English Accent Grammar

Clark   Thursday, November 20, 2003, 07:17 GMT
I just want to discuss about the different types of grammar different English accent use.

For example, in Yorkshire English, one can say, "He lent it me" instead of "He lent it to me." Or in Nefoundland accents, one conjugates verbs like, "I goes/you goes/he goes/we goes/they goes." In the black community in America, some people use the infinitive of "to be" for the present tense conjugations. Thus, I am becomes, "I be" and then it goes, "you be, he be, she be, etc."

Do these differences stem from the origins of where a majority of the speakers came from in England/Scotland/Ireland? For example, maybe the Newfies speak the way they do because the grammar that many of the English-speaking immigrants was different from standard British English.
Jim   Thursday, November 20, 2003, 07:38 GMT
You mean "dialect" rather than "accent", don't you?

How about black Newfies "I bees ...", "You bees ...", "He bees ...", "We bees ...", "They bees ...", etc.? ... Sorry couldn't resist it.

You sometimes here "yous" for the plural of "you" in Australia but most of us know better. If I think of anything else I'll let you know.

My guess is that some of this was brought to Australia/Canada/New Zealand/America/etc. and some would be home grown.
A.S.C.M.   Thursday, November 20, 2003, 07:41 GMT
"I goes, you goes, etc." was what many uneducated Britons said back in the nineteenth century. You often see that conjugation in Dicken's novels.
Clark   Thursday, November 20, 2003, 17:32 GMT
No Jim, I mean accent. When I think of dialect, I think of something that I cannot understand, but I know is some form of what I speak. If I had no background in Scots, I might not understand the sentence, "A ken tha bonnie lass" but I would know thatit is English.
Jim   Friday, November 21, 2003, 00:21 GMT
Have you ever read "Alice Through The Looking Glass"? In this book, one of my favourites, Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone "When I use a word ... it means just what I chose it to mean—nothing less, and nothing more."

It seems that we've got our definitions mismatched. According to my definition it's "dialect" you mean not "accent". What you mean by "accent" I mean by "dialect". I use the word "dialect" in a much broader sense than you do. What you would call "dialect" I would say is just particular types of dialect. The word "accent" I take to mean simply the way in which words are pronounced, it's got nothing to do with grammar.

Who's right and who's wrong, perhaps neither of us are either. To whom could we turn to be the arbiter of our dispute ... Humpty Dumpty? I suppose that it is traditional to turn to a dictionary in such cases. Here's what the Cambridge Dictionary says.

accent (PRONUNCIATION) [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
the way in which people in a particular area, country or social group pronounce words:
He's got a strong French/Scottish accent.
She's French but she speaks with an impeccable English accent.
He speaks with a broad/heavy/strong/thick Yorkshire accent.
I thought I could detect a slight West Country accent.

dialect [Show phonetics]
noun [C or U]
a form of a language that people speak in a particular part of a country, containing some different words and grammar, etc:
a regional dialect
The poem is written in northern dialect.



I don't mean to be smug but it looks like the writers of this dictionary agree with me. This is not to say that you're wrong, however, everybody is free to use words as they will. If you mean "dialect" when you say "accent" then, hey, why not? There's glory for you.
Jim   Thursday, November 27, 2003, 07:37 GMT
Anyway, on the topic of dialect grammar. Is it really true that in America they say "I have a car." whilst in Britian they say "I have got a car." or is this a myth or over-simplification?
Clark   Thursday, November 27, 2003, 08:29 GMT
Jim, well, I am having a hard time putting into words what I want to say, so I am just going to start writing, and leave you to figure it out :-P

Dialect to me is when a person speaks a variant variety of a standard language. Scots, for example, is dialect. But when a Newfie says, "I sees the boat," this just makes me think of bad grammar. If a person from Lincolshire says, "s'cud 'er, innit?" would you know what they meant? It is in English, it is just written phoetically.

