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Old December 3rd, 2012, 12:40 PM   #51

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Hello Everyone - sorry I've not been involved in this thread but for some reason Historum was blocked by my s/w blocker. There are some very interesting points. Going back to the earlier question, accents as well as words and phrases change over the years. Outside influences play a big part in that. During American Colonial days there was less general moving and mixing, so accents were very firm. As a few examples - in Chaucer's day there is a record of two men from London going to east Kent (50 miles or so) and the lady they tried to buy eggs from told them she did not speak French - how's that for accent and dialect words. Americans use "take a peek" which was used in East Anglia (where the Pilgrim Fathers came from) but the rest of England would say "peep".
Where I grew up, in Coventry, we could tell the difference between someone from my city and Birmingham, Daventry, Tamworth - all no more than 20 miles away. So accents in England a few hundred years ago would be more pronounced than today. We don't know how they sounded, of course, as no recordings exist but we can guess pronunciation from the way people spelled words. E.G, when Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address he sat down and said "That speech ain't gonna skow" and it was copied out like that. He meant "skour". King James, as another example, asked Sir Walter Raleigh how he felt and joked "Rawley, I presume. so, just like the Carolina city, his name was pronounced like that but in modern English it is pronounced "Rallee" (short "a" and long "ee").
I'll see if I can find word use dating back to the 18th C to see if English spellings help with telling us about accents. I cannot imagine that anything will show up just because there was (and isn't) anything like an all-pervading accent
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 12:48 PM   #52

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I cannot imagine that anything will show up just because there was (and isn't) anything like an all-pervading accent
I agree, there was never a single American accent, there were American accents
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Old December 4th, 2012, 07:59 PM   #53

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I agree, there was never a single American accent, there were American accents
For better or worse, there are fewer American accents now than then. They are being gobbled up in favor of the generic media accent; not many Hoi Toiders are left.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 02:29 PM   #54

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Been thinking about accents and not reached any startling conclusions - people speak like those around them. I can't say where most Virginia settlers came from, I'm afraid. SoIi had an idea - since "British" accents vary so much, the places with less human movement and less outside contact tend to keep their accents and dialect words. So here are some English dialect words. If you know that they are still used in your locale, or Virginia, since we were talking about George Washington, it might help us draw some conclusions:-
In the Midlands kid is used for child. I know kid is ubiquitous in America, so doesn't work in this context but thought I'd give it as an example of what I mean
Hay stack - all England down to south Midlands when it changes to hay rick
Cow shed - byre in northern England, she din most of rest of England but cow stall in Sussex and Surrey, lodge in Kent
Freckles - in most of Midlands and south central, bran or brun in East Anglia (where the Mayflower folk originated) murfles or muffles in south-west England
Left-Handed - Left-handed or couch in East Anglia, Kack or Kacky-handed in Midlands, carr, cowy or cuddy-handed in north and north-east, galley, gallock, gawky, bollock-handed in north midlands, south Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
I took commonly-used words of more than 50 years ago to allow for changes brought on by lots of TV, film, etc and, obviously, chose words that would be used in more rural than city communities.
If anyone knows where these words might still be used (or known) in america it might help determine where settlers came from and, so what accents might have been used.
It won't be perfect but it's all I got!
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Old December 5th, 2012, 07:56 PM   #55

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Originally Posted by TonyGillen View Post
Been thinking about accents and not reached any startling conclusions - people speak like those around them. I can't say where most Virginia settlers came from, I'm afraid. SoIi had an idea - since "British" accents vary so much, the places with less human movement and less outside contact tend to keep their accents and dialect words. So here are some English dialect words. If you know that they are still used in your locale, or Virginia, since we were talking about George Washington, it might help us draw some conclusions:-
In the Midlands kid is used for child. I know kid is ubiquitous in America, so doesn't work in this context but thought I'd give it as an example of what I mean
Hay stack - all England down to south Midlands when it changes to hay rick
Cow shed - byre in northern England, she din most of rest of England but cow stall in Sussex and Surrey, lodge in Kent
Freckles - in most of Midlands and south central, bran or brun in East Anglia (where the Mayflower folk originated) murfles or muffles in south-west England
Left-Handed - Left-handed or couch in East Anglia, Kack or Kacky-handed in Midlands, carr, cowy or cuddy-handed in north and north-east, galley, gallock, gawky, bollock-handed in north midlands, south Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
I took commonly-used words of more than 50 years ago to allow for changes brought on by lots of TV, film, etc and, obviously, chose words that would be used in more rural than city communities.
If anyone knows where these words might still be used (or known) in america it might help determine where settlers came from and, so what accents might have been used.
It won't be perfect but it's all I got!
Interesting. Except for kid, I can't say I've heard any of those in our part of the world, even in Virginia where I have heard a lot of accents. Maryland shares a lot of those accents. I guess they are all part of the amazing variety of the English language.
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Old December 13th, 2012, 01:06 PM   #56

