Sunday, 8 May 2011

Did your ancestor have an accent?

Was your ancestor noticeable in the community for their accent, and did it have an influence on how they were regarded? Was there an immigrant peer community where they lived? Perhaps they were outgoing enough to fit into their new community without feeling different. Or perhaps the new community was not open to newcomers. The introverted may have had particular difficulty fitting in. Consider these factors as you attempt to understand the family place in, or apart from, the community as you write your family history.

There's a throw away line in a book I'm reading that an immigrant, or migrant, retains their accent unless moved to the new environment before around the time of puberty. In the normal course of events, short of intensive speech therapy, your adolescent accent is yours for life. This is something I can attest to having arrived in North America at age 21. However, my speech is noticeably North American to British ears, perhaps a matter of vocabulary as much as accent.

The British Isles map above is from http://www.mywiseowl.com/articles/British_English. There's an interesting map of North American languages and dialects at http://www.quichua.net/AmEng/index_files/AmericanEnglishDialects.gif

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Northern Irish grandmother who came to Canada at age 21, kept her accent all her life. When I landed in Larne, near Belfast, I noticed everyone spoke like "Grandma". My grandfather, from the same place as her, did not keep his accent, likely because he went out to work. It also depends very much on a person's ability to change speech, much of it totally subconscious.