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troubleinharlem's avatar

Based on this article, do you think that American accent closer ot the original British accent than what is now known as a British accent?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7973points) January 29th, 2013

So, I was reading this article and I just wanted to ask this question. I don’t know how accurate or inaccurate the website is, but I just wanted to know your thoughts.

The TL;DR of the article basically is that Americans spoke like the British when they rebelled and moved to America, while the British people spoke in a more “rhotic” accent that dropped the “r” sound in words.

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24 Answers

theodiskaz's avatar

This article is fairly accurate. The reason for r-less dialects of American English on the east coast is probabaly due to cultural contact with the mainland. And r-keeping dialects of English are, in this respect, more conservative.

marinelife's avatar

There is no single British accent. There are several.

zenvelo's avatar

One problem is that the Colonies were populated with people from differing parts of England and of different social strata. Georgia was a debtor’s colony and had people of lower classes and from all over. South Carolina had a few wealthy and a lot of poor tradesmen.

And it wasn’t long before Scottish, and Irish accents were intermingling, along with Dutch/German.

harple's avatar

Trust me, I very much pronounce the r’s in word and very much don’t sound American.

The elongated vowel sounds that the article talks of (what they mean by not pronouncing the r’s) were very much an affectation in the first instance, and whilst still typical of the Southern-English accent, it is rare that it has the sound of the old-fashioned BBC voiceovers.

Accents vary here from town to town, so someone living just 8 miles away (for example) might be easily identifiable as being from “there”, not here. (Think of Henry Higgins in Pygmalion/My Fair Lady.)

theodiskaz's avatar

Indeed, @harple. I find interesting the fact that on the (relatively speaking) small island you live on there are SO many accents and regional varieties, while here in the US we speak with largely one voice. But that is kind of off topic, so I apologize :) Probably should have PM’d that.

Seek's avatar


I beg to differ.

If you could line up the “average” person from Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, you will plainly see we have a wide variety of accents and dialects.

In fact, here in Tampa we tend to speak in a fairly generic, almost Midwestern type accent, but drive 30 minutes to Plant City and you start hearing banjos behind the twang.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t think the article says much, nor explains much. To me, the television accent these days comes from California, not the Midwest. We don’t drop our ‘r’s but we also don’t over-pronounce them.

I’d love to have a definition of “received pronunciation” as well as an explanation about why it is called that. Received from whom? Schools?

Pachy's avatar

Very interesting article, and something I’ve often asked about but never heard a really good answer. Thank you for sharing.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

There are so many different accents here in Scotland alone and I do mean distinctly different and that is just across a population of 5.2 million people that the idea of a British accent as such probably only now appears in Downton Abbey.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I remember being at a bar after work on a Friday night, hearing an accent of a area of what is calling “southern”. I asked the guy if from Chillicothe Ohio. He started laughing and answer no but he was from a town 50 miles away in Kentucky. We than started speaking in different dialects from Texas to Georgia to North Carolina, having the other one guess where the dialect was from. We had the whole bar in stitches the bar tender gave me and the other guy two rounds of drinks. He said we were the best entertainment he had had in a long time.

Dialects in Maine and New Hampshire are probably closest to olde time English.

theodiskaz's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr. Differ, Differ! I grew up in SoCal til 10, moved to Phoenix til 17, got stationed in Texas and MARYLAND, where I found out what Bawlmorese is, Hon, then moved to Minnesota at 32. I actually asked someone here on the “Iron Range” of NE MN if she were from Ireland! But, no, that was “Ranger” she was speaking. Embarrassed! But at least I understand most varieties of US English, while I have read that mutual comprehension is usually not taken for granted in Great Britain.

ucme's avatar

Haddaway & shite, ave not got the foggiest idea wat tha’s tarkin aboot pet.

JLeslie's avatar

@theodiskaz I don’t really understand your answer? Tamoa does sound fairly midwest, especially the people from the midwest who travelled down I75, saw the gulf, thought it look a lot like a great lake and stopped here. LOL.

FL originally was very southern, N. FL is still basically S. GA.

@wundayatta I agree newscasters do not sound midwestern to me either, I don’t know why everyone always says that. Midwesterners generally are more nasal and heavily stress the ou in words.

theodiskaz's avatar

@JLeslie About Iron Ranger speak, or about American expectations of mutual comprehensibility vs the lack thereof in Great Britain?

JLeslie's avatar

@theodiskaz You know what. I kind of mixed up your answer with wundays. It doesn’t surprise me parts of the midwest sound out of Ireland. Sorry for the confusion.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I couldn’t agree more. I was born and raised in southeastern New England, and there’s an amazing variety of accents in just that small area. Speech can reveal a person’s family and upbringing, level of education, etc. Why did JFK speak so differently than a Boston dockworker? JFK had a very affluent childhood and attended upper-crust, private schools; the dockworker likely comes from a working-class family and had limited education.

There’s no snobbery or elitism going on here. This is just the reality that I grew up with, and that I still find charming when I go back and visit that part of the country.

zenvelo's avatar

And here’s a monkey wrench, how did Canadians get so different from both the Americans AND the Britons?

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poisonedantidote's avatar

Last time I was in the UK, one year ago, I did notice that not many people talk like me, they have developed strange slang and accents now.

“like, sum people speak proper mashed up slang and dat mate, init. Specially if there is sum bovver or it looks like isall gonna kick off, coz people act wellard when dey finks there is gonna be sum clarot.”

glacial's avatar

@zenvelo You really think we’re that different? It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to group our accents together with those in the US to make a big, happy North American family. Accents, words, and phrases vary between regions in Canada in the same way that they do within the US and across the Canada-US border.

theodiskaz's avatar

Some dialect features of NE MN speech are shared by Canadian speech communities to the north.

zenvelo's avatar

@glacial Yes, I hear a more cohesive language in Canada than in the US, and distinct from the US. I spent a week in Vancouver once and was surprised by it being that distinct. Friends from Puget Sound in Washington can tell it and notice it as very distinct from any anomalies in teh way they speak in Seattle or in Bellingham.

And of course people from Calgary to St. John, New Brunswick will tell you all aboot it.

flutherother's avatar

As the article points out the ‘r’ sound is very clearly pronounced in Scotland. We also use the ‘ch’ sound as in loch, which English people can’t pronounce. That’s why they call our lochs lakes.

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