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Old October 18th, 2012, 02:05 PM   #1

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What accent did the 18th century Americans have?


Did the 18th century Americans (think of George Washington or such) had an accent that resembled the current British English, or did it already started to sound like "American" English?

I read on wikipedia the Southern American accent of today is what was British English in 17th and 18th century (I assume in some regions), when they brought it there.

Quote:
Southern dialects originated in large part from immigrants from the British Isles who moved to the South in the 17th and 18th centuries
Southern_American_accent Southern_American_accent

Is this true? Did the common British people all spoke "Southern American" back in the day?
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Old October 18th, 2012, 02:43 PM   #2
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Depends on which area of the country. Different areas were settled by people with different accents.
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Old October 18th, 2012, 08:20 PM   #3
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I've heard the same theory that the OP brings up, but it's probably impossible to tell.
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Old October 18th, 2012, 09:15 PM   #4

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There are lots of different accents in England, and there would have been in 18th century America too, depending on what region people came from.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 02:23 AM   #5

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I assumed that as well, though when did the current American accent start to develop?
En where did these Southern Americans originally come from? I can't think of any present region in the UK that resembles the Southern American accent. I do notice the Australian accent resembles it in a few ways (noticeable on e.g. the "e"). So I think a great amount of people must have spoken it.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 03:25 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jove's Child View Post
I assumed that as well, though when did the current American accent start to develop?
En where did these Southern Americans originally come from? I can't think of any present region in the UK that resembles the Southern American accent. I do notice the Australian accent resembles it in a few ways (noticeable on e.g. the "e"). So I think a great amount of people must have spoken it.
The South was overwhelmingly settled by people from all parts of Britain, though I think English settlement was more common in the upper South (especially Virginia) whereas the Deep South saw a lot of Welsh and Scottish migrants. Which is probably why half the people of Georgia for example seem to either be named Jones or Williams. And yeah, I heard the theory that olden day English accents bore more of a resemblance to American than to modern English. I think it might have had something to do with Britain being a more cosmopolitan place as compared to rural, old-fashioned America until recently.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 04:03 AM   #7

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Just flying by the seat of my pants here. If a statistical look at colonial America's population, the "accent" of the colonists would probably be German, at least for several years of that period. There was a time when the influx of European immigrants was decidedly German. I don't know how or what method would be used to determine that, but I imagine the method that, several years ago, determined that the average human on the planet was a teenaged Chinese girl would work.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 07:16 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartacuss View Post
Just flying by the seat of my pants here. If a statistical look at colonial America's population, the "accent" of the colonists would probably be German, at least for several years of that period. There was a time when the influx of European immigrants was decidedly German. I don't know how or what method would be used to determine that, but I imagine the method that, several years ago, determined that the average human on the planet was a teenaged Chinese girl would work.
The Germans though tended to settle specific areas, sticking together and all. And they spoke German more often than English until the 1800's. There was even a proposal that the official language of the USA should be German soon after the Revolutionary War ended.
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Old October 19th, 2012, 07:36 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hresvelgr View Post
The Germans though tended to settle specific areas, sticking together and all. And they spoke German more often than English until the 1800's. There was even a proposal that the official language of the USA should be German soon after the Revolutionary War ended.
No, there wasn't. That is a myth. The US doesn't even have an official language so German cannot have come close to usurping an official language that doesn't exist. The myth derived from the fact that the US government did consider translating federal laws into German as well, but not instead of. Crucial difference.

snopes.com: German Almost Became Official Language
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Old October 19th, 2012, 08:37 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spartacuss View Post
Just flying by the seat of my pants here. If a statistical look at colonial America's population, the "accent" of the colonists would probably be German, at least for several years of that period. There was a time when the influx of European immigrants was decidedly German. I don't know how or what method would be used to determine that, but I imagine the method that, several years ago, determined that the average human on the planet was a teenaged Chinese girl would work.
Probably in Pennsylvania and certain counties of Virginia, where so many Germans first settled, but not so much in other areas. Don't forget the Dutch and Irish, they also contributed to early accents. The Huguenots came in the early 1700's, settling mainly in Virginia, and must have contributed as well.

Much of the southern US wasn't settled until 1800 and many of those people came from places like the DelMarVa area where a regional accent (a mix from various peoples, but few Germans) had developed on its own over the previous 100/150 years.

Even the southern accent is not/has not been homogenous.
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