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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:50
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The cast of Downton Abbey.

How easy is it to put an accent to the character? Have the casting director and costume people colluded to create a class image of both face and dress? What if we turned all the accents upside down? Or is that what we are starting to see and achieve in 2014?

I caught a few moments of The X Factor last night where Cheryl (from Gateshead) had to let go of some of her singers before the live show: with one exception, and this would include all the singers in the show, there is a girl who is 'well spoken', one would imagine 'upper middle class' (if that phrase is any more or less appropriate than 'working class') - privately educated and at a boarding school one would presume. This girl is torn, possibly ashamed of her accent (or lack of accent). She feels it will make her less popular. These days everyone (in the media world) wants an accent that says where they came from, not an accent that says what 'strata' of class they are from (unless they're going to a fancy dress party as characters from Downton Abbey). We no longer have parents who clip their children around the ear if they speak with a hard 'a'?

Or is living with your accent something to do with self-esteem?

There was a Cambridge Professor of Ancient Music on the radio the other day who sounded very British and 'educated' (like the girl), except for the occasional word that hinted at something else. It turns out that until he was 23 he lived in Fresno, California. His accent transformation was almost total. Was this to blend in with the fabric of the Cambridge architecture.

I have friends who have lived in the states for 25 years: some, by my ear, are totally American, while others have barely changed their accent at all. I think it depends on what they do: the 'English' educated accent carries weight in academia, while the guy working in engineering has spent his career in the US getting rid of his accent. 

Personally I love the richness of accents from every inch of the UK and the world: my only criteria has to be: can people understand what you are saying?

Any of us who think we can speak a foreign language can be guilty of garbling and muddling words and accents in such a way that others haven't a clue what we are saying or meaning: I have a German friend who refuses to accept that often people haven't a clue what she is saying as her German accent is so strong and her choice of words and word order is so un-english. I know that my French has, and still does if I hurry, come over the same way to French people. This is why I am doing L120: to get the grammar in place, and learn to speak French as if I am writing it down perhaps? To slow down and be understood. You can still see that distracted glint in a person's eye though when you know they aren't really listening, but trying to figure out where you come from. Brits think I'm French. The French think I'm Belgian. My wife thinks most of what I say in French is laughable sad Someone her French overtook mine 25 years ago simply because a) she did a course b) she got a job in a French speaking company. She supposedly sounds Parisian while her English accent is 'Oxford' - because that is where she was born and raised. Not a hint of her Polish father and Maltese mother. I retain a hint of 'northern' - most of it was knocked out of me by parents and grandparents who felt it was their duty to raise kids who spoke 'proper'. Result: alienated in my home town Newcastle, and still picked out as 'northern' on words like 'enough' and 'nothing' ... and 'film' (and probably many more), in the south of England. 

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At last I can type this





I was fed up being corrected in assignments.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012, 08:01)
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Typing French Accents

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 18 Aug 2012, 21:53
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E-words. E-terms. E-lexemes.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:22

Inspired by The Secret life of words. How English became English. Henry Hitchings (2008)

‘Communications is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?’
Hitchings (2008)

Whilst ‘where words came from’ is the premise for ‘The Secret Life of Words’ it is much more: it is a history of the people who spoke English. It is a refreshing take on a chronology of events. We learn history through words for warrior, through the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing ... and through the words the English language has so easily accommodated from across the globe. It is a fascinating journey, one made pertinent to someone studying on the cascading wave-edge of the digital ocean that is ‘e-learning’ with the frequent coining of new terms.

For a description of the way the English language functions (or mis-functions) I love this:

English is ‘Deficient in regularity.’

From James Harris (c1720) in Hitchings (2008:1)

It is exactly the kind of thing a teacher might write in red pen at the bottom of a school-boy’s essay.

This is another way of putting it. English, ‘this hybrid tongue’, as Hitchings calls it. Hitchings (2008:2)

A tongue that re-invents itself, twists and transmogrifies at every turn.

A couple of decades ago I recall there being suggestions that the English language would splinter into so many dialects, creoles and forms that a speaker of one would not understand the user of another. The opposite appears to be the case, that ‘core English’ has been stabilised by its myriad of versions. Users can choose to understand each other or not, to tolerate even celebrate their differences or to use difference to create a barrier: think of the class divide, the posh voice versus the plebeian, one regional accent set against another, or an accent from one former British Dominion compared to another.

‘Words bind us together, and can drive us apart.’ Hitchings (2008:3)

How is the Internet changing the English Language?

What impact has Instant Messaging, blogging and asynchronous communication had? Can we be confident that others take from our words the meanings we intend? As we are so inclined to use sarcasm, irony, flippancy and wit when we speak, how does this transcribe when turned into words? How can you know a person’s meaning or intentions without seeing their face or interpreting their body language? Must we be bland to compensate for this?

I love mistakes, such as this one from Hitchings:

Crayfish ... ‘its fishy quality is the result of a creative mishearing.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

Age ten or eleven I started to keep a book of my ‘creative mishearings’ which included words such as ‘ragabond,’ instead of ‘vagabond.’ I love the idea of the ‘creative mishearing,’ isn’t this the same as ‘butterfly’, shouldn’t it be ‘flutterby’? And recalling a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast on Creativity with Grayson Perry, ‘creativity is mistakes.’

Mistakes and misunderstandings put barbs on the wire strings of words we hook from point to point, between arguments and chapters. We are fortunate that the English language is so flawed; it affords scratches and debate, conflict and the taking of sides.

An American travelled 19,000 miles back and forth across the US with a buddy correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation on billboards, notices and road signs. His engaging story split the reviewers into diametrically opposed camps of ‘love him’ or ‘hate him.’ (Courtesy of the Today Programme, the day before yesterday c20th August 2010)

‘Our language creates communities and solidarities, as well as division and disagreements.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

My test for the longevity and acceptability of a new word coined to cover a term in e-learning will be twofold:

Can, what is invariably a noun, be turned with ease into a verb or adjective?

Might we have an Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing. We like to have many words for the same thing ... variations on a theme.

And a final thought

Do technical words lend themselves to such reverse engineering? Or, like a number, are they immutable?

If they are made of stone I will find myself a mason's chisel.

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