of social circles we move in. Compare the Queen of England's accent to that of a miner in Yorkshire. Accent can also provide info about your economic background and education. Stop practicing your accentâ€¦I can hear you right now!
As human beings spread out into isolated communities, stresses and peculiarities develop. Over time these can develop into identifiable accents. In North America, the interaction of people from many ethnic backgrounds contributed to the formation of the different varieties of North American accents. It is difficult to measure or predict how long it takes an accent to formulate. Accents in the USA, Canada and Australia, for example, developed from the combinations of different accents and languages in various societies, and the effect of this on the various pronunciations of the British settlers, yet North American accents remain more distant, either as a result of time or of external or "foreign" linguistic interaction, such as the Italian accent.
In many cases, the accents of non-English settlers from Great Britain and Ireland affected the accents of the different colonies quite differently. Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants had accents which greatly affected the vowel pronunciation of certain areas of Australia and Canada
When a group defines a standard pronunciation, speakers who deviate from it are often said to "speak with an accent". People from the United States would "speak with an accent" from the point of view of an Australian, and vice versa. Accents such as BBC English or General American may sometimes be erroneously designated in their countries of origin as "accentless" to indicate that they offer no obvious clue to the speaker's regional background.
Groups sharing an identifiable accent may be defined by any of a wide variety of common traits. An accent may be associated with the region in which its speakers reside (a geographical accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language (when the language in which the accent is heard is not their native language), and so on.
Regional accents of English
Local accents are part of local dialects. Any dialect of English has unique features in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. The term "accent" describes only the first of these, namely, pronunciation. See also: List of dialects of the English language.
Non-native speakers of English tend to carry over the intonation and phonemic inventory from their mother tongue into their English speech. For more details see Non-native pronunciations of English.
Among native English speakers, many different accents exist. Some regional accents are easily identified by certain characteristics. Further variations are to be found within the regions identified below; for example, towns located less than 10 miles (16Â km) from the city of Manchester such as Bolton, Oldham and Salford, each have distinct accents, all of which form the Lancashire accent, yet in extreme cases are different enough to be noticed even by a non-local listener. There is also much room for misunderstanding between people from different regions, as the way one word is pronounced in one accent (for example, petal in American English) will sound like a different word in another accent (for example, pearl in Scottish English).
Your accent results from how, where, and when you learned the language you are speaking and it gives impressions about you to other people. People do not have a single fixed accent which is determined by their experiences. We can control the way we speak, and do, both consciously and unconsciously. Most people vary their accent depending on who they are speaking with. We change our accents, often without noticing, as we have new life experiences.
How accurate people are in knowing about you from your accent depends not only on the features of your accent, but also on who the listener is, and what they know about the other people who speak with a similar accent to you.
Your accent might be one that is associated with people from a particular place (for example, with being from New York, London, or Delhi). Some people might just hear you as simply being from the US, England, or India. Your accent might give the impression that you spoke some other language before the one you are speaking at the moment (you might speak French with an English accent, or English with a Korean accent). It's impossible to speak without conveying some information through your accent.
All languages are spoken with several different accents. There is nothing unusual about English. And not everyone who comes from the same place speaks the same: in any place there is a variety of accents.
Language changes over time. We get new words, there are grammatical changes, and accents change over time. If you listen to recordings made by people from your own language community 100 years ago, you will hear for yourself that even over that time accents have changed. Try out some of the links from the Spoken Word Archive Group , for example.
Why do languages develop different accents?
Human nature. In all sorts of ways, we behave like those we mix with. We are members of social groups, and within our social group we like to behave in similar ways and show that we belong. We do this in language as well as in other ways (e.g. what we wear, what we eat).
When groups become distinct, the way they speak becomes distinct too. This happens socially and geographically, but is easiest to illustrate by geographical differences. If a single group splits into two (imagine that one half goes to Island A and one half to Island B), then once they have separated, their accents will change over time, but not in the same way, so that after just one generation the accent of Island A will be different from the accent of Island B. If they stay completely separated for centuries, their dialects may become so different that we will start wanting to say they are speaking two different languages.
Why are the accents a particular place like they are?
Separate development accounts for some accent variation. But sometimes we need to talk about the first generation of speakers of a particular language brought up in a new place. The first children to grow up in a new place are very important. The children who grow up together are a 'peer group'. They want to speak the same as each other to express their group identity. The accent they develop as they go through their childhood will become the basis for the accents of the new place. So where does their accent come from?
The first generation of children will draw on the accents of the adults around them, and will create something new. If people move to a new place in groups (as English speakers did to America, Australia and New Zealand) that group usually brings several different accents with them. The children will draw on the mixture of accents they hear and create their own accent out of what they hear. The modern accents of Australia are more similar to London accents of English than to any other accent from England -- this is probably because the founder generation (in the eighteenth century) had a large component drawn from the poor of London, who were transported to Australia as convicts. The accents of New Zealand are similar to Australian accents because a large proportion of the early English-speaking settlers of New Zealand came from Australia.
The mix found in the speech of the settlers of a new place establishes the kind of accent that their children will develop. But the first generation born in the new place will not keep the diversity of their parents' generation -- they will speak with similar accents to the others of their age group. And if the population grows slowly enough, the children will be able to absorb subsequent children into their group, so that even quite large migrations of other groups (such as Irish people into Australia) will not make much difference to the accent of the new place. Most parents know this. If someone from New York (US) marries someone from Glasgow (Scotland, UK), and these two parents raise a child in Leeds (England, UK), that child will not speak like either of the parents, but will speak like the children he (I know of such a child!) is at school with.
By Shiromi Nassreen, eHow Contributor
When we hear a voice, one of the first things we might notice is a person's accent, particularly if that accent happens to be different from our own. If we can't see the person, we may even come to conclusions based on the accent. Accents can give us perceptions about a person that are not always accurate, such as how intelligent the person is or how much money he makes.
What is an Accent?
1. An accent is the way in which a person pronounces a word in a language. Accents are caused by a number of factors, primarily the region that someone is from, where he learned to speak the language and his social background. However, despite that fact that accents tend to give away information regarding a person's background, accents can be changed. In fact, people will often unknowingly change their accents to fit their current location and social group. Some believe that they don't have an accent because it is a more commonly known accent such as the General American accent or the British Received Pronunciation typically seen on television; however, it is still an accent.
The Origin of Accents
2. Accents develop and change naturally over time. However, a primary cause for the changing of an accent is when groups of people migrate to new locations. People will usually speak with the same accent as their peers. This helps to create a group identity. When groups migrate, such as the settlers of North America, they find themselves among a group where a variety of languages and accents is being spoken. The children of that group will draw on the accents spoken around them and develop a new accent.
Accents and Development
3. Accents are often developed during childhood. Generally, children often find it easier to pick up accents. If a child whose parents are from England moves to Australia, the child is unlikely to speak with an English accent, speaking instead with the accent of the child's peers. However, should the child as an adult later wish to change her accent, that is also possible.
Accents and Social Factors
4. Accents can not only indicate a region that a person is from but also that person's social background. Often certain accents are stereotypically associated with a certain class. British Received Pronunciation is usually associated with the upper class and a well-educated person. According to a study at Bath Spa University, the "Brummie" accent of Birmingham is thought to be the least intelligent of all the British regional accents studied. However, a person unfamiliar with these stereotypes--an American, for example--would not have the same perceptions of the accent.