Accents
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03-03-2013, 05:32 AM
Accents
WE NEED A HISTORY SECTION

So I was watching "The Patriot" the other day - one of my favorite films - and something stood out to me. While the film takes place during the american Revolutionary war (1775-1783); many of the characters have modern-day american-English accents. Now, I realize that this was some time after we departed from England and settled here in what would later be called America, but it wasn't that long after. (Just a few hundred years, right? I'm awful at math. lol) So I'm wondering: are the accents depicted in the film accurate? Because it would seem to me (taking my limited knowledge of linguistic evolution into account) that the characters would still retain at least some of their recent English accents. (Yes, Brits; to us you have accents Tongue ) But instead, they speak as loosely and (for lack of a better word) flatly as we do today. The only difference is that they're well-spoken and use clear sentences; whereas many today do not.

The scene in which the girl starts talking about freedom and patriotism is when it really hit me.



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03-03-2013, 06:15 PM
RE: Accents
(I hate seeing a thread go unacknowledged)


Perhaps ask Cufflink. It's his speciality (or 'specialty', as he, like you, is a rebel against the crown).

Both languages (or should that be dialects) have drifted apart and are not what they were and so too have the accents but their mutual start point (common ancestor) would depend upon which part of England (Wales / Scotland / Ireland / other parts of Europe) from which the settlers came.

The Heath Ledger (an Aussie, ironically) character was maybe from South East English stock whereas as Anne had maybe a South West tinge.
I'm guessing this from 'permission to write to Anne' vs. 'permission to write me'.

btw, I've not seen the movie but for the UK release, I think it had a different title... it was The Traitor or the The Terrorist or something like that.

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04-03-2013, 12:02 AM
RE: Accents
You called, sir? Big Grin

Thanks for the vote of confidence, DLJ. I'm no expert on English dialectology, but perhaps I can offer a few observations.

It's an interesting question, Misanthropik. But I think you might be making an unwarranted assumption. You seem to be under the impression that the American settlers from England arrived in the New World speaking as modern Brits do, and over the years their language evolved into what we recognize today as American, while the Brits back home didn't change. Well, that's logically possible, but it's only one of three such possibilities. Another possibility is that it was the Brits who changed: they originally sounded like us Americans, but their speech evolved into what we hear today, while we retained their original way of speaking! And the third possibility is that we both changed.

I don't have the complete answer, but it's almost certainly a variation of the third scenario, since language continues to evolve everywhere. But surprisingly, there are aspects of British and American speech that developed according to the second possibility: the Brits changed, while the Yanks kept the older pronunciation.

What I'm thinking of is the well-known difference between Standard British and Standard American with regard to the r-sound: Do you pronounce your r's or do you drop them? To be more precise, we're talking about "final and pre-consonantal" r. Everyone, Brit or Yank, pronounces r at the beginning of a word, as in road, or between vowels, as in spiral. But in words like park, car, sort, waiter, etc., Standard American pronounces the r (e.g., gangster) while Standard British doesn't (gangsta). It's necessary to say "Standard" in both cases, because there are British dialects in which the r is pronounced in these words (I'm sure you know a lot more about that than I do, DLJ), and American dialects in which it's not--for example, the English of parts of New England, New York City (where the situation is complicated by the fact that certain social classes are "switchers," pronouncing all their r's in some situations and not in others), and the South. It's also true of the speech of many African Americans, since their English was historically influenced by Southern practices. (Much more info here.)

So how did these differences come about? Sometime after the American colonies were established, a change began to take hold in the prestige dialect of British English, where r's began dropping finally and before other consonants. The change spread to the parts of America that kept up the closest contact with England, namely the areas on the East Coast. But it didn't spread to the American areas more isolated from Britain, i.e. points further west. That's why the "r-less" dialects in the U.S. are found in the east, while the majority of the country retains the old pronunciation and constricts their r's everywhere.

One funny thing about all this is that Shakespeare's own speech, which comes from a period prior to the r-loss thing in England, was in this respect at least closer to current American English than to current British English. So Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet would have sounded more foreign to Shakespeare than, say, Brad Pitt's. Cool
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04-03-2013, 02:57 AM
RE: Accents
... Or Ben Afleck!

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04-03-2013, 03:48 AM
RE: Accents
(04-03-2013 12:02 AM)cufflink Wrote:  You called, sir? Big Grin

Thanks for the vote of confidence, DLJ. I'm no expert on English dialectology, but perhaps I can offer a few observations.

It's an interesting question, Misanthropik. But I think you might be making an unwarranted assumption. You seem to be under the impression that the American settlers from England arrived in the New World speaking as modern Brits do, and over the years their language evolved into what we recognize today as American, while the Brits back home didn't change. Well, that's logically possible, but it's only one of three such possibilities. Another possibility is that it was the Brits who changed: they originally sounded like us Americans, but their speech evolved into what we hear today, while we retained their original way of speaking! And the third possibility is that we both changed.

