LINGUIST List 5.478

Mon 25 Apr 1994

Disc: Accents

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. "George Fowler h(anen, Language students' accents
  2. Mary Ann Geissal, Re: 5.475 Accents
  3. "Dennis.Preston", 5.475 Accents
  4. , southern jewish accents
  5. Mary Ellen Ryder, British actors doing American accents
  6. Mary Ellen Ryder, Dialects and double modals
  7. MARC PICARD, Re: 5.475 Accents
  8. Deborah D K Ruuskanen, Re: Accents

Message 1: Language students' accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 94 07:44:13 ESLanguage students' accents
From: "George Fowler h(anen <>
Subject: Language students' accents

I would just like to toss a second-hand observation into the discussion of
accents. My former professor, Howard Aronson of the U. of Chicago, observed the
following phenomenon back in the days when he still had to teach practical
Russian. There would be students in his classes who had terrible Russian
pronunciation, apparently deaf to whatever makes Russian sound passably
authentic. However, some of the same students could do a dead-on imitation of
the English speech of their conversation/drill instructor, an elderly Russian
lady with a THICK Russian accent. Since the phonetic habits in the Russian
accent in English are basically the same as required for Russian speech,
Aronson was amazed that the students couldn't transfer them, since they were
obviously picking them up and performing them on that level.
 George Fowler
 Dept. of Slavic Languages
 Indiana University
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Message 2: Re: 5.475 Accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 08:34:42 Re: 5.475 Accents
From: Mary Ann Geissal <>
Subject: Re: 5.475 Accents

Laurie Bauer asks about speakers who use a velar nasal in 'sandwich'.
You can hear this in Chicago, too, though in a minority of speakers.

Mary Ann Geissal
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Message 3: 5.475 Accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 94 11:08 EDT
From: "Dennis.Preston" <>
Subject: 5.475 Accents

Several recent postings mention videos on US language variety; unfortunately,
titles and ordering infomration are wrong.
1) The most general (and interesting) is American Tongues; it is available
fromNew Day Films, 121 W. 27th St. #902, NY, NY 10001 (212-645-8210; fax
212-645-8652). It can be rented for $85 and purchasedfor $285 (or $150 for a
special expurgated high school version which deletes racial slurs). It is a
sociolinguistically sophisticated and fun film (almost an oxymoron in
educational video!).
2) Yeah You Rite! is an in-depth study of New Orleans lore and language. It is
a good film but less linguistically oriented than American Tongues. It is
available from The Center for New American Media, 542 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY,
NY 10012, 212-925-5665 (fax 212-925-5692, $150 purchase, $75 rent.
Dennis Preston
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Message 4: southern jewish accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 11:02:34 southern jewish accents
Subject: southern jewish accents

This is a message I received from my father, when sending on some of the
postings about southern accents.
I think of no distinctively Jewish Charleston accents. My Jewish friends there
spoke Charleston. Uncle Sam Stoneyused to say that there were five
distinguishable Charleston accents, representing five different social groups.
The most elevated accent was his, of course; he called it "Mandarin." (One
feature of this sicuolect not shared by othe Charlestonese is the yodation of
verlars befre /ar/ the word car is pronounced kyar.) Jewish speech
patterns did not differ from the standard Charleston, medium-grade, accent.
I went to school with Louis Rubin (now a teacher, author, publisher in Chapel
Hill, N. C.); Louis never spoke any form that seemed to me different from
normal Charleston speech. Your correspondents may not think of Cincinnati
as "southern"; if you want southern Jewish, you must look to Atlanta or
Birmingham. In the play "Driving Miss Daisy"--when we saw it in London--the
accent of Miss Daisy, an Atlanta Jewess, was simple Atlanta (and an excellent
rendition of Atlanta-ese it was, even in London). I have not seen the film
and cannot speak of that performance.

adger williams
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Message 5: British actors doing American accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 94 10:38:15 MSBritish actors doing American accents
From: Mary Ellen Ryder <>
Subject: British actors doing American accents

Cathryn Williams was asking about British actors doing American accents.
I consulted with a film buff in my department (and a native Texan) on
this subject and he offered the following comments. Gary Oldham does
very believable American accents. Laurence Harvey, who played an
American soldier in "The Manchurian Candidate" was pretty unconvincing
as far as accent goes, as was Sean Connery in "The Untouchables" (which
is not to say anything derogatory about their _acting_). Daniel Day
Lewis (spelling?), who is of course a superlative actor, made a very
valiant attempt at a believable accent in the quintessentially American
role of Hawkeye in "The Last of the Mohicans", and succeeded part of the
time, but it tended to fade in and out. And finally, though it's not
quite on topic, there was a classic Western movie some years ago called
"The Magnificent Seven" in which Yul Brynner and Horst Bucholtz played
cowboys with magnificently atrocious accents.

