So, I heard this audio clip a few years ago of some woman explaining the origins of all the different types of southern accents and doing some very good imitations of them. I had forgotten about it until it just popped back into mind when I was racking my brain for a topic to write about. It’s really very cool to listen to her go so smoothly through the whole thing.
I have always been quite fascinated by accents and languages and the origins of all of them. I am actually fairly decent at imitating some accents. Part of my love for accents and languages came from my parents who, combined, can speak/understand six languages. What I find particularly interesting is the fact that there are simply so many different accents just within one language. For example, we can’t really say “Oh, they have a British accent.” There are countless different accents and dialects in Great Britain. Did you mean a Cockney accent? A London accent? The goes for the U.S. What does anyone mean when they say “American accent?” We have California accents, Philly accents, New York accents (not to mention the different accents for each borough within the city itself…), Southern accents, etc, etc.
Now, Southern accents are, in themselves, very complicated. Like the woman in this video clip says, there is not just one generic Southern accent, and they did not all derive from the same language.
This article from Penn State News, mentions a statement by Professor James Lantolf. He talks about the same thing the woman in the video does, that accents are mostly based on who settled the area and what language they spoke. Like how the Creole accent in New Orleans came from the French speakers who settled in that area, in addition to Irish, Spanish, and other European influences. Other things affect the development of an accent too, of course, such as isolation from other speakers of the same language, socio-economic standing, education level, and other such things.
Languages are such a complex, fascinating subject. It’s incredible that so many different ones exist, and yet we are all still able to communicate with each other despite these differences.
Etter, Sarah. “Probing Question: How Did Regional Accents Originate? | Penn State University.” Penn State News. 59, 29 Aug. 2005. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.
Pianoplaya399. “A Quick Lesson on Southern Linguistics.” YouTube. YouTube, 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.