Your Accent!

Lolly   Friday, July 16, 2004, 11:16 GMT
>>Ferdinand said:
If you pretend speaking french, you need to work more...

So do you mate, so do you, if you pretend you speak English.
Ben   Friday, July 16, 2004, 14:28 GMT
I'm from the Northeastern most part of Connecticut, which is very "muddled" area, accent wise. I also went to acting school, where they teach you how to speak "American Standard," a sort of overly proper kind of stage speech which I'm sure has had some effect on my accent.

The only recognizable "regionalism" that I have is that I say the word "Aunt" as "AHnt," rather than the standard American "ant."

Otherwise, I've found that a lot of Connecticut has a very northern, almost midwestern sounding accent. Although in my neck of the woods, there are a lot of Boston-isms too--people drop "r"s and and say "wicked" alot.

It's just a weird, weird state.
Justin   Friday, July 16, 2004, 15:53 GMT
I'm a 15-year-old student from Beijing, China. And I myself think I have an American accent, maybe slightly influenced by some kind of Chinese accent. I don't drop my "R"s at all. And I make a distinction between "cot" and "caught".

Now some classmates like me in Beijing speak English pretty well, I suppose. However, not everyone follow a typical British or American style. Many young English learners tend to speak a mixtured English. Firstly, it is optional not to pronounce "R"s for them. They may even pronounce "idea" as "ideer". Secondly, sometimes they pronounce "laugh" as "lahf", other times, "laf". Thirdly, many English learners don't distinguish "cot" and "caught".
Random Chappie   Friday, July 16, 2004, 17:36 GMT
Wo xiangxing Beijingren jiang yingwen dou hui fa "r" de ying. Ni men laoBeijing juanshe shi youming de!

I believe Beijing people speak English all will pronounce "r" sound. You Beijingnese curl tongue is famous!
Random Chappie   Friday, July 16, 2004, 17:42 GMT
I recently heard on the telly something about the growing popularity of a very expensive fish-and-chips chain in Beijing. This is absolutely outrageous: the Chinese should not mindlessly gravitate to everything western. Personally, I think that Chinese food is much, much better than the rubbish served in British fast food chains.
Damian   Friday, July 16, 2004, 19:07 GMT

That's interesting about Connecticut. It is close to Boston, isn't it, although it's in Mass? (I say Mass because I can't spell Massachussetts ;-) I love watching's so funny. Does Sam have a Boston accent or is it all done courtesy of Hollywood? -:( Conn. is also close to influence there?

I thought maybe the New England accents have a touch of Britishism in them like you mentioned "aunt"? About 3 months ago I saw a film with Kathryn Hepburn (is that her name? not sure but I hope you know who I mean) and she was American but she had a distinct English tinge to her accent in the way she pronounced some words. I wonder if she came from your area?

Wicked is used a lot here... mainly in the same sense as "cool" or "great".

Justin: Am I right in thinking that there is no "R" sound in Chinese?

PS: I love all Chinese food! Thanks! I do like a double mac sometimes, Random!
Elaine   Friday, July 16, 2004, 20:15 GMT
Damian, if I may intrude...

Connecticut is the state directly below Massachussetts.

Sam Malone didn't have a Boston accent, come to think of it, none of the regular characters on "Cheers" had a Boston accent! Quite odd for a show that took place in a Boston bar where everybody knows your name.

Katharine Hepburn did indeed come from that area. She was born in Hartford, CT and was very proud of her sturdy Connecticut Yankee roots. After a hugely successful Hollywood career, she retreated back to Connecticut where, every cold winter morning, she would jump into the freezing Atlantic ocean and swim laps -- and she did this well into her 80s! When asked by a startled reporter who witnessed one of her morning swims why she would do such a thing, her reply was, "It builds character." What a remarkable woman!
Ben   Friday, July 16, 2004, 20:45 GMT
New England definitely has more of a British tinge than the rest of the United States, because it was more or less ruled by the Brahmins (British descendants psychotically proud of their ancestry) up until the early part of the twentieth century. Hepburn was definitely part of this Brahmin tradition, which explains her aristocratic accent.

New England west of the Connecticut river speaks with a different accent, more influenced by the Scots-Irish and old English farmers who settled there. It's still not a general American accent, but it's not really "classic New England."

Most people from the Northeast US don't think of Connecticut as having a "New England" accent because the only part of the state where people speak with one is the Eastern half, which is so sparsely populated that it accounts for (literally) only 1/10th of the population. But you can definitely hear it in the counties of Windham, Tolland, and New London.

