Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 14:23:22 -0700


Subject: Re: American accent: nasal

On Fri, 6 Sep 1996, Allan Metcalf wrote:

Mike Picone comments:

"Americans over there

are often said to have a nasalized accent."

I would comment that "nasal" is a pejorative term for "funny way of talking

that sounds bad to me." Even worse is the "nasal drawl." I have been

collecting odd citations of this by persons who I suspect couldn't tell a

nasal from an anal, but who find that "nasal" gives them a seemingly

scientific objective reason for objecting.

One example is the novels of Arthur Hailey: there's a "nasal Texas drawl" in

one of them, and a "nasal California drawl" in another.

I guess the French think likewise. - Allan Metcalf

This may be true, but I think there's more to it than that. Twice I have

had Europeans who did not speak English use nasalized vowels in sincere

attempts to immitate my pronunciation of an English word. One occasion

was in Holland, when I discovered that an American who had preceded me as

a high school exchange student was not someone nicknamed "Bop," as I had

thought, but was simply "Bob." "Oh, Bob!" I said in sudden comprehension.

"Baaaab" (with nasalized, slightly fronted low central vowel), my

interlocutor mimicked in an attempt to get it right. The other time I

remember was in Vienna, where the closest my landlady could get to the

pronunciation of my name was "Herr Mikgraa", with a low central, very

strongly nasalized vowel.

So it seems as if there's some quality in at least some American vowels

that speakers of other languages (maybe even including British English)

perceive as nasalization.

Peter McGraw

Linfield College

McMinnville, OR