I don't have the complete answer, but it's almost certainly a variation of the third scenario, since language continues to evolve everywhere. But surprisingly, there are aspects of British and American speech that developed according to the second possibility: the Brits changed, while the Yanks kept the older pronunciation.

What I'm thinking of is the well-known difference between Standard British and Standard American with regard to the r-sound: Do you pronounce your r's or do you drop them? To be more precise, we're talking about "final and pre-consonantal" r. Everyone, Brit or Yank, pronounces r at the beginning of a word, as in road, or between vowels, as in spiral. But in words like park, car, sort, waiter, etc., Standard American pronounces the r (e.g., gangster) while Standard British doesn't (gangsta). It's necessary to say "Standard" in both cases, because there are British dialects in which the r is pronounced in these words (I'm sure you know a lot more about that than I do, DLJ), and American dialects in which it's not--for example, the English of parts of New England, New York City (where the situation is complicated by the fact that certain social classes are "switchers," pronouncing all their r's in some situations and not in others), and the South. It's also true of the speech of many African Americans, since their English was historically influenced by Southern practices. (Much more info here.)

So how did these differences come about? Sometime after the American colonies were established, a change began to take hold in the prestige dialect of British English, where r's began dropping finally and before other consonants. The change spread to the parts of America that kept up the closest contact with England, namely the areas on the East Coast. But it didn't spread to the American areas more isolated from Britain, i.e. points further west. That's why the "r-less" dialects in the U.S. are found in the east, while the majority of the country retains the old pronunciation and constricts their r's everywhere.

One funny thing about all this is that Shakespeare's own speech, which comes from a period prior to the r-loss thing in England, was in this respect at least closer to current American English than to current British English. So Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet would have sounded more foreign to Shakespeare than, say, Brad Pitt's. Cool
Excellent info. Thumbsup I'm ashamed that I actually hadn't even considered that there were other possibilities regarding the change in dialect. I just assumed "Americans came from Britan; Brits sound like X; therefore, we sounded like X". Blush

Definitely something to think about. Much obliged. Smile

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04-03-2013, 03:49 AM
RE: Accents
(03-03-2013 06:15 PM)DLJ Wrote:  btw, I've not seen the movie but for the UK release, I think it had a different title... it was The Traitor or the The Terrorist or something like that.

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I loled. Laugh out load

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04-03-2013, 07:03 AM
RE: Accents
(04-03-2013 03:48 AM)Misanthropik Wrote:  
(04-03-2013 12:02 AM)cufflink Wrote:  You called, sir? Big Grin

Thanks for the vote of confidence, DLJ. I'm no expert on English dialectology, but perhaps I can offer a few observations.

It's an interesting question, Misanthropik. But I think you might be making an unwarranted assumption. You seem to be under the impression that the American settlers from England arrived in the New World speaking as modern Brits do, and over the years their language evolved into what we recognize today as American, while the Brits back home didn't change. Well, that's logically possible, but it's only one of three such possibilities. Another possibility is that it was the Brits who changed: they originally sounded like us Americans, but their speech evolved into what we hear today, while we retained their original way of speaking! And the third possibility is that we both changed.

I don't have the complete answer, but it's almost certainly a variation of the third scenario, since language continues to evolve everywhere. But surprisingly, there are aspects of British and American speech that developed according to the second possibility: the Brits changed, while the Yanks kept the older pronunciation.

What I'm thinking of is the well-known difference between Standard British and Standard American with regard to the r-sound: Do you pronounce your r's or do you drop them? To be more precise, we're talking about "final and pre-consonantal" r. Everyone, Brit or Yank, pronounces r at the beginning of a word, as in road, or between vowels, as in spiral. But in words like park, car, sort, waiter, etc., Standard American pronounces the r (e.g., gangster) while Standard British doesn't (gangsta). It's necessary to say "Standard" in both cases, because there are British dialects in which the r is pronounced in these words (I'm sure you know a lot more about that than I do, DLJ), and American dialects in which it's not--for example, the English of parts of New England, New York City (where the situation is complicated by the fact that certain social classes are "switchers," pronouncing all their r's in some situations and not in others), and the South. It's also true of the speech of many African Americans, since their English was historically influenced by Southern practices. (Much more info here.)

So how did these differences come about? Sometime after the American colonies were established, a change began to take hold in the prestige dialect of British English, where r's began dropping finally and before other consonants. The change spread to the parts of America that kept up the closest contact with England, namely the areas on the East Coast. But it didn't spread to the American areas more isolated from Britain, i.e. points further west. That's why the "r-less" dialects in the U.S. are found in the east, while the majority of the country retains the old pronunciation and constricts their r's everywhere.

