Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1993 10:16:52 CST From: salikoko mufwene Subject: Re: Diversity of accents In Message Fri, 19 Nov 1993 17:42:35 -0500, Cathy Ball writes: >Thanks to everyone who responded to my query a while back re: diversity >of accents in the U.S. Here's the outcome (sorry it took so long!; original >copies are on their way to Robert Wachal and Donald Livingston, who got >cited.) > > -- Cathy Ball (Georgetown) > > >---------------------------------------------------------------------- >Washington Post, Friday 10/15/1993 p. D5 (Style Section) > >Why Things Are >by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post Staff Writer > >James R, Odom of Olney asks: >"Why do people in different sections of the country speak with regional >accents?" > > Dear Jim: We passed this question along to Cathy Ball, a linguist at >Georgetown University, and she then sent it out to the Internet (you know, >that big web of computers that spans the globe) to her colleagues in the >American Dialect Society. > > We learned that accents are basically a product of immigration. >German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, English and French >immigrants and African slaves in the Deep South, Scotch-Irish settlers in >the hills of Appalachia, Scandinavians in Minnesota, and so on. Accents >can mutate over time. "Members of lower socioeconomic classes often >imitate the speech of those in the class above them. The class above them >then adopts other features to distinguish them from the classes below >them," notes Robert Wachal of the University of Iowa. (Before the >Thurston Howells developed that lockjaw accent, they said "y'all" just like >everyone else.) > > What surprised us most is that almost everyone said that >Americans don't have a great diversity of accents or dialects, at least not >anymore. Accents are preserved by geographic isolation, and with the >advent of mass media, many accents are melting away. Soon we'll all >sound like Tom Brokaw (but without the slight lisp). "The diversity of >accents in the U.S. is fairly narrow compared to, say, the diversity of >accents within just London proper," says Donald Livingston of the >University of Washington. > So maybe everyone should vow, this moment, to start pronouncing >words in a peculiar fashion (pronounced puh-KOOL-ya FATCH-un). The above is supposed to be a joke, right? Salikoko S. Mufwene Linguistics, U. of Chicago s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 312-702-8531