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English Language Accents (American, Brit, Aus)

Amitabh Sharma
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British and American english sounds so different.
How come? Because as far as I know most Americans must have come from England.
Do all americans speak the same accent?
Is the austrailian and british english accent identical?
Can some one throw some light on this.
Michael Morris
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Do all americans speak the same accent?
Hell naw boy. Down hyere'n Texas we talk th' reeel Anglish.


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Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Amitabh Sharma:
Because as far as I know most Americans must have come from England.

That may have been true 200 years ago but it is far from true today. Americans are a mix of all European nations (I'm Swedish and Czech, my wife is Irish), Asian nations (Chinese have been coming to America in large numbers since the 1800's), and African nations (the first African slaves were brought to the New World in the 1600's). I doubt that there is a nation on the planet that does not have some representation among the American citizenry. I'll bet those with English ancestry are one of the smallest groups in the USA.


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Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Amitabh Sharma:
Do all americans speak the same accent?

In the play, "Pygmalion," Henry Higgins states that he can tell what street in London a person grew up on by their accent. The same can almost be said of the US. Even within the city of New York there are different accents (haven't you ever heard of the Brooklyn accent). People in the south have the Southern drawl. Texans have that Texas twang.
Randall Twede
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    2


Do all americans speak the same accent?

there are quite a few accents in the US. however there IS kind of a universal "no accent" it is what tv news casters sound like. here on the west coast we tend to think there is no regional accents. a ccents are mainly on the east coast and in the south.


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Marcus Green
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Ancestory and accent can be a very flexible concept. I remember talking to a person in Australia who said he was Irish. I found this rather surprising as she had no trace of Irish accent.
What part of Ireland do you come from I asked. Ahh, he wasn't born or bought up in Ireland but his father was Irish. Oh, what part of Ireland did he come from. Ah, actually it was a grandfather that came from Ireland. OK, so what about his other grandparents, whereabouts in Ireland did they come from. Well actually all other grandparents were from Engalnd.
Now call me narrow and old fasioned but having 3 out of four grandparents from England and both parents coming from England and being born and bought up in Australia doesn't seem to make a person particularly Irish.
So, I did a little figuring and decided that according to where the wind was blowing I would describe myself as French, Dutch, Irish, English, Scottish and seeing as I have an Australian passport I'll throw in a touch of underarm bowling.
But to go back to the original question about accent, one of the glories of English in my view are the varieties of accent. The UK has an awesome variety of accents, and though Shaw may have been exaggerating that it was possible to recognize a persons origin down to the street, he was only exaggerating a little.
The USA has some regional variations (new yawk, the south etc), the differences are not as varied or as wide as the UK. And Australia has very little variety of accent. In the UK the most excellent comedians of "Goodness Gracious Me", do a good job of pinning down the speach and accent of British Indians.
An experienced ear can spot the difference between a New Zealander and an Australian in about one sentance, yet to others they sound alike. I always feel that if unless an Actor can really, really perfectly mimic an accent they should stick with their original.
In the UK if you are talking about accent and you say "Dick Van Dyke", you need say no more. He did the worlds worst cockney accent in the movie Mary Poppins. Thus when Kevin Costner stuck to his american accent as Robin Hood we all thought fine and dandy its Kevin playing Robin Hood. If he had done a bad UK accent anyone in the UK would have wanted to hide under the seat at the sound of his voice.
Two incredible exceptions to the rule against doing foreign accents are Rene Zelweggler and Gweneth Paltrow who can do an absolutly flawless British accent. Er, now what was the quesiton....?


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John Wetherbie
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The "no accent" is considered "midwestern" in the US and I'd guess central Canadian in Canada. Or are Manitoba, Sask (oh forget it. I'd have to look up the spelling) considered midwestern?
Australian and English accents are different. Hard to describe how, though. Australian accents sound "flatter"?