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Interesting. Except for kid, I can't say I've heard any of those in our part of the world, even in Virginia where I have heard a lot of accents. Maryland shares a lot of those accents. I guess they are all part of the amazing variety of the English language.
It was just a thought - use old dialect words and see if any show up in Virginia, or elsewhere, and if they show up we could have guessed some of the accents tha tmight have been used in Colonial period
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Old December 14th, 2012, 07:51 PM   #57

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It was just a thought - use old dialect words and see if any show up in Virginia, or elsewhere, and if they show up we could have guessed some of the accents tha tmight have been used in Colonial period
I guess we won't ever know for sure, without any recordings. We have to assume that there were older versions of English in the early Atlantic colonies, but, even in remote areas those versions themselves have been evolving. It's like the video I posted of the Chesapeake Bay Watermen, who have a very old accent, but who have added a whole lot of words that relate to fishing and, in particular, harvesting crabs, their main occupation for a couple centuries, ever since they were turned away from piracy by Methodist missionaries in the early 1700's.
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Old December 14th, 2012, 08:00 PM   #58

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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyGillen View Post
Been thinking about accents and not reached any startling conclusions - people speak like those around them. I can't say where most Virginia settlers came from, I'm afraid. SoIi had an idea - since "British" accents vary so much, the places with less human movement and less outside contact tend to keep their accents and dialect words. So here are some English dialect words. If you know that they are still used in your locale, or Virginia, since we were talking about George Washington, it might help us draw some conclusions:-
In the Midlands kid is used for child. I know kid is ubiquitous in America, so doesn't work in this context but thought I'd give it as an example of what I mean
Hay stack - all England down to south Midlands when it changes to hay rick
Cow shed - byre in northern England, she din most of rest of England but cow stall in Sussex and Surrey, lodge in Kent
Freckles - in most of Midlands and south central, bran or brun in East Anglia (where the Mayflower folk originated) murfles or muffles in south-west England
Left-Handed - Left-handed or couch in East Anglia, Kack or Kacky-handed in Midlands, carr, cowy or cuddy-handed in north and north-east, galley, gallock, gawky, bollock-handed in north midlands, south Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
I took commonly-used words of more than 50 years ago to allow for changes brought on by lots of TV, film, etc and, obviously, chose words that would be used in more rural than city communities.
If anyone knows where these words might still be used (or known) in america it might help determine where settlers came from and, so what accents might have been used.
It won't be perfect but it's all I got!
The problem here is the wide variety in English speaking immigrants to the United States. ie. Scots and Irish as well as English.

My fathers family is all Irish and they spent a good 200 years in Massachusetts before my dad came to California.
All of the bolded terms are commonly used in my family except that a cow shed is usally referred to as a 'cow barn'. Not sure if this is an Americanism or an Irishism.
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Old February 9th, 2014, 11:20 AM   #59

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I've not been able to give this topic a rest. The first and foremost thing to note is that, like now, America had many accents during Colonial times. For now, let's focus on my personal hero; George Washington. George Washington was born in Virginia, and remained there until his death.

Now; looking at the accent of Virginia is difficult, seeing not many sources of its 18th century dialect/accent are to be found. However, lately I've been studying 18th century American poetry and discovered various poems from all over the US with some interesting pronunciations.
Some examples include:

Nature = natoor as in "tour"
Mysteries = misterice as in "ice"
Have = hayve as in "gave"
Break = breek as in "peek"
Move = mawve as in "dove", however could also possibly be pronounced as "shove"
Receive = "resive" as in "dive", or the rhyming word "alive" would've been pronounced as "aleef"

These words are taken from the poem "American Liberty" by Philip Freneau, who grew up in New Jersey.

Are = air
Sea = say (however, I think it may have been pronounced with a flatter /ei/, leaning towards /e/)
Man = "mayn" as in "main"
Blood = "blood" as in "good"
Spread = "spreed" as in "greed"
Come = "koom" as in "comb"

These words are taken from various poems by Jupiter Hammon, who was a black poet in New York.

Of course, I can't guarantee that these are one hundred percent accurate. It could however, give you an indication as to how the Americans of the 18th century might have spoken. Given the popular saying that older American sounded like modern day Southern American, some vowels indeed lean towards modern Australian or Southern American vowels. For instance, the "say" sound in "sea", and the obvious "main" instead of "man". This could indicate that in an 18th century US poem, you could rhyme sea with man.

So did George Washington spoke like this? There may be a chance he did. However, I don't know if 18th century America had a standardized "accent" in writing as it has today, which means that poems could have been written in the poet's own accent. If not, it's still fairly acceptable that George Washington said that he was a real "mayne", but that he just needed to "breek" away from all responsibility every once in a while.

Last edited by Jove's Child; February 9th, 2014 at 11:25 AM.
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Old February 9th, 2014, 11:32 AM   #60

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It is worth pointing out that all accents evolve over time. This is true not only of American accents, but British as well. The people of Britain today would not sound exactly like their 18th or 17th Century ancestors.

I have heard that rhotic accents are thought to have been more common in Britain during the 16th and 17th centuries, which is why they are more widespread in what is now the United States and Canada.
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