12/12/18

The way we speak has a profound impact on our lives. It determines our social circles as well as preferences for choosing authority figures or the place to live. Accents influence the way people see us and think of us. And yet, biologically there seems to be no such thing as a better or worse accent.

Where do then such strong biases stem from? Are they simply part of our strange human nature or are we somehow conditioned to regard some sounds as more proper than others? Check out: Why Does a Southern Drawl Sound Uneducated to Some?

 

 Glossary

  • drawl – a slow, lazy way of speaking or an accent with unusually prolonged vowel sounds 
  • twang – a nasal or other distinctive manner of pronunciation or intonation characteristic of the speech of an individual, area, or country
  • dimwitted – stupid
  • pigeonhole – classify
  • sterling – excellent
  • cue – hint, indication, signal
  • overwhelming – very strong
  • indifferent – unconcerned
  • acculturate – assimilate or cause to assimilate a different culture, typically the dominant one 
  • anchor – a person who presents and coordinates a live television or radio program involving other contributors

 

Think about it

Based on the text answer the following questions. Leave your answers in the comments below!

  • What does the author mean by saying that his “bliss was rudely shattered?”
  • Is the preference for a given accent only influenced by the place where you grew up?
  • What attitudes toward accents do children aged 5-6 display?
  • How do the test results change when the same test is administered to children aged 10?
  • Explain the following sentence: “This is where human nature takes a nasty departure from the way songbirds use dialect.”

 

 Practice makes perfect

 In the sentences below replace the phrases in bold with the expressions from the original text. Leave your answers in the comments below!

  • Even on a minuscule island country like the United Kingdom, accents proliferate and they classify individuals into strict social strata that have persisted for centuries.
  • A number of studies show that we instantaneously attach cultural stereotypes and subjective judgments about people’s knowledge and abilities based on hearing their accent in speech.
  • Americans can be surprised when hearing a black person speak with a proper British accent, for example, or be just as confused when they discover that a rapper singing with a “black” accent is Caucasian.
  • Interestingly, attributes of character that are associated with different accents are commonly agreed upon among the population.
  • Here’s the revealing experimental result [. . .]

The words in bold have been removed from the excerpt below. Put them back where they belong!

bias, abound, notice, articulates, shattered, swept away, sprung out, smoldering

This is not just a _______ relic from the Civil War; accent-based ________ is universal. Even on a tiny island country like the United Kingdom, accents ________ and they pigeonhole individuals into strict social strata that have persisted for centuries. I wondered about this when I was ________ by Adele’s supreme singing voice but had the bliss _______ rudely when she addressed the audience in her “lowly” Cockney accent. She ________ lyrics beautifully with a perfect American accent, but it was [as] if a different person had ________ when she started to talk the way everyone does in Tottenham England. I wonder; would Adele have attracted ________ outside the walls of a Tottenham pub if that same sterling singing voice resonated with a Cockney accent?

 

Explore it more

 

 

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