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Ever wonder why British and American English are different?

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As a voice over talent, I am always interested in accents and languages and I have been curious about the roots of our North American English accent. Why is our accent is so different than in Europe?

Here are some interesting articles:

Live Science article
Mental Floss article
Dialect blog

And here is why an accent changes over time. And yes, everybody has an accent ūüôā Linguist List

If you want to dig deeper, here is an archive: Spoken Word archive

I was surprised that the British accent we know today took root after the America’s were discovered and primarily because the economy changed in the UK. It seems that over a short period of time, people with lower socio economic statuses in London began reaching higher statuses and wanted to sound as though they had always been part of the upper class. The new “non-rhotic” accent (which means that there is no pronunciation of the letter R at the end of words like “winter”) spread and is now widely used. So the accent we use in the US today is an older form of English that had been used in the 16th century by people with a lower socio economic status.

I was also interested to read the following comment on Quora by¬†Tim O’Neil concerning the Australian accent:

“The development of the Australian accent is rather different.¬† Again, it is based on how working class people spoke English in the Nineteenth Century, which is why it is most similar to accents of other places settled in the same period, such as New Zealand and South Africa.¬† Commentators noted that it was the children of the first settlers who adopted a peculiar way of speaking with each other within a few years of the first arrival of whites in Australia.¬† At home they would speak as their parent spoke, but when playing together they spoke with a distinctive accent that was noted in writings of the time by several people.¬† It seems that while their parents stuck to their own classes – convicts, soldiers, administrators, free settlers – the kids all played together.¬† So they adopted this kind of common street¬†patois, as an egalitarian way of speaking so that they could all understand each other.¬† Within a generation, this became how Australians spoke and it hasn’t changed much to this day.

The lack of regional variation in the Aussie accent is due to some peculiarities of settlement.¬† For most of the First 150 years of settlement, settlers came almost exclusively from Britain and Ireland, without large-scale migration from other countries until the 1950s.¬† This meant that Australia never developed the regional accents brought by mass settlement of non-English migrants in given areas that we see in the US.”

French Canadian is also an old version of French corresponding to a certain region in France. On a trip in Paris, I used a slang word Quebecers¬†frequently use to say “car” (vehicle, automobile); I said I was waiting for the “char” to pick me up. The woman I was with burst out laughing! -I had just used the short version of the word “chariot” to describe a car!¬†I had no idea!

 

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