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Re: An example

Posted by Bob on January 06, 2005

In Reply to: An example posted by Word Camel on January 06, 2005

: : So "Do You Speak American" was broadcast last night. It lasted several hours and is one of those epic programs that will probably live on in classrooms for years to come. I have not watched all of it but I have recoreded it with TIVO. However, there were several points of what I watched that surprised me.

: : The first and most shocking, is just how much "surfer dude" is spoken: "off the wall", "rad", "totally", "to the max", "buff" and many other words and phrases I can not think of before caffeine.

: : The other interesting thing is that English in the United States is becoming more, not less regionalised. Listening to the different pronounciations out of context, it is truly amazing anyone understands anyone else. According to one of the linguists interviewed this is semi-conscious thing. People are embracing the differences in their speech and thus it is becoming even more distinct from other spoken English. At the same time slang from surfer, California valley girls, Hip-hop and Spanglish seems to wash over the nation where it is adopted and spoken with a regional accent.

: : The other thing that goes on everywhere is the use of "like". The nice Canadian presenter, whose name eludes me, said it takes the place of "quote, unquote". "So I'm like, 'no way! and he's like 'way'...".

: : Thanks to ESC for alerting us to it. I wish there was an equivalent for the UK. It was fascinating.

: : Camelita

: I just remembered one of the examples of regional pronounciation. In the Great Lakes region Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Cleveland, etc. (not sure if this included Pittsburgh or not), the word "block", as in "apartment block" is pronounced "black". "Buses" is pronounced "bosses". And the amazing thing is it's only become this way in the past 30-40 years. Before that, the great lakes region had the accent closest to standard American English (if there is such a thing). It was the accent most radio or television people adopted.
The Eastern fringes of the Great Lakes region that you mention are more influenced by also being the northern end of the Appalachians. Cleveland-Youngstown-Erie-Pittsburgh-Buffalo is quite different from the rest of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and west into the plains. As to "Standard American," I'm inclined after decades of study (and living in a number of regions) that there really isn't one place that qualifies. Most of America is rhotic (this is, pronouncing the R) but some (NY, New England) is not, how vowels are diphthong-ized varies all over the place (a native Chicagoan pronounces "pat has taxes" "pee-ut hee-uz tee-axez." There are people who can place a New Yorker within a few miles of his neighborhood after just a few sentences. (Also true in London, I'm told.) It gets more difficult in America's Northwest, but not impossible.