Unfortunately, this is a dialect which is fading very strongly. While it's still very strong around the Boston area, other areas in the region are replacing this older accent with more standard American pronunciation. I noticed this very strongly when I visited a friend in Maine last Thanksgiving. While his parents still spoke with a thick Maine accent, he and his friends more or less spoke General American, with only a few slight regionalisms.
Damian   Friday, July 16, 2004, 21:21 GMT
Elaine and Ben:

Thanks so much for all that information. It sounds like one fascinating region there. I remember reading once about the first settlers, after landing at Plymouth Rock, settling into their new life there and experiencing their first New England winter. A wee bit nippier than Old England I guess.

I was intrigued by Katharine Hepburn's accent (sorry I got her name wrong). It was not like any other American accent I'd ever heard before but ....apart from the few US students I encountered at uni...I had never personally met any Americans before apart from the tourists I see here. I've been stopped and asked street directions by American tourists about three times I think. I must look intelligent or something! Wow!
Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, July 16, 2004, 23:10 GMT
What about Cliff on Cheers - is he feigning a Boston accent?

The last few times I was in Maine (Waterville, Portland), it seemed as if the only time I heard a Maine accent was among older people and even then it wasn't prevalent. I can't recall anyone in their 20's or younger having a Maine accent.
Ailian   Saturday, July 17, 2004, 00:37 GMT
It really depends on where the people live, how they perceive their roots and community standing, and how they were raised, I think. Maine, New Hampshire (goodness, those in Nashua! with their bubblahs!), Rhode Island, Boston's metropolitian area but not really Boston proper (Brahmin in Beacon Hill, "Boston" in North End)... the "Boston" accent really exists more outside of the city. And then there's the Nantucket accent, which I really don't know how to describe.

Cliff, though... no. Nobody in the show, really. They try to do the accent with some characters in _Crossing Jordan_ (Jordan, coming from Southie [South Boston], would have had a slight or strong "Boston" accent [even if she went to Boston University, as the show speculates], yet her accent is far too r-heavy; her father is played with a sort of Boston accent, but it still sounds not-quite-right [his generation, especially being "Irish" would have had a much, much stronger accent]), and it's a bit more successful, but not really. ;) I still shudder whenever they say "Quincy" instead of "Quinzy" and I'm not even from the area!
Damian   Saturday, July 17, 2004, 07:18 GMT
American English and such varied accents is turning out to be more fascinating than I ever imagined. A subject for considerable interesting study. Thanks Transatlantics! ;-)

By the way. I've been to Boston....well near it...a friend from uni invited me to his home there one wekend. This one is in Lincolnshire, England, though! It's in the Fens where the countryside is as flat as a table top. While I was there I was told that people from Lincolnshire are called "yellowbellies"! Please don't ask! Over the border in nearby Norfolk people are called "swede bashers"! It has nothing to do with an aversion to certain Scandinavians....more to do with vegetables.
Justin   Saturday, July 17, 2004, 17:56 GMT
What a discussion about the Boston accent! Well I've never heard an American with an authentic Boston accent. Would all of you please introduce it to me? And What are the difference between a Boston accent, and a standard British one? It seems pretty interesting to me.

Random: your Chinese is pretty good! I just suggest that you pronounce the more standard ones "相信xiangxin" and "音yin" rather than "xiangxing" and "ying". And you are right, Beijing natives are able to curl the tongue well!

And in fact, there is "R" sound in standard Chinese. But we Beijing natives do not round lips when pronouncing "R" in Chinese.
Justin   Saturday, July 17, 2004, 17:57 GMT
Sorry, I didn't know that Chinese characters cannot be well displayed here.
Random Chappie   Saturday, July 17, 2004, 18:30 GMT
Thank you for the corrections to my Chinese pronunciation, Justin. All my collaborators and colleagues are Chinese and I've been to China a number of times too (business trips, ye ken). I still can't write Chinese characters, though, and my grammar and word choice are quirky at best.

And drat, you're right, Chinese characters won't appear here even if I set my browser encoding to Chinese Simplified GB.

I've never heard an authentic Boston accent either. Perhaps it's a bit similar to the Cornwall accent?

Accents I have heard before (in order of degree of exposure):
1. Estuary English
2. Received Pronunciation
3. Californian (General American??)
My own= a combination of the above
4. Scottish (my favourite)
5. Chinese (Chinglish??)
6. Singaporean (Singlish??)
7. French
8. Russian