LINGUIST List 5.442

Tue 19 Apr 1994

Disc: Accents

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 5.437 Accents
  2. HUGH SORRILL, RE: 5.438 Accents
  3. Mary Ann Geissal, Re: 5.438 Accents
  4. Michael Kac, Re: 5.437 Accents
  5. Michael Kac, Re: 5.438 Accents
  6. James Magnuson, Re: 5.438 Accents

Message 1: Re: 5.437 Accents

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 09:39:26 Re: 5.437 Accents
From: <>
Subject: Re: 5.437 Accents

The remark about gentile southern accents set me to wondering: are
there any southern jewish accents? All the southern jews I know grew
up as members of tiny communities (often consisting of one family) in
places like Waco. What about Atlanta? Was there a large enough
jewish community anywhere in the south to develop an accent of its
own? Can we count Cincinatti or Baltimore as being southern and is
there such a thing as a Cincinatti or Baltimore jewish accent?
Another point, somewhat related: my daughter pointed out to me that
her sixth-grade ancient history textbook has a section about two
persecuted minorities in Rome: Christians and jewish people.
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Message 2: RE: 5.438 Accents

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 94 14:46 BST
Subject: RE: 5.438 Accents

Forgive me for being picky, but there is a misapprehension which cannot go
uncorrected. Far from being from Australia (as Randy Lapolla would have us
believe) the lead human actor in "Roger Rabbit" is from deepest darkest London.
However this is not the first time that I've heard of speakers of American
English mistake a strong London accent for an Australian one. What is it
that confuses? To my ear, admittedly more used to both accents, there
doesn't seem to be any similarity whatsoever. Indeed there is a general
psycholinguistic point here - how do we perceive minute differences a la
Henry Sweet?
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Message 3: Re: 5.438 Accents

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 15:43:51 Re: 5.438 Accents
From: Mary Ann Geissal <>
Subject: Re: 5.438 Accents

> date: Thu, 14 Apr 1994 12:07:38 +0008
> from: "RANDY J. LAPOLLA" <>
> subject: Re: 5.422 Accents
> By the way, immitations of the New York accent are usually easy to
> spot (e.g. rounding the first part of the dipthong in words such as
> "toidi-toid street"), though there is one amazing
> exception: when I saw the movie _Rogger Rabbit_, I had no idea the lead
> (human) actor was an Australian who normally has a very strong Aussie
> accent.
> A Native New Yorker

Er...Are you talking about Bob Hoskins? He's no Aussie; he's English,
from North London, I think.

Mary Ann
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Message 4: Re: 5.437 Accents

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 18:04:23 Re: 5.437 Accents
From: Michael Kac <>
Subject: Re: 5.437 Accents

Howard Long comments that he has yet to see a movie set in New Orleans
in which the filmmakers got the accent right. It reminded me of an epi-
sode of 'The Rockford Files' in which Rob Reiner plays a lowlife ostensibly
from Chicago who has a thick NY accent. And the beat goes on ...

Michael Kac
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Message 5: Re: 5.438 Accents

Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 18:13:01 Re: 5.438 Accents
From: Michael Kac <>
Subject: Re: 5.438 Accents

A couple of correspondents in this discussion have made reference to
Brox and Brooklyn accents (presumably subvarieties of NYC English).
It's always been a part of the folklore regarding New York City speech
that there are distinctive accents associated with The Bronx and with
Brooklyn (differing both from each other and from other NYC accents);
is that really true? Is there any real evidence one way or the other?

There are a couple of reasons for supposing that the common view is
false. One is that there is ample evidence for the differences ob-
servable among varieties of NYC English being socially rather than
geographically distributed; another is that you rarely if ever hear
people talk about Manhattan or Queens accents. (Staten Island, anyone?)
It's worth noting as well that features commonly thought as to be
typical Bronx or Brooklyn features can be found in the speech of
lifelong manhattanites. But I don't keep up with the
dialectological literature so perhaps there's counterevidence. At
any rate, I'd be interested in knowing what people have to say.

Michael Kac
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Message 6: Re: 5.438 Accents

Date: Tue, 19 Apr 94 08:31:21 JSRe: 5.438 Accents
From: James Magnuson <>
Subject: Re: 5.438 Accents

"Murray Munro" <> writes:

> Margaret Fleck's posting raises an interesting issue about
> unsophisticated listeners' abilities to distinguish accents. She wrote
> > A cautionary note about "parodies" of various accents: remember that
> > most people (particularly non-linguists) are quite bad at
> > distinguishing accents very different from their own. It seems very
> > likely that the imitators can't hear the difference between what
> > they are producing and the real thing.
> While I agree that an inability to accurately imitate an accent may
> be the result of perceptual difficulties, I don't think it is fair to
> say that people are bad at "distinguishing" accents. There are
> certainly plenty of studies in the phonetics literature showing that
> even untrained listeners are astonishingly good at detecting a
> foreign accent.

A bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting people aren't so great at
distinguishing accents from closer-to-home:

My first year in college, I had neighbors from Miami, Nebraska, and
Connecticut. I grew up in a rural area 50 miles north of Minneapolis.
I'll refer to us as FL, NE, CT and MN.

All of us had distinctive regional accents, "except" the guy from CT,
who sounded like a network anchorman. CT thought all of us had strong
accents, but all of us thought we had accents identical to CT's. To CT and
MN, FL and NE had strong, but different, southern accents. FL and NE didn't
hear accents in each other. CT, FL and NE thought MN (that's me) had a
strong accent.

On the other hand, people from Minneapolis had no trouble detecting my
accent. In fact, they thought I sounded like the MacKenzie brothers from
SCTV, sans the "eh"s and "take off"s.

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