So accent to me is just when someone pronounces a word differently than I do. You and I would say, "The bat caught the fly." While we could understand each other perfectly, I pronounce "caught" the same as "law, saw, bought, cot and hog." Whereas you pronounce "caught" differently. That is accent.

So, the first example I gave, "he lent it me" would be classified as dialect I guess. But this is a grey area because I know what the words mean, but the "to" is missing, that's all.

Well, I am tired, and I have two days of eating turke ahead of me, so I am off to bed. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

P.S. While Thanksgiving is traditionally an American holiday, anyone can give thanks for anything.
taxgiving day   Friday, November 28, 2003, 01:18 GMT
Jim   Friday, November 28, 2003, 03:57 GMT
You should have written "... Thanksgiving is traditionally a North American holiday ..." you don't want to leave your neighbours to the North out, do you?

But don't say "Happy Thanksgiving" to Canadians: you've missed the boat. Thanksgiving has been and gone in Canada. No doubt anyone can give thanks to anyone else for anything but this month it's only Thanksgiving in the USA ... Thanks for the well-wishing though and enjoy the turkey, pumpkin pie and what not.

It would seem that you and I have slightly different ways of defining these words. We can still manage to understand each other as long as we know that each of us means something different by the words we use. However, might it not be better if we could decide on a meaning independant of out own definitions?

How is meaning assigned to the words we use? This is a topic that would be worth it's own thread. It's the topic that Lewis Carol was mentioning with his story of the encounter between Alice and Humpty Dumpty. I'm sure a great many articles, essays, books, theses, etc. have been written about it.

You might argue that, surely, words have no meaning than that which people assign them. Then you might want to say that, surely, nobody's definition can be called better than anyone elses: we're all equal, aren't we? But then, on the other hand, how can we communicate if we've all got different ideas on what words mean. We'd be best to reach an informed concensus and write the definition down in a book.

Well, it seems that they have gone and done that. Now when I've got a definition that doesn't quite fit yours I go refer to a dictionary to see whose fits what is most widely accepted as the meaning of the word. If the dictionary says I'm wrong, I tend to concede defeat (but not after checking elsewhere like other dictionaries, books and the web).

You write "So accent to me is just when someone pronounces a word differently than I do." By your definition you would have no accent. Surely, you wouldn't think that you've got no accent. You've got a Californian accent just as much as I have an Australian one. Everyone has an accent. By the way, "caught", "law", "saw" & "bought" all have the same vowel to me, the one in "cot" & "hog" is different, maybe this is what you meant.
Jim   Friday, November 28, 2003, 05:02 GMT
If a person from Lincolshire says, "s'cud 'er, innit?" I wouldn't have a clue what they meant. How about if a person from Sydney says, "See ya th'sarv." would you know what they meant? What if they said "My esky's chocker block full of tinnies."?

You write "Dialect to me is when a person speaks a variant variety of a standard language." For such a definition to work we must decide on what is meant by "standard language". I don't believe in the notion of a standard language.

Each of us speaks their own particular variety of English. There are all knids of variations to be found. No variety is standard they are all just different dialects.

The dialect I speak is Australian English. The one you speak is Californian English. These are dialects just as much as Scots is.
Clark   Friday, November 28, 2003, 06:18 GMT
Jim, yeah, we have different notions of accents and dialects. To me, you and I just have different accents. We speak the same language, with some differences in vocabulary, but 99% of the time, we can understand each other.

As for idiolects...yes, we each have our own way of speaking, but I hate it when it gets down to talking about idiolects because I think that people talk in the same general way depending on where they live, you know?

And for those words with the same vowel sounds, I could not remember which ones some people pronounce the same or differently. So, I just gave you a list of the words that I pronounce with that same vowel sound, and I thought you mightpronounce "caught" differently than "cot" or something.

Well, at least we can agree that we disagree ;-P Also, we can agree that we can understand each other with little to no difficulty.