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Old 07-09-2009, 08:41 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
13,138 posts, read 22,866,342 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lakefront View Post
This is a topic of interest to me and I learned a lot when I bought a miniseries on video about the history of English. ("The Story of English" published by PBS and BBC)


I can't remember all the details, but the gist of it was, that American English came from Elizabethan English as spoken in the English West Country (Cornwall, Devonshire) in the 17th century. Supposedly it also has some resemblance to Shakespearean English. Of course this is quite different from other British dialects, and also came before RP English took hold. The explorers who settled the Mid-atlantic USA in the beginning were from the West Country, or at least a large proportion of them were.

One example that was illustrated was Tangier Island, in the middle of Chesapeake Bay between Maryland and Virginia. The people there still speak almost the same way that they did when settlers first came from the West Country in the 1690s, because their community has not been absorbed due to its isolation. I cannot describe how it sounds - you really have to hear it (check youtube). I can understand it, but it sounds strange. The r is "burred" like West Country English or Standard American, but many other sounds are exotic to my ears. Sounds like a mix of American Southern with British English. Supposedly, many Americans in Maryland and Virginia sounded like this when the first settlements were made. Over time, it got diluted and changed when settlers from other areas came and mixed with each other.

According to the video, English in the Deep South has the influence of the English aristocracy from which some of its people came. It is also influenced by Black English, because of the contact that the groups had. New York English is a mish-mash, with Dutch influence earlier, and later Italian, German, and Yiddish influences. Massachusetts and Boston English has a heavy East Anglia influence, because that's where the people came from. Appalachian English is largely Scots-Irish, from Northern Ireland. Irish has also affected American English, and so on.

Apparently, American English did keep some words and expressions that British has since dropped. Hardly surprising, if its basis is indeed in Elizabethan and Shakespearean English.



another interesting blurb:
How and when did the American accent become recognisably American? | Notes and Queries | guardian.co.uk

Cool, this series is on youtube. Thanks for letting us know it exists.
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:11 PM
 
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The full miniseries contains 9 episodes.

1/ An English Speaking World
2/ The Mother Tongue
3/ A Muse of Fire
4/ The Guid Scots Tongue
5/ Black on White
6/ Pioneer O Pioneer
7/ Muvver Tongue
8/ The Loaded Weapon
9/ Next Year's Words

Unfortunately, (correct me if I'm wrong, but) I believe only a few of the parts have been posted youtube. It also seems the full series is only available for purchase second-hand on VHS to the tune of about $200. Really a pity it never made it onto DVD.
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:14 PM
 
Location: The High Desert
16,163 posts, read 10,844,061 times
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Some of the more extreme regional accents are associated with sea ports. Non-English words or inflections came into the country through New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and Charleston. The constant coming and going of ships and crews had an impact on the local speech patterns. Also these were the entry points for new settlers.

I'm wondering if this is true also on the Pacific coast. Is there a local sea port accent for Seattle, Vancouver or San Francisco?
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Old 07-25-2009, 01:35 AM
 
Location: Earth
17,440 posts, read 28,665,859 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SunGrins View Post
Some of the more extreme regional accents are associated with sea ports. Non-English words or inflections came into the country through New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and Charleston. The constant coming and going of ships and crews had an impact on the local speech patterns. Also these were the entry points for new settlers.

I'm wondering if this is true also on the Pacific coast. Is there a local sea port accent for Seattle, Vancouver or San Francisco?
There was a study of California accents at the beginning of the 20th century - early enough to actually observe how Californians spoke before the massive population increases following WW1 - and Northern California accents in that survey resembled those of the Midwest. In particular San Francisco's accent was said to have closely resembled Chicago's. Southern California's accent at the same time was very much like Central Texas.

It seems that the old Northern California accent became the basis for subsequent California English (albeit with Hispanicisms and unique words coming from various subcultures differentiating it from Midwestern English), while the old Southern California accent died out. When I was a kid I did hear old people speaking with that accent but assumed they were Okies/Texans, not being aware that the old SoCal accent was much like that of Austin or San Antonio. Other posters on C-D have said that the old SoCal accent hung on in rural areas until about 1980.

