The English of England.

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Postby Stan » 2005-08-17, 23:30

The truth finally revealed!

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Postby Kirk » 2005-08-18, 0:13

Stancel wrote:The truth finally revealed!

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Haha! :lol: I bet our Martian conlanger friend John Q. English is mad they finally revealed the truth about his conlang.

Travis B wrote:Tis true, but it's just that it was the British grammarians who started the whole mess. And yes, unfortunately, their American counterparts still continue such to this day, even though the grammarians' influence is not what it used to be


Let's hope so. If I get one more response akin to "well thank God someone's out there saving the world from bad grammar!" when I tell people I'm a linguistics major I think I may just have to start injuring people :twisted:
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I eat prescriptivists for breakfast.

maɪ nemz kʰɜ˞kʰ n̩ aɪ laɪk̚ fɨˈnɛ̞ɾɪ̞ks

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Postby reflexsilver86 » 2005-08-18, 0:54

LOL I'm taking Intro to Linguistics this upcoming semester and when I was browsing through my new linguistics book yesterday (I find it fun to read... yes that's a sign I'm a language nut, finding a linguistics book fun) and read what they wrote about dialects and "Language Purists" it's easy to see how all linguists pretty much agree on the same points when it comes to language purists. To really say one way of speaking is better than the other is honestly ridiculous, and to consider that from the beginning of time it's been said that the new generation is "ruining" the language (this goes back to Ancient Greece where they complained they were tarnishing the language of Homer).

The only reason certain forms of any language are considered more correct than the other are because of who speaks what dialect. Dialects all carry certain stigmas. If Bush spoke in a Connecticut accent instead of that Texan one, for example, it may be presumed he's more intelligent than people think he is with his Texan accent (by the way, I'm still incredibly confused as to how he's the only one in that whole family who has a Texan accent, since his brother Jeb, who's the governor of my state, doesn't have it, and his other siblings and parents don't either. Maybe someone can explain this without it becoming a political thing, because I'm not interested in that. Some people suggest it's all a put-on, but if he can honestly put that accent on, then he's a heck of a lot smarter than everyone thinks, because I couldn't talk like that all day)

Anyway, also in that section was a mention of a study done in the 1950s by a British linguist (I forget the name and I'm too lazy to look at the book) who classified British English speakers into two categories. Rich speakers were called the "U" group, and the non-rich were categorized as the "non-U" group. The distinguishing characteristics of the U and non-U groups are that the U group never used non-U terminology. However what made the non-U group unique was that they actually TRIED to sound like the U group, which formed quite a bit of their linguistic identity, with such phrases like "They've a lovely home" and using choices like "wealthy" instead of "rich," while the rich people just plainly said "rich" I thought that was really interesting. Maybe that explains the current phenomenon of people continuously using "I" in the wrong place, because they want to sound more educated and in the process are forming their own linguistic identity. Though it still drives me mad. :lol:
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Postby Kirk » 2005-08-18, 1:50

reflexsilver86 wrote:LOL I'm taking Intro to Linguistics this upcoming semester and when I was browsing through my new linguistics book yesterday (I find it fun to read... yes that's a sign I'm a language nut, finding a linguistics book fun) and read what they wrote about dialects and "Language Purists" it's easy to see how all linguists pretty much agree on the same points when it comes to language purists. To really say one way of speaking is better than the other is honestly ridiculous, and to consider that from the beginning of time it's been said that the new generation is "ruining" the language (this goes back to Ancient Greece where they complained they were tarnishing the language of Homer).


Exactly :) Funny how those who are in power define what is "correct" and what's not, yet most people still believe there's an inherently purer form of a language and it just so happens that those in power and prestige speak it (what a coicidence!), and anything else must be a deviant form of the "true" language. And since people are generally taught along these lines in school it's accepted as unquestioned truth.

