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Old 05-31-2012, 02:37 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,093,509 times
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I suppose it depends where you draw the line.

The first question:

When it became recogniseable different from the English spoken in England AT THE TIME. You have to remember that as now, England had many dialects and accents. The local dialect of a Kentish shoreman was so different from that of a Yorkshire farmer: possibly different enough they might have trouble understanding all the other had to say. The accents of Britain TODAY have changed a lot since the 1700s.

The second question:

When did the majority of Americas basically, more or else, with slight differences, sound like they do today. What's the earliest date you can say an American spoke like you.


It's just conjecture. But I think as for the first question, I believe the colonies were sufficiently old enough that a distinct manner of speech would have already been apparent in 1776. It probably began even earlier, as early as the 1740s. Of course this proto-American was vastly different to the General American (GAE) we know today, but was nonetheless still uniquely 'American.' It was predominantly British, but with some Irish, and perhaps foreign language (Dutch, French) influence.

As for the second...the American accent has evolved over time and even now continues to evolve. I would also say people in rural areas tend to retain more conservative speech features. But if I were to make a call on the 'average' American, I would say the modern American accent arose sometime between the Mexican American War and the American Civil War - so about 1846 to 1865.

Now many will comment, 'oh I've heard clips of Teddy Roosevelt speaking and he sounds half English!'

One must remember Teddy didn't represent the common man. He was an educated Easterner from New York. The educated accent of the Northeast has always differed from the typical 'country' or regional accents of the Midwest, South or East.

The same goes for movie stars, interviews with writers, news reporters.etc. Most of the female actors affected a 'Mid-Atlantic' accent, for instance Grace Kelly or Katharine Hepburn (who also had a semi-rhotic New England accent). More recently Niles and Frasier Crane from the sitcom 'Frasier' demonstrate this accent. It was more common for male actors like Jimmy Stewart or Humphrey Bogart to speak with a more 'working man's' accent, partly because of the 'everyman' characters they played. It was also evident from say James Cagney or a lot of old gangster movies that the urban accents of the East coast cities were very recogniseable. The accents heard in Western movies were similarly all-American. The same could be said of the rural accents of the American Midwest and Dixie. Just listen to Judy Garland playing Dorothy and her relatives/neighbours from Kansas. Even then, in cultivated settings, a more 'neutral' sounding accent that wasn't as strongly American was affected.

While the accents of grandparents and even great grandparents in America today sound similar enough to those of the youth, I think there are still noticeable differences. There are even differences from how Americans spoke in the 1970s-80s compared to now. For instance I feel people in the 80s had a more slower, 'considered' and thoughtful manner of speech.

Oddly enough, the film 'Dumbo' is a good study in the various accents to be found in America circa 1940. Remember the scene where the matronly elephants are excluding Dumbo/saying nasty things about him? The 'matriach' of the group has a pompous, someone European-tinged, not quite all American accent (still somewhat rhotic). Another elephant has a really nasal, rhotic accent (the one wearing green who talks about Dumbo's ears).

I think the current among most people without a regional accent under the age of 45 is more 'tonal', more 'excited' sounding (kind of 'Valley girl' like), with various vowel shifts happening across the country, like 'Californian' or 'Canadian' raising. Accent isn't just pronunciation: it's also intonation. There are intonations which are uniquely American that I can't quite convey with words. It's also become more rhotic (harder 'r' sound), and probably veering towards a Californian sound. For instance words like 'thanks', or 'happen'. The Northern cities vowel shift (NCVS) has also been happening in the Great Lakes. What's more, regional accents are being neutralized by migration, the media and stigmatization.

This is just my take on it as somebody with a casual interest in both American history and Linguistics, who is not American.

Last edited by Trimac20; 05-31-2012 at 02:47 AM..
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Old 05-31-2012, 12:28 PM
 
Location: East Side Milwaukee
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I also find accents interesting. Generally, how I understand new accents & then later languages are formed, it's because of a break down in communication between formerly close areas.

However, if there is an increase of connectivity you'll have a reversion of this, languages dying out & accents diminishing.

Going back to your question about the difference between the U.S. & Britain... I would say when large amounts of immigration from Britain ceased or was diluted with immigration from other countries. The northeast of the U.S. has generally maintained a better connection with Britain than the rest of the country. I would say that's helped to keep Britain's linguistic influences around longer/stronger than other areas of the U.S.

It would be interesting to look at immigration from Britain going back to the colonial days. I wonder if the war of 1812 had much of a difference, also it would interesting if there's data on where those immigrants settled vs just saying they're in American somewhere.
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Old 05-31-2012, 02:44 PM
 
Location: The heart of Cascadia
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Id say you have like, recently:

early 20th century - c. 1965 'old time radio' accent. baseball announcers still talk like this, but nobody in real life or even the news does.

early postmodern generic american c. 1965-1992

vowel-shifted, 21st century american speech c. 1993-present, much more tonal and informal sounding, words like 'bad' and 'happen' sound a bit like 'bod' and 'hoppen'
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Old 05-31-2012, 03:10 PM
 
Location: Earth
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Quote:
Originally Posted by callmemaybe View Post
Id say you have like, recently:

early 20th century - c. 1965 'old time radio' accent. baseball announcers still talk like this, but nobody in real life or even the news does.

early postmodern generic american c. 1965-1992

vowel-shifted, 21st century american speech c. 1993-present, much more tonal and informal sounding, words like 'bad' and 'happen' sound a bit like 'bod' and 'hoppen'
UK influence reasserting itself?

