I'm looking for model recordings for learning standard American English, and I'm glad I found "Shaggy Dog Stories" on this website. But I wonder if the accent used in the stories is a good model to imitate.
So I have a question for Americans in this forum: what accent do the actors in "Shaggy Dog Stories" speak with? (You can listen to the stories at http://antimoon.com/other/shaggydog.htm
What is it that distinguishes one American accent from another? I've read somewhere that the main difference is in pronunciation, while intonation is basically the same in most American accents. Do you agree with this?
I would say that intonation is markedly different among northern and southern American dialects. The East Coast might also use some somewhat different intonations. Pronunciation of various vowel sounds is the main difference between American accents, the most distinctive being the glide deletion of "I" in southern dialects, making it sound like "Ah." But there are many others, some hardly detectable to the casual ear.
Accents in the oldest colonized parts of the country, like the East Coast and Coastal South, are the most distinct from region to region. In the west, people mostly talk the same with a few exceptions.
Rhoticity is also different in different regions in the US, although younger East Coast speakers seem to put a slight "r" pronunciation in words like "car." It's still definitely distinguishable from other parts of the country, where "r" is pronounced fully, though.
Did you listen to any of the Shaggy Dog Stories? What's your opinion on the accent?
They seem like pretty "formal" American accents that were carefully contrived to remove any kind of regional features. I don't think most Americans talk exactly like that, but those stories seem like a good tool to teach non-native speakers the basics of American pronunciation and accent rhythm. They remind me of accents you might hear in older American movies.
I agree with Ryan's assessment of the Shaggy Dog Stories. Those samples sound like old 1940s-50s radio serials -- a bit melodramatic and affected.
Yeah, they're very reminiscent of 1940's-50's style radio voices, but they are clear. I agree with Ryan about the removal of regional features. The speech is clear and while it is melodramatic, it's the pronunciation that is important and I think they could definitely help those who are trying to learn the American accent. Listening to reporters is a good way to learn an accent, but one does not want mimic their exact tone of voice (it would sound weird and contrived). The same can be said about these stories.