Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:

$34890

Still Needed:

$40110

Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington


Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Non-native pronunciation of English
Question: Many German adults learning English pronounce ''the'' something like
''ze'', whereas many Dutch pronounce it as ''de''. Neither German nor
Dutch have a voiced /th/, but both languages have /d/ and /z/. So why
does one language tend towards /z/ while the other tends to /d/?

Reply: This interesting question relates to a current trend in sociolinguistics.

For the last 30+ years, we have talked about dialectal variation in English in the following places:

1. countries where English has been a dominant native language for several generations and where a large proportion of the population have ancestors who came from Britain (UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada) -- Braj Kachru called these the 'Inner Circle'.

2. countries which were colonies of the UK (and, in a couple of cases, of the USA) and where English retains an important part in communication inside the country (such as India, Nigeria, Philippines). There may be large numbers of native speakers, but few of them have ancestors who came from Britain. Kachru called these 'Outer Circle'.

We did not talk about the third kind of country as having dialects of English, though:

3. countries where English is not used within the country (except in classes or with foreigners)and is almost never a native language. Kachru called these 'Expanding Circle'.


It is only in the last 10 years or so that there has begun to be serious study of the use of English in the Expanding Circle. One thing that is emerging is that these countries have dialects of English too, so they have their own traditions of pronouncing English. Most of these pronunciations will be transmitted from teachers to students in the process of learning English, and (like all accents) will be reinforced by hearing English spoken by one's peers.

Native speakers of English from (for example) the UK who have moved to (for example) Germany as a child sometimes find that if they retain their native accent, they are laughed at in English classes, and they adapt by speaking English with a German accent.

If you look at migrants in places like France or Germany, you can see that their children will acquire the English-accent of their place of upbringing rather than the one associated with their language of origin. A child who migrated from Vietnam to Germany at age 8, for example, will grow up speaking English with a German accent, while another child who grew up in Spain will learn English will a Spanish accent.

Anthea

Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
 
Date: 22-Sep-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (20-Sep-2012)
  2. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (20-Sep-2012)
  3. Re: Non-native pronunciation of English    Robert A Papen     (20-Sep-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions