Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 11:01:30 -0600
From: Thomas Creswell creswell[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CROWN.NET
Subject: Re: Emma Thompson's jaw

Whether the "jaw set" is the critical element, I do not know. Perhaps that
term is an approximation to describe habitual articulatory practices.

What is generally known is that young children, up to the onset of puberty,
often learn a second, even a third, language without any significant problems
in pronunciation. Their speech becomes indistinguishable from that of their
peers.The parents of these children, however, rarely learn to speak a second
language without an "accent."

After the onset of puberty, learners of a second language usually have
difficulty in unlearning the "rules" of speech that they have already
internalized. These "rules" involve both required and forbidden sounds in
speech. Some individuals, as is the case with most activities, retain greater
linguistic flexibility and hence have greater ability than others to learn to
speak a new language without "accent" which manifests both the required and
forbidden sounds of the base language.Such individuals are linguistically
gifted. Most people are not so gifted and hence speak late-learned second
languages with an "accent," no matter how long they live.

Linda McMillan wrote:

This a.m. in an interview, Emma Thompson said that it was difficult
speaking Amer. English for the movie _Primary Colors_. She claimed that we
Americans move our mouths and jaws much more than British speakers. Is
there any validity to this?

This brings to mind another question: I have a friend who was born in
Russia and came to the U.S. when she was about 9 or 10, I think. She
claims that the reason she has such an evident accent is because her jaw
was already set by that age for speaking Russian. Any evidence to support
her claim?

Linda McMillan lindi[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]