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American Accents

Discussion in 'UK and Ireland' started by Chesterton, Jun 16, 2021.

  1. Chesterton

    Chesterton Whats So Funny bout Peace Love and Understanding Supporter

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    I'm curious about something. When I listen to a person from the U. K. speak, most of the time I can understand them just fine. Other times, because of the accent, I have a little trouble understanding parts of their speech. Sometimes, but rarely, I can barely tell what they're saying at all. (I never understood a single word Ozzy Osbourne ever said. :))

    So I was wondering about the reverse - do U. K. people ever have trouble understanding Americans because of the accent?
     
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  2. Hmm

    Hmm I'm just this guy, you know

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    I think most people in the UK find the American accents very easy to understand and very pleasant - my favourite is the New York accent. Maybe that's because we're so used to it hearing it from films and music etc. OTOH I find some UK accents very difficult especially the Geordie and the Brummie accents if you want to Google that and have a go!
     
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  3. Ophiolite

    Ophiolite Recalcitrant Procrastinating Ape

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    I spent close to forty years working for American companies, working with Americans (and fifty other nationalities besides), visiting the US frequently and living there for two or three years. I've been racking my brains to think if I ever had any difficulty and can think of none. But then again I've not been in rural Kentucky, or up some Mississipi bayou.

    I have run across individuals whom I found difficult to understand, but that was not accent, but the rhythym of their speech: rapid bursts, with words run together even across the ends of sentences and sudden gaps placed at random. But I have the same trouble at times in understanding my daughter, since she has the same speech pattern. Come to think of it, she was born in the US, so perhaps there is something in the water. :)
     
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  4. renniks

    renniks Well-Known Member

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    I think that's all part of "accent"
    Was trying to get a email address of a guy from Texas on the phone the other day. Oh my goodness, he probably thought I was a moron, but I could not understand half of the letters.
     
  5. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Which American accent?

    american accents.gif

    OB
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2021
  6. Ophiolite

    Ophiolite Recalcitrant Procrastinating Ape

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    Interesting thought. I'm not entirely convinced. In one example I'm thinking of there were three guys from West Texas, all IIRC from Midland. I had no trouble with two of them who spoke at moderate pace, but the third had that punctuated rapid style I find challenging. Set aside that and he sounded the same as the other two, so I'd tend not to think of it as accent. I wonder what a speech therapist, or expert linguist would make of it?
     
  7. dqhall

    dqhall Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Scottish Gaelic is an entirely different language. I learned about this when I was studying the Hebrides Revival. There is a video of a Gaelic dialect spoken in this video. Na Gàidheil

    The Hebrides Revival c. 1949 with pastor Duncan Campbell saw an outpouring of the spirit. He preached in one Scottish village. A bar closed and the jail emptied out.
     
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  8. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language imported into Scotland (and the Hebrides) when Irish settlers arrived in Western Scotland back in the 4th century and founded the kingdom of Dal Riata.

    OB
     
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  9. renniks

    renniks Well-Known Member

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    I know people here in the east that talk in ways most people can not fully understand. In fact my own kids have trouble understanding mine and my brothers " farmer lingo" which they say consists mainly of grunts and slurred together words, all spoken in a very soft tone.
     
  10. Bradskii

    Bradskii Well-Known Member

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    I'm pretty good with most American accents. But a strong Glasgow, Geordie or Cockney accent might be a struggle for some Americans. And a strong Welsh accent might be the worst of all. I was born 'n' bred in South Wales and originally had a very strong accent. We tend to talk very rapidly as well and throw in a fair amount of local dialect. When I moved to London in my early twenties, next to no-one could understand me so I had to make a conscious effort to 'anglicise' my speech. The deeper into Wales you get, the more indesipherable it becomes. I had to reverse this process:

    It's nice, isn't it. Shortened to...
    S'nice, innet. Drop the t...
    Nice, inneh. And drop the first sylable...
    Nice neh. And 'nice' becomes 'lush' in some parts, so effectively...
    Lushneh. Stress on the 'neh'.

    What a lovely sunset.
    Yeah. Lushneh.
     
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  11. Chesterton

    Chesterton Whats So Funny bout Peace Love and Understanding Supporter

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    I think I agree with you on this. I once started watching a video. It had an English title but a guy with a thick Welsh accent was speaking Welsh (or so I thought). It was a video about how to make something, so I continued watching for the visual information. I listened to him for about two full minutes before I realized he was actually speaking English. I could make out one word every now and then, but it was about 99% unintelligible to me.

    I have another question. The majority of Americans, to my ear, have no accent. They sound "plain", or normal. My best guess is that they do have an accent, but I don't hear it because it sounds like my own. (?) Is this true of you? Are there people who sound like they have no accent?
     
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  12. Bradskii

    Bradskii Well-Known Member

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    Actually my grandson asked my wife a week ago why she didn't have an accent. If you're used to how someone talks then the accent seems to dissappear. Although my accent, my wife's and specifically my daughter's are significantly different. Mine's quite Anglicised, my wife's is still definitely Welsh and my daughter has a very strong Aussie accent. So if we're going to a dance...

    Me: Dahnce
    Wife: Dance (with a hard a)
    Daughter: Dairnce.

