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"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



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Subject: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives
Question: Dear Ask-A-Linguist Panelists,

A friend and I were discussing how regional accents are becoming
less and less common throughout the U.S. We noticed the Tidewater
Accent, once prevalent throughout coastal Maryland and Virginia, is
now nearly completely extinct with the exception of older speakers.
We also noticed this patter in a number of other areas such as
Boston, New York, and Baltimore. Baltimore no longer feels for lack
of a better term like a "southern" city.

We mused over the idea of finding a way to revive such accents once
more, particularly among younger generations, to continue the culture
and history that goes with those dialects and accents. Do you know
of any such attempts at revival? Or better yet, how would one most
effectively accomplish such a task? Purely hypothetical of course.

Thanks, WG

Reply: Stigmatized dialects and even languages often paradoxically are a sign of solidarity,
but also people may hide their knowledge of those dialects or languages from
outsiders, and even from each other. However, if there is a way to celebrate linguistic
diversity, there might be a chance of preserving, but probably not reviving, those
dialects One example from my own experience concerns the Tohoku dialect of Japan,
centered around Sendai. It's the kind of dialect that Japanese from Tokyo or Kyoto
make fun of; my understanding is that when they translated Faulkner into Japanese,
they used this dialect for some of the characters. While I was living there, I had the
good fortune to attend a Sendai-ben (Sendai dialect) festival, with stories, letters, and
skits. It was organized by a professor at Tohoku University who treasured the dialect (I
think he might have been a native user). that is one strategy for preservation and also
for changing attitudes.
Reply From: Susan D Fischer      click here to access email
 
Date: 16-Mar-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Nancy J. Frishberg     (15-Mar-2013)
  2. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (15-Mar-2013)
  3. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (15-Mar-2013)

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