Accents are weird


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I have always wondered why people have accents. Why cant I look at a Spanish word, with all the same letters as the English alphabet, and pronounce it right? Also, why is it that all the kids in my class are pronouncing the words wrong in the same way?

 

I found out on the Linguistic Society of America's website (http://www.linguisticsociety.org/files/Accent.pdf) that when people are learning a second language they have trouble with sounds that are not used in their primary language. In English we don't have any words that requires us to roll our R's so that is why we struggle with rolling them when we are trying to learn Spanish.

 

My next question was, why then do people from England speak English differently than Americans? This is because during the British Industrial Revolution the newly rich wanted to differentiate themselves from commoners and simply just started talking that way and it eventually became the norm. You can see where I got this information and other interesting facts here (http://www.livescience.com/33652-americans-brits-accents.html).

 

As I was doing more research into this subject I found one study, published in the British Journal of Social and Clinical psychology, looked into the social perceptions of different accents. What they found was that people generally look down on those who have a stereotypical low-class accent. You can read about the finer details of the study here (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1980.tb00348.x/abstract).

 

For me this all makes perfect sense now. Naturally, the newly rich want to seem better than the less fortunate and create a new accent. Because of the study mentioned above we know that people respond negatively to a low-class accent. So, over time I can see why the new British accent became the norm because people don't want to associate with a low-class accent. That's a pretty interesting connection between the history of our language and a modern day study.  

4 Comments

This is funny because Andrew speaks in an English accent. It really interesting how that there is many different accents in Britain that were all based from the same thing. Just different dialects. In Korea its the same. The same language, but different dialects. There is a poor mans dialect and a cosmopolitan rich mans dialect in Korea as well but it is not socially unequal anymore and all dialects are viewed as equals. Accents are awesome.

Awesome video of a guy speaking in like 24 different accents.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dABo_DCIdpM

Accents have always been fascinating to me. One of the things that has particularly been interesting to me is why some accents sound "sexy" or why some accents sound absolutely heinous. The following article by CNN Shares the World's most sexy accent, do you agree?

http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/worlds-sexiest-accents-130333

I have always loved accents and although I am from Boston, I sadly don't have an accent. I came across a study that talked about whether having a foreign accent effects men and women differently. According to the study, female candidates with international accents are less likely to be hired than a female with an American accent. This does not apply to men and studies have not been done as to why this is. To read more about this click the link below!

http://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-043012-143024/unrestricted/Accent_Study_Final_Report.pdf

For me, this explains why rich people in movies often have a British accent. While this is not always the case, the upper class in movies like cartoons and those with common storylines also follow this pattern. I believe this is due to the fact that, as you mentioned, accents can be associated with social class and a British accent is usually associated with those who are well off. I had never really noticed that trend until recently when I really thought about it.

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