I read a study about young kids with "standard" and "nonstandard" speech and it found at the age of 6 both groups, when interacting, would equally laugh at the others' speech as "funny" or "strange," while by the time the kids were 9, the "non-standard" speakers had completely accepted by that time that they spoke "incorrectly" to the point of being embarrassed to talk in some cases. This may have part to do with peer socialization but I think it's strongly enforced by educators who give implicit or explicit support to students with "standard" speech and implicit or explicit discouragement of the speech of the "nonstandard" kids. And the shame is that each variety is linguistically just as valid as any other. I'm not one to naively or idealistically ignore sociolinguistic reality (and at least knowing and being able to code-switch into the "standard" language will help advance people in the long run), but there is a shocking amount of ignorance out there about language amongst people who really should know better.

reflexsilver86 wrote:The only reason certain forms of any language are considered more correct than the other are because of who speaks what dialect. Dialects all carry certain stigmas. If Bush spoke in a Connecticut accent instead of that Texan one, for example, it may be presumed he's more intelligent than people think he is with his Texan accent (by the way, I'm still incredibly confused as to how he's the only one in that whole family who has a Texan accent, since his brother Jeb, who's the governor of my state, doesn't have it, and his other siblings and parents don't either. Maybe someone can explain this without it becoming a political thing, because I'm not interested in that. Some people suggest it's all a put-on, but if he can honestly put that accent on, then he's a heck of a lot smarter than everyone thinks, because I couldn't talk like that all day)


Me neither! My attempts at imitating other dialects of English suck! I think Bush did live in Texas for a while and my guess would be that he adapted his speech (whether consciously or subconsciously) to be more like the people around him, in order to fit in. This happens a lot to people who move to new areas and, especially if they want to fit in perfectly with the people around them and not seem like an outsider, they're more likely to adapt speech norms of the people they admire that are around them. This can also vary depending on the individual--some people can live years in a different place and never have any salient changes in accent while others may pick it up right away. I remember watching a guy on TV a couple years ago who had was an American who had grown up in the US but in his 20s he moved to Australia and by the time he was on this show I was watching he was probably in his mid 40s, and he sounded completely Australian to me. Then there's the opposite cases--Gray Davis, the much-disliked former governor of California, moved from New York City to California in 1954 when he was only 12, yet if you listen to him talk, you can tell he still has a New Yorker accent!! You'd think 41 years in California would've changed his accent (and maybe it has..maybe it used to be even stronger of a NYC accent), but he definitely doesn't sound Californian to me.

reflexsilver86 wrote:Anyway, also in that section was a mention of a study done in the 1950s by a British linguist (I forget the name and I'm too lazy to look at the book) who classified British English speakers into two categories. Rich speakers were called the "U" group, and the non-rich were categorized as the "non-U" group. The distinguishing characteristics of the U and non-U groups are that the U group never used non-U terminology. However what made the non-U group unique was that they actually TRIED to sound like the U group, which formed quite a bit of their linguistic identity, with such phrases like "They've a lovely home" and using choices like "wealthy" instead of "rich," while the rich people just plainly said "rich" I thought that was really interesting. Maybe that explains the current phenomenon of people continuously using "I" in the wrong place, because they want to sound more educated and in the process are forming their own linguistic identity. Though it still drives me mad. :lol:


Hehe, yes, there are loads of linguistic studies out there that show that the upwardly mobile or just plain middle class tend to be much more conscious of their speech usage than either lower-class or upper-class people tend to be. The emergence of an emerging large upwardly mobile middle class in the 19th century in Britain was actually the major impetus for the success of the prescriptivists of that era, as there were all of a sudden millions of people who were self-conscious enough about their speech and had enough money and time that they could devote to slavishly replicating grammatical and speech norms that they thought could get them ahead in life. It didn't matter that these prescriptivists were just peddling their own personal dislikes, people couldn't get enough of them. Those 18-19th century know-nothing prescriptivists' legacies may still often be seen today in what people believe is "correct" and not, as some of their arbitrary and laughable "rules" are still taught as inerrant fact in schools today.
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'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

I eat prescriptivists for breakfast.

