"Neutral" or "General" American accent - is it real?

Page 1 of 1 [ 11 posts ] 

kitesandtrainsandcats
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 6 May 2016
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Posts: 3,481
Location: Missouri

14 Jul 2022, 2:06 pm

Quote:
"But the vaguely Midwestern basis for General American has stuck around in surprising ways. Most Americans do not really believe they have an accent; this is a reasonable, if inaccurate, thought, as most people are surrounded by others who speak the same way they do. But the Midwest is a particularly bizarre place, and Preston knows that better than anyone. "


The website's weekly newsletter presented this from its archives,

Is There a Place in America Where People Speak With Neutral Accents?
Newscasters and Stephen Colbert seem to think the standard American accent exists.
by Dan Nosowitz August 23, 2016
https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/n ... can-accent
"
If you want to anger a linguist, try bringing up a speech pattern called General American. “General American is a concept for which I’ve struggled to find a satisfying definition,” writes Ben Trawick-Smith of Dialect Blog. Dennis Preston, a dialectologist and sociolinguist at Oklahoma State University, goes even further. “General American doesn’t exist,” Preston says, “He was demoted to private or sergeant a long, long time ago.”

But the concept persists: we believe that, for example, newscasters, maybe some actors, and certainly some people, somewhere, speak an unaccented variety of American English. For instance, ...
"


_________________
"There are a thousand things that can happen when you go light a rocket engine, and only one of them is good."
Tom Mueller of SpaceX, in Air and Space, Jan. 2011


MuddRM
Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker

Joined: 2 Sep 2021
Gender: Male
Posts: 198
Location: Beautiful(?) West Manchester Township, PA

14 Jul 2022, 2:31 pm

I was under the impression that the “Standard American” accent was based on the speech patterns of the upper Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa,Wisconsin), where the tonal inflection was pretty flat.



funeralxempire
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Oct 2014
Age: 38
Gender: Non-binary
Posts: 17,958
Location: I'm right here

14 Jul 2022, 2:31 pm

It's only neutral in the sense that it's typical of a significant portion of the populace and that most people perceive American accents with other features as 'accented'.

That said, 'General American' is broad enough that lots of English speakers from other parts of the US (and Canada) are judged as speaking it by most people even if experts might point out differences like Californian or Canadian Raising.

Ironically, while linguists describe the Northern Cities vowel shift. I never once had a customer in Detroit notice my accent as different from there's despite the fact that our vowels have shifted in opposite directions.

With that in mind, I believe part of the problem with discussing General American is that most people couldn't spot it from several adjacent accents and that experts can't define it because they're looking for a hard boundary where one doesn't exist.

One would need a very heavy 'Canadian' or 'Cali' accent before they started sounding different to most American (or Canadian) audiences. Further, if General American is distinctly Midwestern, why are there identifiable Midwestern accents?

There's no such thing as an 'unaccented' mode of speech, but there's certainly a cluster of somewhat similar accents perceived as the default and only by breaking enough of those norms does someone like Dale Jr. or Rick Mercer get noticed as having an accent.

Essentially, the average person looks at it the opposite way experts do so the experts are missing the point by trying to debunk it because they might even notice it in other contexts where they're not going over things with a fine toothed comb.

For that matter, there's also questions of mutual intelligibility. Some it's easier for someone with one accent/dialect/language to understand another's tongue than vice-versa. I don't mean on an individual level, I mean the one population as a whole works like that.

If a whole group of people see no differences between how they speak and 'how the people on the TV talk' it's at least partially because both are equally easy to understand. Outsiders might strongly disagree and struggle to understand them, at least at first. You can't fairly ask people to make a distinction they don't notice.

People who know they don't speak 'how the people on TV talk' might be more prone to code-switch to an accent they know is closer to what they consider 'general'.


_________________
You can't buy happiness; steal it.
戦争ではなく戦争と戦う


IsabellaLinton
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 1 Nov 2017
Gender: Non-binary
Posts: 50,822

14 Jul 2022, 2:42 pm



I love the old Transatlantic Hollywood accents.

One of my favourite movies ^, Penny Serenade.



kitesandtrainsandcats
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 6 May 2016
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Posts: 3,481
Location: Missouri

14 Jul 2022, 2:59 pm

Even though I was born in the California desert and lived 4 years in Rhode Island, most of my young life was spent bouncing around the southeast & I've now been in Missouri for a few decades.

Was funny when we moved from Georgia to Virginia and the locals in VA commented on my southern accent.

At this point on the calendar my accent has an identifiable central midwest influence yet as I get more tired the underlying southern surfaces.

Although the neurological and endocrine and mitochondrial diseases increasingly distort and reduce my voice as I get fatigued, so who knows what name to pin on my accent now, it might even vary moment by moment.


_________________
"There are a thousand things that can happen when you go light a rocket engine, and only one of them is good."
Tom Mueller of SpaceX, in Air and Space, Jan. 2011


lostonearth35
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 5 Jan 2010
Age: 48
Gender: Female
Posts: 11,153
Location: Lost on Earth, waddya think?