    Back before instant internet connection when international phone calls were bloody expensive, I used to get cranky at my wife calling her mother in Wales every couple of weeeks. Cost a fortune. I'd be standing in front of her pointing at my watch every couple of minutes. Consequently, she used to ring her when I was out, down the pub with some friends maybe. But when I got home, her Welsh accent had gone up a few notches having slipped into it whilst chatting. So as soon as she said anything I could always tell. 'You've been talking to your mother again!'
     
  13. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Your ability to 'hear' an accent depends on a variety of factors including past exposure to a variety of accents and how 'different' a given accent is to yours.

    America also has an accent known as General American which, to other Americans, can be heard as lacking in any particular regional characteristic. It's sometimes adopted by TV/Media speakers to avoid appearing too 'regional'. You'll also find General Standard American as the accent adopted by non-American speakers in movies etc. unless the script calls for a particular regional accent.

    General American English or General American (abbreviated GA or GenAm) is the umbrella accent of American English spoken by a majority of Americans and widely perceived, among Americans, as lacking any distinctly regional, ethnic, or socioeconomic characteristics.[1][2][3] In reality, it encompasses a continuum of accents rather than a single unified accent.[4] Americans with high education,[5] or from the North Midland, Western New England, and Western regions of the country, are the most likely to be perceived as having General American accents.[6][7][8] The precise definition and usefulness of the term General American continue to be debated,[9][10][11] and the scholars who use it today admittedly do so as a convenient basis for comparison rather than for exactness.[9][12] Other scholars prefer the term Standard American English.[3][5]
    General American English - Wikipedia

    OB​
     
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  14. Bradskii

    Bradskii Well-Known Member

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    Funnily enough, there is no recognised regional Australian accent. Well, there are some very subtle differences but they're hard to pick up. I personally can't pick them. But when I came to Australia I couldn't differentiate between an Aussie accent and a New Zealand one. Now the differences are as plain as day. Probably as much as the differences that an American or a Canadian recognise between those two accents - which is still a little difficult for me.

    If you've seen 'In Bruge' then that's a good example of how non-Americans and non-Canadians get confused. Go to youtube and search 'In Bruge Canadian'.

    Warning: violence and extreme bad language (I hastily removed the link when I watched it again because of that). Do NOT watch if you're offended by swearing or violent behaviour.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
  15. public hermit

    public hermit social troglodyte Supporter

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    There are a lot of different accents among Americans. There are more southern accents than there are southern states. Just in my county in Virginia, there is one side of the county that sounds almost British. It's something they do with their r's. I swear. The families in that area have lived here since they quit being British, lol. It's strange, but not far-fetched.
     
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  16. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Australian English has typically been divided (by linguists) into three categories - Broad, General and Cultivated. Broad is the typical rural Ocker. General is the way most of us speak, while Cultivated is more Malcolm Turnbull-ish.

    My feeling is that these groups are less relevant these days. Adelaide has its own version with an underlay of SE England. The Sydney accent is vowel destroying. Sydney also has a Western Sydney variant derived from native Lebanese/Arabic speakers. Melbournians have it about right.

    I haven't identified a Perth/WA twang yet but given it's distance from the rest of us a separate accent is inevitable.

    OB
     
  17. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    There are around 30 identified American accents/dialects. The North East corner of the US has the most concentrated range of variants, probably related to its early settlement (by English speakers) and the impact of immigrants.

    Americans tend to pronounce their R's as do most Irish speakers. Most British speakers don't pronounce R's if they occur before a consonant. This is also very characteristic of Australian speech. Technically they're known as 'Rhotic' or 'non-Rhotic' accents.

    If your county neighbours drop their R's then, to your ears, they would sound a little British.


    upload_2021-6-18_10-26-39.png

    OB
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
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  18. Bradskii

    Bradskii Well-Known Member

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    I'll admit that I can easily pick a 'Turnbull' accent from something like a Mount Druitt accent (broad?). It's like BBC v regional. Easten Subs v Westies. IPA v VB. Plus the addition of terms such as 'youse' is a give away. And a longer 'a' as in 'maaaate'. But I couldn't tell you if it was a Melbourne broad or a Sydney broad.

    Funnily enough, I used to have an excellent ear for accents. But thirty years in Oz and I've lost it to some extent.
     
  19. public hermit

    public hermit social troglodyte Supporter

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    That's exactly it. They drop their R's.
     
  20. Occams Barber

    Occams Barber Newbie Supporter

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    Accents are complicated and it would take mountains of linguistic data to establish the existence of discrete state/capital city accents. The only one which comes close to being identifiable is Adelaide. To my ears Sydney accents are more obvious when you watch the daily state-by-state Covid press conferences. Sydney politicians seem to share a broad accent where 'day' turns into 'die' and other vowels get similarly mangled. Melbourne accents tend to be less pronounced.

    I suspect what we know as Ocker is now more a socioeconomic and, possibly regional, thing rather than a rural/city split but accents ebb and flow with migration patterns.

    While I was born in Oz, both parents were from Manchester with an accent you could cut with a knife. To this day i still hesitate over 'u' words like 'cut' and 'butter'.

    OB
     
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