maɪ nemz kʰɜ˞kʰ n̩ aɪ laɪk̚ fɨˈnɛ̞ɾɪ̞ks

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Postby Travis B. » 2005-08-18, 7:00

This is interesting, because locally here in southeastern Wisconsin, there does not really seem to be any notion of dialect features varying across class lines and especially amongst the upwardly mobile, besides AAVE which is not a gradation within the native local dialect forms, but rather a wholly separate dialect group altogether. Rather, amongst non-AAVE-speakers, there seems to be little variation in such a manner in this area; however, there is some non-self-conscious variation of such a sort, such as, for example, my dad's speech being far more like some sort of semi-formal "General American" than my own speech, which is definitely far more informal than his, and which has phonological features which are very common locally but which are nearly absent in his speech, such as very broad /D/ assimilation and realizing word-initial /D/ elsewhere often as [d] or [z].

Even still, though, even though the dialect here in a number of ways differs quite a bit from some notional "General American", and people here are conscious that others even relatively nearby do not speak like us, as people here often note that people from other parts of the US, as near as Chicago, often say that vowels are enunciated as very long overall here, there is simply no concept that the dialect here is at all "incorrect" or "nonstandard" whatsoever from the perspective of people here. Such is to the point that, for example, in my own case, I did not even realize that some constructions that are used in the dialect here, such as the use of "by" to mean "at", were not used in most of North American English until about late high school, at the earliest. From the standpoint of people here, the English natively spoken here, besides AAVE, is considered to be effectively "standard" for all practical purposes, even though the dialect here clearly has many phonological features and even some grammatical features which differ much of the rest of North American English; what other English-speakers may speak simply does not really matter for most people here, from what it seems.

All of this is interesting because it is a case where the idea of people who are potentially upwardly mobile do not seem to be trying to change their speech at all to fit some notional "standard", and also where there is very little indication that individuals are trying to change their speech to make it more like other NAE speakers' speech, even though people here are definitely aware that their own speech is not like that of the surrounding area, especially that to the south of the line between Milwaukee and Madison. Furthermore, there seems to be little indication that education and like has had much influence at all on the dialect here, especially since I have practically never heard any clearly non-"General American" features such as the aforementioned use of "by" or realizing word-initial /D/ as [d] ever being decried at all by educators, from throughout the entire period I have taken English classes of one sort or another. Overall, rather than some general movement towards some "correct" "General American", the pattern here seems to be the complete opposite, of preserving the dialect here even though many people here are aware of that it at least differs in some manners from that in, say, Chicago, even though they may not be fully aware of all the differences entailed.
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Postby Kirk » 2005-08-18, 7:58

Yes, I think the situation you describe, Travis, applies to many North American English speakers. NAE is generally noted for lack of class distinctions (if I try to think of an upper-class American accent I can't think of one) and I think much of what you said could apply to most people's perceptions of their speech here.

Much like people in the Northern Midwest, Californians also tend to believe that they either 1) speak "normal" "neutral" or "accentless" English and/or 2) they do recognize California has its own unique variety and believe it's better than others that significantly differ from it. (well, isn't it? ;) )

Of course the reality is that huge changes have been going on here (especially in vowels) but since they're generally not stigmatized or even consciously noticed at all, these major language changes spread quickly and naturally with little opposition as more and more in the speech community gradually adopt them.

At least here, I think while people may be linguistically secure about their dialect and accent as a whole, there are always some people who, as a result of prescriptivist notions learned in school, will consciously try and monitor their speech to stamp out certain usages which they were taught were "incorrect." So, overall they're quite confident about their speech but certain people may be sensitive about certain random usages and constructions. I would imagine the situation is similar there in Wisconsin.

This is a different situation than what we see in historically stigmatized dialects like Southern US English, where people may not only be self-conscious about certain usages, they may be conscious of their accent (so, phonology) as a whole in a way that would be unthinkable here. In the South you'll find "accent-reduction" courses offered by companies who train people to speak in more or less conservative formal GenAm for purposes such as business and other professional contexts...as people may feel that they're being left behind (whether this is true or not) because of the way they speak.