22 Jul 2022, 10:26 pm

I live in Atlantic Canada where everyone is supposed to have a quaint Irish or Scottish accent, but I've been told I have a neutral accent. I know I don't pronounce "sorry" the way other Canadians do. I don't know if it's because of my being aspie or because I was taught to believe having a strong accent meant you were basically like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

I've read about Foreign Accent Syndrome, and sometimes I worry I'll go to bed with a bad headache and then wake up with an accent that will offend a lot of people, like one that sounds Asian or African. And when I try to tell them I can't help it because of my condition they'll call me a liar *and* a racist.



Dillogic
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 24 Nov 2011
Gender: Male
Posts: 9,334

23 Jul 2022, 12:01 am

I don't really have a strong accent, even if it's there. I have a stupid voice, though. It's too soft, and if I try to speak louder, I then find it hard to talk. :? Which makes some phone calls a bother for other people. It also leads to people recognizing me easily over the phone, which is another bother (I'm on first a name basis with several people that recognize me by voice, from their side that is, receptionists and employees, which amuses me even if I dislike it).

Different continent, though.



naturalplastic
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 26 Aug 2010
Age: 67
Gender: Male
Posts: 30,291
Location: temperate zone

23 Jul 2022, 3:40 am

Broadcast English- which is basically the same as 'the Chicago dialect", or midwest US dialect, that I have (though I am in Washington DC) would be the default "American accent".

No southern drawl.

You know which thing I am about to do: if am going to a soiree, or going to take a crap, when I a say "I am going to a party" (because I actually pronounce the 'r' in 'party'). Bostonians and New Yorker say 'party' and 'potty' the same (or it sounds the same to me).



Sweetleaf
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 6 Jan 2011
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Posts: 33,657
Location: Somewhere in Colorado

23 Jul 2022, 4:08 am

Lol to me colorado talk makes the most sense idk all west seems pretty good with that accent, it is just if I go to minnesota or east coast like boston people talk so differently. But idk in minnesota it sounds different but same speed so you can still tell what people are trying to say. But when my sister lived in boston for a bit I went for a visit and yeah I could barely understand anything people said cause they'd just say it so fast in an accent I wasn't familiar with. LIke by the time I processed enough to even try and ask what they meant they were long gone. But yeah I never figured I'd like not be able to understand english but yeah that trip to boston was difficult I legit half the time did not understand what people said even though it was in english like idk how my sister managed it.


_________________
We won't go back.


naturalplastic
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 26 Aug 2010
Age: 67
Gender: Male
Posts: 30,291
Location: temperate zone

23 Jul 2022, 4:36 am

Sweetleaf wrote:
Lol to me colorado talk makes the most sense idk all west seems pretty good with that accent, it is just if I go to minnesota or east coast like boston people talk so differently. But idk in minnesota it sounds different but same speed so you can still tell what people are trying to say. But when my sister lived in boston for a bit I went for a visit and yeah I could barely understand anything people said cause they'd just say it so fast in an accent I wasn't familiar with. LIke by the time I processed enough to even try and ask what they meant they were long gone. But yeah I never figured I'd like not be able to understand english but yeah that trip to boston was difficult I legit half the time did not understand what people said even though it was in english like idk how my sister managed it.


My mom is from Colorado, and my Dad is from Kansas. But I was born here in DC.. We all speak in what I was talking about. The prairie midwest Chicago dialect. General American. Probably how you speak as well. Though some locals say we speak in 'midwestern accent' I cant tell the difference between how I speak and how these local Marylanders who say I have 'an accent' speak. Maryland and DC are part of the general dialect region IMHO. You have to go deep into Virginia to notice a dialect differnce. Then suddenly just past the North Carolina border at Kitty Hawk you get the deep southern dialect.

You have to go well north of DC (to Jersey, or New York, or Boston) to see the blue collar northern dialect.

And absolutely you get a different dialect way up north from Colorado to Minnesota. In the whole tier of northern states from upstate New York to Minnesota folks will 'take a whack around the black' instead of 'take a walk around the block'.

I knew a young guy at the public access radio station I work at who had ...his own private dialect. He would talk like Rocky Balboa in that urban northeastern "Yo! Tony! f****n' aye!" way. But that combined with a southern drawl. Strangest combination of sounds I ever heard coming out of a fellow American's mouth.

I asked his friends 'what part of the country is he from?'. They said 'just from around here in northern Virginia'. When I asked them why he talks that why they said 'he didnt start talking that way until he started smoking pot'.

I guess thats what drugs can do to you. Cause you to ...invent your own regional dialect! Lol!



MaxE
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 2 Sep 2013
Gender: Male
Posts: 3,478
Location: Mid-Atlantic US

25 Jul 2022, 6:15 am

lostonearth35 wrote:
I live in Atlantic Canada where everyone is supposed to have a quaint Irish or Scottish accent, but I've been told I have a neutral accent...

In my opinion, people from NS talk like pirates. I once took a video tutorial and the instructor had what to me sounded like an unusually "harsh" Canadian accent. Later I learned he is on the faculty at Dalhousie and that is how people there talk. I would not have mistaken him for Scottish. The closest UK accent I guess would be Cornwall but his accent still sounded basically Canadian to me. The only place in Canada where I would expect people to be mistaken for British Isles residents would be Newfoundland.


_________________
My WP story