The English of Washington State and BC is pretty generic "North American English" not far removed from "Standard American".
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Old 07-29-2009, 12:25 AM
 
Location: Dallas
4,630 posts, read 10,499,769 times
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A cool thing to note is to listen to old movies or videos. In the old hollywood movies - 40's and before, you'll notice almost everybody sounds different than we do now. Two kinds of accents prevail - the upper class that sounds very british - and then the blue collar New York James Cagney accent.

Another cool thing is google really old audio. You can hear Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Harrison (born 1833), etc. I even heard a civil war vet recorded in the 1930's doing the rebel yell. So there you get an accent dated back the the 1860's.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:22 AM
 
Location: Earth
17,440 posts, read 28,665,859 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bostonian08 View Post
A cool thing to note is to listen to old movies or videos. In the old hollywood movies - 40's and before, you'll notice almost everybody sounds different than we do now. Two kinds of accents prevail - the upper class that sounds very british
TBF many of those actors and actresses were British or Irish (and in the case of Errol Flynn, Australian). Stage training in the US and Canada then involved mastering British accents.

Speaking of which, Chaplin's very cultivated British accent was assuredly NOT the accent he had as a kid on the East End of London. He must have worked to get rid of his Cockney accent (which would have fit in better with the Tramp character - I suspect his Recieved Pronunciation accent may have had something to do with why he didn't talk on screen until "The Great Dictator")

Quote:
and then the blue collar New York James Cagney accent.
Also the plain spoken Midwestern accent often heard in Westerns, e.g. Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper (actually from Idaho), Glenn Ford (actually Canadian),etc. and Texan drawls, again often heard in Westerns.

Quote:
Another cool thing is google really old audio. You can hear Teddy Roosevelt, Benjamin Harrison (born 1833), etc. I even heard a civil war vet recorded in the 1930's doing the rebel yell. So there you get an accent dated back the the 1860's.
The oldest American whose voice survives on recordings was P.T. Barnum, and his accent does sound almost British. I would assume educated men in early America (like the Founding Fathers) spoke with British sounding accents.

When Michael Mann remade "Last Of The Mohicans" with Daniel Day-Lewis, he claimed that the accents used in the film were as accurate as any depiction of accents in colonial times could be. The accents in that film do sound very British (of course most of the actors in the film were British or Irish, Madeline Stowe being the only exception amongst those with major roles).

I've heard the "rebel yell" recording, it sounds like no accent I've ever heard in person.
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Old 07-29-2009, 04:33 PM
 
Location: Michigan--good on the rocks
2,544 posts, read 4,292,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by majoun View Post
I've heard the "rebel yell" recording, it sounds like no accent I've ever heard in person.
I know it's a long shot, but is there a link?
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:16 PM
 
Location: Dallas
4,630 posts, read 10,499,769 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by majoun View Post

I've heard the "rebel yell" recording, it sounds like no accent I've ever heard in person.
Yeah that was extremely cool to hear that old soldier do that. I wonder if he had any idea what a service he did for history to do that!
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:18 PM
 
Location: Dallas
4,630 posts, read 10,499,769 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanman13 View Post
I know it's a long shot, but is there a link?
NP!


YouTube - Rebel Yell at Gettysburg
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Old 08-01-2009, 12:01 AM
 
Location: Bristol, WI
281 posts, read 930,183 times
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I remember watching a British television show several years ago and they were talking to a working class man from the Glasgow suburbs who sounded just like an American southerner. There is enormous variety in British accents which have changed as much as ours. Australia is a much newer society than America, but they have developed a distinctive accent. American accents are influenced by many other sources. California and the southwest are influenced by Mexican Spanish, New Yorkers and Bostonians by immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Germany and Jews from many countries, Midwesterners by Scandinavians and Germans. Over the years these have blended into distinctive regional accents. In another 200 years we will probably all sound completely different. Only then, we will have recordings to tell the difference.
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