I remember in my sociolinguistics class I took a couple years ago watching a video of a lady with a thick Brooklyn accent, and she was a professional in marketing or something like that and felt that her "accent from the street" was holding her back in the business world, which it probably was, as it was quite noticeable--she bemoaned the fact that it didn't matter if her ideas were the best in the world, because people would notice her accent over her ideas. The video showed her struggling to use rhotic pronunciations--saying words like "door" and "floor" over and over, and other things attempting to imitate GenAm. What was interesting was that grammatically when she spoke, there was nothing "nonstandard" about it--it was truly just an issue of phonology. And that's the kind of thing you'd never really see here.
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Postby Ariki » 2005-08-18, 21:38

Lets face it there is only one true English and that’s the English of England.


One true English? But what about other dialects...such as Yorkshire and Cockney?

All the other English variations are quite simply colonial dialects. If you want to learn English why not learn the English way? Why not learn English spellings?


The English spoken in Australia and New Zealand does not vary much at all from the English spoken in Great Britain. Infact, why doesn't the British parliarment do us all a big favour, and make a big push in these so called 'colonies' to have the native languages taught?

If later you decide you want to sound like an American. You simply have to practice
speaking with a large potato in your mouth (that usually does the trick)!


And I s`pose if I wanted to sound like a person from the UK I'd have to start talking with a plum in my mouth? :roll:
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Postby Stan » 2005-08-18, 22:50

riki wrote:And I s`pose if I wanted to sound like a person from the UK I'd have to start talking with a plum in my mouth? :roll:

:lol:
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Postby MikeL » 2005-08-19, 1:35

reflexsilver86 wrote:Anyway, also in that section was a mention of a study done in the 1950s by a British linguist (I forget the name and I'm too lazy to look at the book) who classified British English speakers into two categories. Rich speakers were called the "U" group, and the non-rich were categorized as the "non-U" group.


Not sure about the "study...by a British linguist" - wasn't this in a book by one of the Mitford sisters (Nancy??)? As I recall (I haven't read it in 30 years at least) it was a half-serious, half-humorous look at the English class system in general, not just speech habits.

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Postby reflexsilver86 » 2005-08-19, 2:42

It was before my time, so forgive me for not knowing the specifics, but I believe you're correct about it being a study of the class system in general.

And I never really paid much mind to it, I just browsed through, and that caught my eye.
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Postby shri420 » 2005-08-19, 21:05

I’m frequently asked by foreign students how their English sounds. Being the polite person that I am, I reply: “you sound English”.

What a stupid question! If you were born and raised elsewhere, how do you think you’ll sound? Allow me to inform you: Americans sound American, Australians sound Australian etcetera etcetera (it doesn’t take a genius to work that one out does it).

Received Pronunciation is still the chief prestige accent of England and first choice for all British broadcasters. Unfortunately not everyone in England shares this particular accent. However, it is an accent that English parents aspire for their children to emulate.

The main advantage of learning the English of England (using RP) is that it is the accent that all English speakers understand; it has been said that: “everyone can recognise the speech of their former colonial masters”. Wherever they are in the world (even Americans).

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Postby Travis B. » 2005-08-19, 21:52

shri420 wrote:I’m frequently asked by foreign students how their English sounds. Being the polite person that I am, I reply: “you sound English”.


I would assume that in this context said foreign students had primarily learned English with English English features then. Of course, telling someone who had primarily learned some sort of North American English that they sounded English would be rather silly.

shri420 wrote:Received Pronunciation is still the chief prestige accent of the England and first choice for all British broadcasters. Unfortunately not everyone in England shares this particular accent. However, it is an accent that English parents aspire for their children to emulate.