The main trend in American English in the last 20 years has been the shrinking of regional accents even further. The New York accent is declining, and, surprisingly, the Texas accent is retreating. It seems to have disappeared from the DFW area.
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Old 05-31-2012, 03:26 PM
 
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Default New trends?

I read something about how with so many TV shows and stars being from California, a lot of Americans are displaying what used to be strictly a southern California accent. That might be a new trend.

I've also noticed here in NJ that a lot of people who are not hispanic displaying hispanic pronunciations. It seems like it's becoming a new regional accent around here.
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Old 05-31-2012, 04:07 PM
 
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I often wondered myself about the development of American English, how it began to split from English.
I've listened to quite a few recordings of regional differences in British English, dialects that have pretty much faded away, and can pick out here and there, bits that sounded like American regionalisms. It's quite interesting.

I've read that there was an active movement in the early decades of the American republic to create an American language. Daniel Webster's dictionary was part of this movement.

Anyway, I found this. It's an interview with a Confederate soldier, Julius Howell of Virginia


Confederate soldier Julius Howell Interview What The south Fought For - YouTube

I believe this is another segment from the interview. I haven't gotten around to listening to more than a snippet of the first one.
Julius Howell, Civil War General: Radio Documentary by Sound Portraits
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Old 05-31-2012, 06:39 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,093,509 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2cold View Post
I often wondered myself about the development of American English, how it began to split from English.
I've listened to quite a few recordings of regional differences in British English, dialects that have pretty much faded away, and can pick out here and there, bits that sounded like American regionalisms. It's quite interesting.

I've read that there was an active movement in the early decades of the American republic to create an American language. Daniel Webster's dictionary was part of this movement.

Anyway, I found this. It's an interview with a Confederate soldier, Julius Howell of Virginia


Confederate soldier Julius Howell Interview What The south Fought For - YouTube

I believe this is another segment from the interview. I haven't gotten around to listening to more than a snippet of the first one.
Julius Howell, Civil War General: Radio Documentary by Sound Portraits
Wow, that's incredible! I was actually wondering if any video/audio interviews with any Civil War vets existed, thanks for the find!

It does sound pretty American/Southern, specifically the Virginia type southern. My guess is the non-rhotic zone extended well inland in Virginia in those days and retreated sometime after 1865.

I probably revise my earlier estimation. I think the BLUEPRINT of the accent we hear today began early in the 19th century. Perhaps between around 1812?
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Old 05-31-2012, 06:44 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,093,509 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse276 View Post
I also find accents interesting. Generally, how I understand new accents & then later languages are formed, it's because of a break down in communication between formerly close areas.

However, if there is an increase of connectivity you'll have a reversion of this, languages dying out & accents diminishing.

Going back to your question about the difference between the U.S. & Britain... I would say when large amounts of immigration from Britain ceased or was diluted with immigration from other countries. The northeast of the U.S. has generally maintained a better connection with Britain than the rest of the country. I would say that's helped to keep Britain's linguistic influences around longer/stronger than other areas of the U.S.

It would be interesting to look at immigration from Britain going back to the colonial days. I wonder if the war of 1812 had much of a difference, also it would interesting if there's data on where those immigrants settled vs just saying they're in American somewhere.
Interesting fact. The 'non-rhoticism' of the Northeast was not due to it being founded earlier. In the early 1600s ALL the colonists, and 90% of Britons had rhotic accents. They pronounced the 'r' in words like 'far' or 'word.' At that stage, English had just begun it's path to non-rhoticism in courtly circles. So ironically, the accent of the man on the street in Boston or New Amsterdam in the early 17th century was rhotic. They'd 'park' with an 'r'!

HOWEVER, this area tended to receive more migration but more importantly cultural influence from Britain. Moreso New England. Even this early New York's migration patterns were much more cosmopolitan, which is why the NY accent sounds as it does now. I hear some of the accent of the north of England in the New England accent today, the vowels 'park' are reminiscent to a rural northern accent to a tee. Probably not unlike the accent spoken in Boston, Lincolnshire, to this very day. Many of the wealthy colonists, even after schools like Harvard and Yale were established, preferred to send their sons to Britain to be educated. Hence the British accent was a prestige accent well into the 20th century. The same was the case for the rich plantation families of the lowland South, although from the early 1800s a 'cultivated Southern' accent emerged. Think Blanche DuBois or Scarlett O'Hara.
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Old 05-31-2012, 10:29 PM
 
Location: Cumberland County, NJ
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The standard American accent we hear today originated from the "Midland" dialect which is believed to have originated in the region from Philadelphia to Washington DC. That dialect would later spill over into the Midwest and would go on to have an influence on their accents as well. Though when asked, most Americans will usually say the Midwest is where the General American accent comes from.

Here's an example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kW3K3OclnE

Last edited by gwillyfromphilly; 05-31-2012 at 10:40 PM..
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Old 06-01-2012, 08:40 AM
 
23,604 posts, read 70,467,118 times
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There is no single "American" accent or way of speech. Carver's "American Regional Dialects" gives a fairly decent breakdown of the diffusion patterns. I have totally freaked people out by listening to them talk for a few minutes, then telling them where they grew up, sometimes to an individual county or city. Idiomatic phrasing can be quite local.

My cousin in Vermont speaks the same dialect as some of the coal miners back in the hills of Pennsylvania, which is almost identical to Elizabethan English, as would have been spoken in the time of Shakespeare. Isolated farms and communities kept the old ways.

The increased homogenization of dialects began with the introduction of radio in the 1920s and 1930s, and continues on today with other forms of mass media influence. Regionalisms are often as much a matter of pride of heritage or group membership now as an honest useful speech pattern.
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