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Mike's Spot

Regional Accents

Mike Rose: So, you're from another planet?
Doctor: Yes.
Rose: But, you've got a northern accent!
Doctor: Lots of planets have a north.

Chances are that when you speak you give rather more information that what you're saying; you give away where you originally come from. I, myself, come from Yorkshire and despite living in London for many years, anybody who hears me speak immediately identifies me as a Yorkshireman. It is clear that we acquire our accents at an early age, in fact as we are learning to speak, because once we've learned to speak it doesn't matter where in the world we move to or how long we spend there we never lose our original accent or pick up the new local accent to any appreciable degree.

But, how do we get our accents? Well, we learn to speak largely from our parents, and since my parents speak with a Yorkshire accent it is hardly surprising that I do too. But what happens if you have children away from your native region? My wife comes from Liverpool and naturally speaks with a Liverpudlian accent, but our children were born in London and they will never have a hint of a Yorkshire or Liverpudlian accent.

Similarly, although my wife was born in Liverpool, her mother is Swiss and has a very strong Swiss accent, not an inflection of which has been picked up by her children. Of course, we have other influences as we learn to speak as infants, we hear and speak to other local people so it is not surprising that we acquire their accents.

However, it is quite remarkable that we don't appear to adopt any degree of our parents' accents. Furthermore, we are subjected to other accents too. Children, even as young infants are exposed to a great deal of television from which they hear a variety of accents including a large proportion of American. But British children do not grow up with American accents.

It is my contention that regional accents are precisely that: regional accents. It is the actual region, the very geographical area, that we learn to speak in that determines our accents.

Consider recent accents like Australian. Australia was populated by people from Britain and other European countries, but it has developed its own accent. America too was populated by people from Britain and other European countries, yet its accent is noticeably different from Australian.

This is because it is the physical location of a place that generates the accent of its people. If you were to exterminate the entire population of Australia and then re-populate it with people from another source, the next generation there will speak with the same Australian accent that Australians do today.

In the future, there will be colonies on the moon and Mars and ultimately other planets. Even if only Americans get to colonise these places, the generations of people that are born there will not have American accents. They will have new and exotic accents that we have never heard before. There will be a lunar accent, a Martian accent, a Jovian accent, etc. And within a planet there will be variations in dialect just as there are within a country here on earth.

Just so long as none of them sound anything like Glaswegian.


Mike's Spot
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