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Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
The USA has some regional variations (new yawk, the south etc), the differences are not as varied or as wide as the UK.
Maybe it is what you are used to. I can tell what part of NY state a person is from by their accent. Every borough of NYC has a unique accent. Long Island (or Lung-eye-len as we pronounce it - just say it quick and slur it all together) has a unique accent. Upstaters have different accents, too. Depending on what part of upstate you come from your accent might be a bit New England or Canada or Pennsylvania.
Jason Menard
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And why does every actor who tries to pull off a New England accent end up sounding like the Kennedy's or the guy from the old Pepperidge Farm commercials? :roll:
Coming from southern New England, the accent where I'm from lies midway between a New York accent and a Boston accent. We speak quickly, run our words together, and drop most of our r's when they immediately follow a vowel. So a sentence like "What are you looking at?" comes off sounding like "Whudahyoulookinat?". The Boston and northern New England (swamp yankee) accents are quite a bit different sounding to me.
When I lived in the UK (Suffolk), I was told by some of my Brit friends that I was easier to understand with my accent than many other Americans were.
Marcus Green
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I suspect that being able to closely identify a persons origins down to the borough is more the exception than the rule in the US.
Marcus Green
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Shurley the way to mimick New England is to listen to Mayor (diamond joe) Quimby?
Marilyn de Queiroz
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My maternal grandparents were Austrian (not Australian), and my paternal grandmother was Hungarian. My paternal great-grandfather was from Ireland.

There are people from New Yawk and people who have the idear that they're from Boston.

And don't forget the people from Colaradah.


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Thomas Paul
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In New Yawk we lost the "r" but I found it in "Warshington DC" which is how the natives down there say the name of our capital city.
John Wetherbie
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Hmm, when I moved from Illinois (the s is silent. no really!) to Florida the other kids made fun of me because I said "warsh" instead of "wash". I've since lost that "ar" for "ah" sound thing.
Maybe you were hanging around a bunch of transplanted midwesterners in DC, Thomas!
Michael Morris
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I said "warsh"
That's common in Oklahoma too.
Michael Morris
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Some of my friends from south Louisiana pronounce the word "ice" as "ass". That's just wierd.
Andrew Monkhouse
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Amitabh: British and American english sounds so different.
How come? Because as far as I know most Americans must have come from England.

Over time, one person in "location x" will start pronouncing a word differently than those in location "y". The people near that person will also start using the different pronunciation. Because of the distances involved, the people in location "y" will not hear the different intonations. When they do eventually get to hear the (much) changed pronunciation, they do not copy it because it just sounds so wrong.
The distances do not need to be great. There just has to be a divide (which can be cultural as much as physical) to separate the two peoples.
I understand there is a village in the French alps where the primary language is Italian. Apparently during the middle ages, the native French in the village were wiped out, and the French from the surrounding area shunned the village from then onwards. Sometime after that, some migrating Italians found an empty village just waiting for them. With no need to speak French day to day, they stuck with their native Italian.
Is the austrailian and british english accent identical?
Nope - far from it. And many Aussies will be offended if you confuse them with a POME (pronounced pomie, meaning Prisoner Of Mother England) The Aussie accent is much broader and more nasely. I have heard an explanation that this is due to generations of Aussies keeping their mouths as closed as possible, even when talking, due to the heat / flies. I do not know if that is true.
Randall: there IS kind of a universal "no accent" it is what tv news casters sound like
Well, an news caster from one part of USA sounds similar to a news caster from another part of USA. And a news caster from one part of Australia sounds similar to a news caster from another part of Australia. But you can usually hear the difference if you listen to the two straight after each other.
Marcus: I remember talking to a person in Australia who said he was ...
I wonder how much this is an Australian phenomenon. For some time now, it has been popular in Australia to be able to trace your roots back to a convict transported here.
I know my mother associates herself with the Scots (we do have a Scotish ancestor somewhere), while her sister is just as adamant about being Irish. Despite both of them being third generation Australians.
Marcus: And Australia has very little variety of accent.
Being Australian, I can always pick the difference between a country Australian, and one from the city. I can usually also pick whether a city person is from Melbourne/Sydney or Brisbane or Perth. I cannot tell the difference between Melbourne and Sydney (until we start talking about football or beer ) and I am not very good at picking people from Adelaide, Darwin or Hobart.
Kiwis (New Zealander's) are very easy to pick once you know what to listen for
Jason: Coming from southern New England ... We drop most of our r's
Aussies also tend to do this. When I was living in Holland, I had to go to two schools: one to learn Dutch, and the other to learn how to pronounce the letter R The other students in the second class were two Aussies and a Kiwi.
Regards, Andrew


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SJ Adnams
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and though Shaw may have been exaggerating that it was possible to recognize a persons origin down to the street, he was only exaggerating a little.