One funny thing about all this is that Shakespeare's own speech, which comes from a period prior to the r-loss thing in England, was in this respect at least closer to current American English than to current British English. So Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet would have sounded more foreign to Shakespeare than, say, Brad Pitt's. Cool
Excellent info. Thumbsup I'm ashamed that I actually hadn't even considered that there were other possibilities regarding the change in dialect. I just assumed "Americans came from Britan; Brits sound like X; therefore, we sounded like X". Blush

Definitely something to think about. Much obliged. Smile


Yeah, well if we speak English, why are there still Englishmen? Angry

Language evolution is evolution. What modern speakers speak is descended from common ancestors and has undergone speciation. Pretty much no one sounds today just like anyone did in 1700.

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04-03-2013, 08:35 AM
RE: Accents
I would say this is an example of translating speech (whether it's a language, or accent) to it's modern (audience) equivalent.

Short rant, somewhat relevant:
I sometime see people critique an english film set in, say, Germany and where everyone speaks english.
The critique is "why don't they speak in German accents?" - while speaking english. That makes no sense. If the German was a "country folk", then the equivalent english accent would be a "american redneck". If the German was from a high posh aristocrat family, then the english equivalent would be a stereotypical British royal. If the German was a recent Turkish immigrant, the the english equivalent would be of a new Turkish immigrant to an english speaking country. And how would they depict someone speaking english with none of the Germans being able to speak english? I suppose the person would be depicted as speaking German - since the audience is supposed to be perfectly in sync with the language, and anything "foreign" to the on screen Germans should be equally foreign to the english audiences.
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04-03-2013, 10:43 PM
RE: Accents
As some of you may know I love reading about languages as well. It isn't my profession by any means, but it's something I like doing, and I've read a few articles on this subject and I will share what I know. I can't recall whether or not the film claimed that Mel Gibson's character was an Englishman or not, but his speech may not be too far off. Although we don't have audio recordings to reference most of the articles I've read, written by folks more knowledgeable than myself, seem to think that the British English dialects have changed more than that of American English dialects. Of course they are speaking in generalities as both places have tons of different accents. I can recall when, but sometime between the American Revolution and the late Victorian Era a trend began in England to use a non-rhotic dialect (which is the most obvious difference between the two of us.) Later this trend spread to America through trade. Primarily this trend spread in America where there was still strong trading ports between America and England, which would be New England, and Virginia. They trend in America quickly waned except in the aforementioned areas. Eventually those areas changed and devoloped into their own distinct accents, but retained the non-rhotic speech patterns. This can be seen in the Boston dialect, certain New York dialects, Maine's dialect. The popularity in the coastal areas of Virgiana developed into the so-called Piedmont dialect (if memory serves), but it has deslined in usage over the decades, primarily because of the amount of military installations which brought a lot of people from around the country (and globe) thus changing the patterns to be more "American", but it can still be heard. Some the the speech patterns in the Piedmont dialect is still largely intact though, especially when pronouncing the names of cities (i.e. Norfolk is pronounced similar to "no-fuck").

However, we don't know for sure just how much the dialect it off in the film...like I said, we don't have audio recordings to compare it too. The biggest problem is probably in the sentence structure and vocabulary. If they used accurate language for the period though the movie would not be as enjoyable because the vast majority would have to know words which have been largely dropped from our vocabulary, and some of the words that continue to be used have changed meaning over the years. Try reading an old document that dates from that time period and you will probably understand most of it, but some sentences will leave you scratching your head if you aren't a scholar who specializes in this kind of thing. You'll probably get the gist of it though. Hope this helped.

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07-03-2013, 01:57 PM
RE: Accents
I have so far just briefly eyed through the discussion and I think the development of accents is not as quick as one might think--Say the opening was of the accents of a historical movie, of how accurate they are.

From what I know, accents develop extremely slowly and stick around for centuries. I had read a text recently that basically Finnish spoken in the medieval period (in this case of later period of 1200-1400 AD) was pronounced 100% similar to how it is pronounced today, there naturally being differing dialects. if I draw a conclusion from this that despite the vocabulary expanding and different dialect groups (or tribes, shortly) getting in touch with one another during later part of Finland's history has not affected the pronunciations of these dialects, and a big part if not most of the original everyday vocabulary has remained the same despite there being a 'standard' version offered.

Shortly, I do not think the accents have been that much different from how they are today. Development of accents in USA of course might have a boost from a block of different nationalities all contributing to the spoken language!
Just like currently Scottish people still hold a strong accent (or accents) blooming from their original language of gaelic, despite this language not being spoken by more than a handful of people anymore in these days.

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