A last note. My colleague has spent a fair amount of time in London and
has gone to a lot of fringe theater productions there, some of which have
(admittedly non-professional) actors playing Americans, and the accent is
bad enough to be comical most of the time. One thing that is interesting
about it is that the accent of choice, apparently no matter where the
characters are supposedly from, is Southeastern.
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Message 6: Dialects and double modals

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 94 16:32:03 MSDialects and double modals
From: Mary Ellen Ryder <>
Subject: Dialects and double modals

The following sentence is from "A Summer Tragedy", a short story by Arna
Bontemps, published originally in 1933:

You oughta could do a heap mo' wid a thing like that'n me--beingst you
got yo' good sight.

(Punctuation and spelling as the author had it.) Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)
was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. He was one of the authors to emerge
from the Harlem Renaissance.

I thought this was interesting not just for the discussion on double
modals (this one seems relatively rare), but also for the discussion
about dialects and perceptions of them in general, since presumably
this author chose the phonological characteristics he thought would be
most identifiable by his readers.
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Message 7: Re: 5.475 Accents

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 11:48:18 Re: 5.475 Accents
Subject: Re: 5.475 Accents

 As a biligual who has been teaching phonetics for years, you'd
think I'd have some ability to do accents. In fact, I'm about as hopeless
as you can get so when I hear someone doing one well, I'm always amazed.
When the discussion started concerning British stage and screen stars doing
American accents competently, I immediately thought of three people. Two
have already been named: Peter Sellers and Tracey Ullmann. The third one
I had in mind was the late Benny Hill. I remember in particular a sketch
about a murder on a train in which he played simultaneously Kojak, Cannon
(or was it Ironside?) and Mannix (Hercule Poirot was also there so he had
to do a French accent too). He played Americans in a lot of other sketches
(I probably saw each show about five times) and you could see that he was
so much better that the other British actors who played Americans.
 Americans doing stage Irish accents are usually pitiful. I had an
Irish friend who used to go nuts when she heard the Irish Spring commercials
("Tis manly but I like it too"). German speakers must go nuts (and
probably bananas too) when they listen to those ridiculous Mueslix ads.
On the other hand, I've always gotten a laugh out of the Siegfried
character (Bernie Koppell?) in Get Smart.
 Finally, it seems to me that few accents have been done so often
and so badly as Italian accents. One exception, it seems to me, is Don
Novello doing Father Guido Sarducci. The main reason is probably that he's
a native speaker. Can anybody confirm this?
Marc Picard
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Message 8: Re: Accents

Date: Mon, 25 Apr 1994 10:45:10 Re: Accents
From: Deborah D K Ruuskanen <>
Subject: Re: Accents

As a relative newcomer to this list, I have followed the discussion on
"accents" with great interest. The Linguist list as a whole has been a
godsend to me, stuck out here in the Finnish backwoods, because although
I have some of the best linguists in the world as colleagues here in
Finland, it is very difficult for me to meet with them in person or even
to attend lectures and seminars. SO THANKS VERY MUCH to the people who
edit the list, and THANKS to all of you who contribute and by so doing
teach me about your interests, too.
Regarding accents: one of the first things I tried very hard to do when
I came to this country and perforce tried to earn my living teaching EFL
was get rid of my southern accent. This was because the Finns who were
my students had all been brought up on RP tapes in language labs, and
they had difficulties understanding me. My British "friends" and
colleagues also made fun of my accent, in a teasing way which
nonetheless hurt because I wanted to be accepted by them. Regarding
Benji Wald's comments on why people laugh at other people's speech, I
think it is because it makes the laughers feel superior - you who speak
differently from us are not as good as we are. It is also very much a
class thing - in Britain I soon discovered that my fairly good imitation
of RP irritated some of my Birmingham (midlands) classmates (no pun
intended), and actually got me worse service in most shops, so I
reverted to "American". A newly arrived American linguist who came to
study and teach in Helsinki has accused me of "putting on airs" by
changing my vowels to "fit in" as I thought. I wonder now just what
kind of "native American English" my students are getting? Of course,
when I visit the Carolinas, especially piedmont and the Smokies, I
revert to type precisely so my relatives will not think I'm being
snobbish or putting them down. But when I come home to Helsinki, it is
back to back vowels, so I won't be called a "ding-dong" because I'm a
"Southern Belle".
By the way, whatever system you all (y'all is always PLURAL, notice) are
using in America to write out sounds phonetically comes out as total
garbage on my system. Possibly something to do with my Scandinavian
keyboard? I get lots of black boxes and hash marks and exclaimation
points, or are you swearing at the bugs in the system???
Anyway, thanks so much for all the fascinating topics and comments.
Long live the Linguist list!!
Deborah D. Kela Ruuskanen \ You cannot teach a Man anything,
Leankuja 1, FIN-01420 Vantaa \ you can only help him find it \ within himself. Galileo
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