This is true. Apparenty in Swindon (small english town) the locals can tell which street you're from by your accent.
Marcus Green
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Randall: there IS kind of a universal "no accent" it is what tv news casters sound like
Well that depends on what you consider unerversal to be. There may be an accepted speach pattern for newscasters but I would suggest it does not come into the category of "no accent".
Thus if I hear a "no accent" US newscaster I will probably say, "ahh they have an american reading the news". In the UK it used to be that news readers would have a "received pronounciation" accent, which is a slightly posh southern UK accent. It is an accepted accent that most people understand but certainly not "no accent".
In recent years we have had more "regional" accents on the media, and interestingly two of the most popular accents in England are from Edinburgh Scotland and Eire (republic of Ireland).
I remember many years ago when in the US being asked why it was that when I sang I had "no accent". The reason behind this question is that like many british people when I sing (particularly american songs) I tend to mimick the original "mid atlantic" accent. To the American listener it seemed that I had "no accent" when I sang, because my words were pronounced more similarly to how they would have used them.

On the slightly broader issue of US/UK use of words and the changes to the English language over the years, I recommend reading Bill Bryson. Actually I recommend reading just about everything Bill Bryson ever writes. He is from the US, but if we are ever short of a head of state in the UK I'm sure he could get appointed unopposed.
Marcus
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
In recent years we have had more "regional" accents on the media, and interestingly two of the most popular accents in England are from Edinburgh Scotland and Eire (republic of Ireland)

Its strange how some accents become fashionable. I remember when Vic Reeves Big Night Out first hit the telly along with The Word. Suddenly everyone was talking Northern and Manc and thinking it was really funny/cool. If you wanted to be funny you'd just say a regular thing in a Northern accent. Bizarre.
Amitabh Sharma
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Thanks to all esp. Marcus, Thomas, Randall, John, Andrew.
I am surprised to find out that there are so many accents. To me all US english sounds the same.
I cannot differentiate b/w UK and Australian English either.
I assumed that after watching the same TV programs and movies for decades everyone in the US would speak the same English. Not so. I know Jay Leno makes fun of Southern accent of Al Gore. I thought southern and northern were the only two accents. Apparently there are more variations within the US itself.
In India we name the major accents such Awadhi, Hariyanwi, Bhojpuri and so on are all accents of Hindi language. I guess there must be names for major accents in English too.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
In the UK it used to be that news readers would have a "received pronounciation" accent, which is a slightly posh southern UK accent.

I love the word "posh". It is never used in the US but we hear it on the British comedies on public TV.
Marcus Green
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I once said to an Irish person that it surprised me that Ireland should have two such strongly contrasting accents, that of the northern and Ulster counties and those of the south. The Irish person thought this was amusing, as his ears could distinguish many, many different accents.
With reference to naming accents, they tend (in the UK), to be based on the regions,i.e. a Yorkshire or Manchester accent but not exclusivly, thus you can have a Jordie accent, a Scouse accent, a Brummie Accent, a Cockney accent, and I'm sure other people can supply similar names.
Andrew Monkhouse
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Thomas: I love the word "posh". It is never used in the US but we hear it on the British comedies on public TV.
I love finding out where words come from.
The reason posh is not used in USA or Australia is that is it a carry over from when the English used to holiday in Egypt / Affrica and countries around there.
When sailing down, to get the best sunshine you had your cabin / seating on the port side. On the return you had your cabin on the starboard side:
Port Out Starboard Home
Shorthand for this for the boat crew was POSH. Of course, only the rich, or those who wanted to appear rich could afford the best cabins, so the name became synonymous.
More on the idea of languages evolving, creating new words and different accents. I have been told that the French look down at people from Quebec (sp?), Canada because the French spoken in France has evolved and the French believing the Quebec people speak antiquated French.
There was also an uproar in England a couple of years back when a university in Australia did some language hueristics on the Queen of England's speaches from when she was crowned (50 years ago) to now, and then published a report on how much "Queen's English" had changed. The English were not concerned with the fact that it had changed, they were just upset that Aussies (with their accents!) should dare to comment on an English accent .
Regards, Andrew
Marcus Green
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The explanation of the word POSH as being Port Out Startboard Home is very widely known, many poeple will relate it if asked. However it has no basis in fact.
I have never heard of that analysis of the language used by the Queen of UK. I do not believe that her language is particularly representative of the English language commonly used by the population of the UK? Her speech patterns are probably representative of a very small %age of the UK population.
Andrew Monkhouse
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Marcus: I have never heard of that analysis of the language used by the Queen of UK.
Here's a BBC report on it: BBC News: Queen's speech 'less posh'. I dont have a link to the original analysis. I just remember watching BBC and ITV at the time and hearing a lot of derisionary comments from English scholars, along the lines of: "a) so what, and b) who do these Australians think they are".
Have you heard any other explanations for posh?
Regards, Andrew
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Andrew Monkhouse:
Have you heard any other explanations for posh?

