Assorted late thoughts on accents
Posted by Linden on April 30, 1998 at 19:51:03:
In response to To Hilary (just in case you're still interested:-), written by Andrea Jutson on April 24, 1998 at 05:47:15
] what do you think of that, Linden!!
Sorry I've only just read this posting. Here's my 2c worth on various topics.
Singing accents. When you sing, you often hold the vowel for a while. When it's a diphthong, that means that you have to hold only one of the parts of the vowel. (Technical term: Diphthongs are vowel sounds made up of two or more single sounds, such as the -ou- in house, which is an -ah- followed by an -oo-. Sorry, I'm trying to write this in the normal alphabet, rather than phonetic script). This means that the vowels sound different from normal speech, and, since it is mainly vowels that distinguish accents, it seems as though there's a special singing accent. BTW, languages which don't have much in the way of diphthongs are often thought of as better for singing, especially if they also don't have many strings of consonants either. Italian and Maori are good examples of languages that are thought "musical".
Are the Kiwi and Oz accents getting closer? Personally I don't believe it. In the thirties, when film & radio came, linguists were saying that regional accents would disappear. This hasn't happened: if anything they've become re-inforced, since people with regional accents are being heard more widely (Michael Cain and Sean Connery, for example). To an outsider, there's very little difference between the two. It's only the Kiwi "fush and chups" that's at all noticeable. I doubt if anyone not brought up saying that Kiwi "I" would do it unless they were deliberately parodying the Kiwis.
The American r: pronouncing the r after a vowel when there is no following vowel, so that there is a difference in sound between "father" and "farther". In fact, it's not just American: there are plenty of other accents in Britain which pronounce the r. It came into fashionable speech in Britain in the 18th century and spread. Apparently you can take a guess at when islands in the West Indies were colonised by the British by noticing whether they pronounce the r: the islands colonised early do, but the ones colonised later do not. Australia and New Zealand were colonised after the loss of the r pronunciation, which is why they don't do it. Jane Austen would probably not have pronounced it.
And incidentally: about the only difference between Educated Australian and Educated British is that there are two unstressed vowel sounds in Pom where there is only one in Oz. This is best noticed when listening to the commentary on the Ashes: the Poms say crickIt where the Ozzies say crickUt. There is the story of the Australian newsreader who got a job in Britain. Nobody could tell where he was from, until the day when he was dragged over the coals for saying that the Queen "chattered" to the crowd: if he'd been a Pom he would have said she "chatted". The Queen is allowed to chat, but not to chatter.
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