Oh suuure. Considering that for most today in England, RP is just way too socially marked as being very self-consciously upper class overall, to the point that many today who have previously spoken one form or another of RP have actually been changing from RP to Estuary English, or at least making their RP sound Estuary English-ish. Considering that these days individuals like Tony Blair use Estuary English, and it's said that you can even hear its features in the speech of some of the royals (which one would normally expect to be very conservative in this kind of way) today. What you're saying might have applied fifty or twenty five years ago, but such definitely does not apply today

shri420 wrote:The main advantage of learning the English of England (using RP) is that it is the accent that all English speakers understand; it has been said that: “everyone can recognise the speech of their former colonial masters”. Wherever they are in the world (even Americans).


Somehow I doubt though that many other English-speakers would have much problems understanding most sorts of North American English, the more divergent sorts of such, such as AAVE, some extreme northern Northern Central American English dialects like that known here as "Yooper" speech, various southern and especially some southern coastal dialects, various dialects spoken in the Atlantic region of Canada, and so on, aside.
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Postby JackFrost » 2005-08-19, 22:04

shri420 wrote:The main advantage of learning the English of England (using RP) is that it is the accent that all English speakers understand; it has been said that: “everyone can recognise the speech of their former colonial masters”. Wherever they are in the world (even Americans).

I don't think the Irish or Scots or Welsh or French Canadians would be happy to hear that. Even the Americans as well.
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Postby Ariki » 2005-08-19, 22:15

The main advantage of learning the English of England (using RP) is that it is the accent that all English speakers understand; it has been said that: “everyone can recognise the speech of their former colonial masters”. Wherever they are in the world (even Americans).


What a stupid question! If you were born and raised elsewhere, how do you think you’ll sound? Allow me to inform you: Americans sound American, Australians sound Australian etcetera etcetera (it doesn’t take a genius to work that one out does it).


You'll sound like someone who speaks English with a certain accent that is peculiar to that dialect of Enghlish. What you said is just as facaecious as saying 'we live in Australia and therefore we speak Australian and not English'.

That really is an idiotic thing to say. There are many variations of English, all of which, are acceptable dialects. If you can't understand a dialect of English then it's your own fault for not knowing your language well enough to be able communicate with others who don't speak the same as you (and yet, are able to understand what you say). I find your argument elitist and goes against the grain of linguistics.
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Postby Travis B. » 2005-08-19, 22:16

JackFrost wrote:
shri420 wrote:The main advantage of learning the English of England (using RP) is that it is the accent that all English speakers understand; it has been said that: “everyone can recognise the speech of their former colonial masters”. Wherever they are in the world (even Americans).

I don't think the Irish or Scots or Welsh or French Canadians would be happy to hear that. Even the Americans as well.


Yeah, I myself tend to be not exactly that amused by suggestions of any kind that North American English should somehow be considered subordinate to any sort of English English. What really pisses me off, though, is when some suggest that the US is "Anglo-Saxon" in the ethnic sense of the term, which is absolutely not true whatsoever (especially places like here, where people who are such are probably a small minority of the population as a whole). Of course, then, one can then just backpedal and use terms like "Anglo-Saxon civilization" or whatnot, but terms like that still piss me off.

Of course, what, on the other hand, amuses me about all of this is that it often seems to me as if at least some Englishpeople have quite an inflated view of their country and everything associated with such, especially when one considers that the British Empire has been dead for about 50 years or so, within the EU the UK is probably less significant than France and Germany, and that the UK seems as if it is not that far from being a satellite state of that which some happen to somehow still refer to as if it were a colony of some sort. Not that I'm an American nationalist, considering I hate the US gov't, but that's another story.
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Postby reflexsilver86 » 2005-08-20, 1:19

I think that for a post that started off merely as flame bait, this has wound up producing some interesting discussion, so congratulations to everyone for reforming it.

However, I think basically to sum it up it can be said that nobody in particular should feel their way of speaking the language is better. This sentiment however is bound to occur because people associate what they know as being better than what they don't know. And people from where a language originates tend to look down on forms of it spoken in former colonies, for example. There are plenty of jabs made by the French at the Québécois and the Québécois jab right back at the French, for example. Within countries you find various dialects and accents being labeled as superior or inferior, and it all has to do with the way power has leaned over time.