From http://www.wordorigins.org/wordorp.htm
Port Out, Starboard Home
...
Unfortunately for this excellent story, no tickets with Posh stamped on them have been found and company records reveal no sign of the phrase.

Posh dates back to at least 1867 in the sense of meaning a dandy or fop. The best guess as to its origin is that it derives from Romani, the language of the Rom (commonly known as Gypsies). In Romani, posh means half and is used in monetary terms like posh-houri or half-pence, and posh-kooroona meaning half-crown. The progression from money to a fancy dresser to swank is logical, if undocumented. Alternatively, Partridge postulates that the "swanky" meaning of posh may be a contraction of polish.

" 's'abaht time I wallk'd them Corgis innit."
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Andrew Monkhouse
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Thanks Richard.
Or curses? Now I will probably spend too much time going through the WordOrigins site rather than being constructive in MD

" 's'abaht time I wallk'd them Corgis innit."
- The Queen (when one believes no one is listening to one)

Loved it. Brought tears to my eyes.
Regards, Andrew
SJ Adnams
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interesting that 'phat' is pretty hot and tasty.. I think the term 'phat' was around at least 20years ago (i.e. when I was at school) and it never had anything to do with girls.
Marcus Green
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Ahh yes, I remember that report on the queens speach patterns vaguely now. On that BBC report they mention the use of Hice for House, and I remember the word off being pronounced as "Orf".
"Araind abait a thaisand painds" => "Around about a thousand pounds"
Planet royalty or what!
D Kumar
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brit accent - i can follow easily
us - with difficulty
australian - cant follow
Pradeep bhatt
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I have heard Americans pronouce "O" for digit zero. I wonder how they pronouce the letter O.


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Marcus Green
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Understanding an accent is often just a matter of "tuning the ear". Thus it could be that Dilip hears Australian accents more rarely than UK or US, but if exposed more to that accent it would become intelligable fairly quickly.

There are accents from the UK (i.e. some Glasweigians) that if I hear "cold" I can find utterly unintelligable, but after a few minutes one quickly gets the meaning of most of it.
Marcus
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
Understanding an accent is often just a matter of "tuning the ear". Thus it could be that Dilip hears Australian accents more rarely than UK or US, but if exposed more to that accent it would become intelligable fairly quickly.

I noticed that with a lot of the Birtish comedies we get here. After a few episodes their speech becomes more intelligible.
Ben Williams
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

I noticed that with a lot of the Birtish comedies we get here. After a few episodes their speech becomes more intelligible.

When I took the ferry over to Dublin from England, I met a few Irish blokes and had real trouble understand them. It only took an hour or so before I tuned in and understood them well. (btw, I'm an Aussie).


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Marcus Green
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Thomas.. but does it get funnier
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Marcus Green:
Thomas.. but does it get funnier

I have to admit that I am an Anglophile. I even contemplated moving to London in my younger days.
Anonymous
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when i was in paupa new Guina (aussie's north neibour) couple years ago, i had hard time understanding those English speaking locals.
Amitabh Sharma
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I once went to play cricket at a local cricket club in Calgary, Canada and one austrailian man gave me a 2-3 minute description of how they collect money and other stuff. I could not understand him at all. On the otherhand I have worked with 2 austrailians and i had no trouble understanding them. What i really liked about them was that they were outspoken, loud (unlike Canadians) and had a great sense of humor. If you talk with them for 5 minutes you would be laughing for the rest of the day.
[ June 20, 2003: Message edited by: Amitabh Sharma ]
Steven Broadbent
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I can travel 12 miles from my hometown in England
and have problems understanding the locals.
America has a much smaller range of accents.


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