I hear all the time from Europeans learning the English language, however, how odd my accent is because I'm American, and how much more beautiful and refined the British English accent is, and so on. Never mind that they're referring to just one particular accent to be found within the many in the United Kingdom (RP/BBC English) and that if they had to listen to someone from Yorkshire talking in their dialect they would be just as clueless as if they had to listen to someone from the heart of Appalachia.

What sets linguists apart is linguists are taught, and the key word is taught, to appreciate all the various dialects and accents, and to not label any as being better than the other. You have to be patient with others who haven't been presented with this argument before, because what they experience is a normal sociological sentiment, where they feel their own way of doing things is exceptional to others. Education is what always cures exceptionalism.

If you want to look at just the shining jewel in British English's crown, Received Pronunciation is indeed very nice to listen to. However I think Americans have some nice accents too. There are some on either side of the pond that are admittedly rough on the ears, so you can't just point to RP and say that all British accents are more than American ones, pointing at a Brooklyn accent. You'd have to at least be courteous enough to place a Brooklyn accent up against Cockney or something at least on the same level! (And many people in my family speak with a Brooklyn accent so I feel free to use it here lol)
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Postby greg-fr » 2005-08-20, 1:24

Travis B. : this reminds me of a discussion we had on another forum. :D
Francophones use the adjective anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) as a synonym for English-speaking, natively, even if you're from Mexican or Asian descent. The noun Anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) (used for people exclusively) refer to any native English-speaker, whatever their origins, skin-colours etc. So both anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) and Anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) convey a linguistic meaning, not an ethnic one.
(I know you already know that, but...) :D

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Postby Travis B. » 2005-08-20, 1:56

greg-fr wrote:Travis B. : this reminds me of a discussion we had on another forum. :D
Francophones use the adjective anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) as a synonym for English-speaking, natively, even if you're from Mexican or Asian descent. The noun Anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) (used for people exclusively) refer to any native English-speaker, whatever their origins, skin-colours etc. So both anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) and Anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) convey a linguistic meaning, not an ethnic one.
(I know you already know that, but...) :D


Yeah, I already do know that myself. :wink:

It's just that here there is a distinction between the terms "English-speaking", "Anglophone", and like, which refer solely to language, and the term "Anglo-Saxon", as it is used in things like "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant", which refers to (generally very wealthy) white Europeans who are (primarily) ethnically Anglo-Saxon and who are Protestant. One note about that term, though, is that it is at times today used for people outside what it literally refers to, for example, to refer to people who are Catholic rather than Protestant, or who might be German or Irish rather than English proper, as as how the term is used today, it generally refers more to status and wealth rather than just race, ethnicity, and religion alone.
secretGeek on CodingHorror wrote:Type inference is not a gateway drug to more dynamically typed languages.

Rather "var" is a gateway drug toward "real" type inferencing, of which var is but a tiny cigarette to the greater crack mountain!

greg-fr
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Postby greg-fr » 2005-08-20, 2:20

And of course anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) and Anglo-saxon(s)(ne)(nes) also refer to the real (medieval) Anglo-Saxons...

Travis B. : what does Al diin basis is to us gehören! mean in IG ?

MikeL
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Postby MikeL » 2005-08-20, 9:45

reflexsilver86 wrote: Received Pronunciation is indeed very nice to listen to.


Hmmm... This is an interesting idea. The aesthetics (or esthetics) of pronunciation... How can any judgment do more than reflect the prejudice of the speaker? There is no "neutral", unaccented English to which any particular pronunciation can be compared. And how can I know what my accent "sounds like" to someone from the Bronx, or Lancashire, or Jamaica?
FWIW, I am prejudiced against the variety of RP spoken by the Royal Family: those back "a"s, those tortured triphthongs, the diphthongs trying so hard to be mono... Makes me cringe...
But I like Scots, and (some) Irish, and Cockney, and most American varieties (some southern ones don't do it for me, though). And as for Strine...
But all this has absolutely nothing to do with linguistics.


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