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Did Americans in 1776 have British accents? (Suprising answer)
Nick Patrick blog via Fark.com ^ | 10/09/2010 | Nick Patrick

Posted on 10/09/2010 8:08:47 AM PDT by prisoner6

The typical English accent didn't develop until after the Revolutionary War, so Americans actually speak proper English. Here comes the science.

Did Americans in 1776 have British accents?

Reading David McCullough’s 1776, I found myself wondering: Did Americans in 1776 have British accents? If so, when did American accents diverge from British accents?

The answer surprised me.

I’d always assumed that Americans used to have British accents, and that American accents diverged after the Revolutionary War, while British accents remained more or less the same.

Americans in 1776 did have British accents in that American accents and British accents hadn’t yet diverged. That’s not too surprising.

What’s surprising, though, is that those accents were much closer to today’s American accents than to today’s British accents. While both have changed over time, it’s actually British accents that have changed much more drastically since then.

First, let’s be clear: the terms “British accent” and “American accent” are oversimplifications; there were, and still are, many constantly-evolving regional British and American accents. What many Americans think of as “the British accent” is the standardized Received Pronunciation, also known as “BBC English.”

The biggest difference between most American and most British accents is rhotacism. While most American accents are rhotic, the standard British accent is non-rhotic. (Rhotic speakers pronounce the ‘R’ sound in the word “hard.” Non-rhotic speakers do not.)

So, what happened?

In 1776, both American accents and British accents were largely rhotic. It was around this time that non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper class. This “prestige” non-rhotic speech was standardized, and has been spreading in Britain ever since.

Most American accents, however, remained rhotic.

There are a few fascinating exceptions: New York and Boston accents became non-rhotic, perhaps because of the region’s British connections in the post-Revolutionary War era. Irish and Scottish accents are still rhotic.

If you’d like to learn more, this passage in The Cambridge History of the English Language is a good place to start.

Sources:
■American English, Rhotic and non-rhotic accents, Received Pronunciation - Wikipedia
■The Cambridge History of the English Language - Google Books


TOPICS: History; Society
KEYWORDS: dialect; english; godsgravesglyphs; language; linguistics
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To: Peanut Gallery

I got the impression that the DFW part of Texas was essentially the midwest.


151 posted on 10/09/2010 7:35:26 PM PDT by dr_who
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To: gleeaikin
German settlers in N America antedated the notorious Hessians -- a number of the latter though wound up staying to settle after The Revolution (or at least, their part in it) was over. The haven for religious freedom was particularly important as motivation to risk a 3000 mile Atlantic crossing. Much later, late-19th c, there was a wave of German Catholics who emigrated to escape the kulturkampf and they were not alone -- there was a belief among Germans that the three wars Otto von Bismarck had used to weld the independent realms into one German Empire were just the beginning of internal and external wars. Turned out that Bismarck was a genius and built a system of treaties and alliances that kept the peace in (most of) Europe for over forty years.

Allegheny Passage by Emmert Bittinger
Google

152 posted on 10/09/2010 8:08:21 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: Irenic

I do love the word ‘swimps’ and use it instead of shrimp...

******************

I grew up hearing my mother say “srimp” instead of “shrimp”. Don’t have a clue where that came from but it grated on my ears.


153 posted on 10/09/2010 8:12:25 PM PDT by JouleZ (You are the company you keep.)
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To: BnBlFlag; cripplecreek

For the most part, our small town and country kids are retaining theirs at least for now.

***************

Oh, it will remain. My cousins and I are Texans and way middle-aged, yet we still say “ya’ll” and speak Texan, as do their kids. My latest Southern drawl special was “he’s a “aawlcaholic” speaking of another cousin. Love the drawl!


154 posted on 10/09/2010 8:33:45 PM PDT by JouleZ (You are the company you keep.)
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To: oldsalt
Heck, I'm originally from England, and when I was a kid growing up there, I was able to emulate an American accent very easily (probably from watching all the American TV shows), and I don't think I'm a talented actor.

However, just as you stated, you hardly hear an American emulate a British accent correctly. Usually the poor attempt of the British accent has the improper soft "a" sound being used in words like "pants" (trousers) (it's pronounced the same way in most of the UK as it is in America -- you don't say "pahnts" in the UK).

155 posted on 10/09/2010 9:18:57 PM PDT by PallMal
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To: sinsofsolarempirefan; miss marmelstein

Remember there are two distinct kind of Latin pronunciation. The one you’ve been discussing is Medeival, or ‘Church’ Latin. pronounced rather like Italian. The older is Classical Latin, as used by politicians at the end of the Republic. It that kind of Latin Caesar is pronounced much like ‘Kaisar’ in German, hard ‘C’. Medeival Latin pronounces Caesar as in ‘Caesare Borgia’, with a ‘ch’ sound for ‘c’. I do not know where the English soft ‘c’ as in Julius Caesar came from.


156 posted on 10/09/2010 9:38:52 PM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: bagman

‘Shakespeare’s pronunciation would have been quite different from ours. At about the time of Shakespeare, the Great Vowel Shift occurred in a remarkably short time span (maybe 50 years) in which the pronunciation of vowels changed markedly. Hamlet’s soliliquy (sic) would have opened something like “Toe bay or not toe bay”.’

Of course in the two centuries between Chaucer and Shakespeare English went from Middle English to (early) Modern English. The Canterbury Tales are completely unintelligible to modern speakers of English.


157 posted on 10/09/2010 9:45:32 PM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: miss marmelstein

To me Shaw the playwright was admirable, while Shaw the thinker was not.


158 posted on 10/09/2010 9:53:47 PM PDT by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
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To: miss marmelstein

“Have you seen John Huston’s Red Badge of Courage?”

Oh yea, the movie and the book. Another great Civil War movie that few even know about was The Colt (2005)

A clip from the movie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mID1AekwtHA&feature=player_embedded


159 posted on 10/09/2010 9:56:43 PM PDT by NavyCanDo
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To: bgill

“True. I grew up in Dallas but moved out when I was a teen. I went back about 15 years later and came to a complete stop in a North Dallas shopping center and just stood there listening to people speak. It was like another country rather than a city I had grown up in. Freaky!”

Yeah. The DFW area has been subjected to the same thing as Houston. The huge influx of Yankees in the mid to late 70’s had an awful lot to do with it. Prior to that most of our newcomers were from other Gulf Coast states and Arkansas and Oklahoma.


160 posted on 10/09/2010 11:02:32 PM PDT by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis "Ya gotta saddle up your boys; Ya gotta draw a hard line")
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To: cripplecreek

“I’m a lifelong Michigan redneck. This is where my roots are and this is where I’ll die. Don’t ask me to leave because I’m too happy to play the role of bleeding hemmoroid on the butt of the liberals of this state. Its the greatest place in the world and I’m not giving it up.”

I like your attitude!


161 posted on 10/09/2010 11:09:25 PM PDT by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis "Ya gotta saddle up your boys; Ya gotta draw a hard line")
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To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla

Actually, I almost flunked Latin in High School,lol!


162 posted on 10/10/2010 3:43:58 AM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla

I find him a total bore on both fronts! But then I’ve been forced to sit through a lot of Shaw...to me just a yakky old man.


163 posted on 10/10/2010 3:45:43 AM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: dr_who

Don’t say that too loudly. Them’s fightin’ words.

Seriously though, most Texans consider themselves Texans first, Southern second and American third.


164 posted on 10/10/2010 9:09:32 AM PDT by Peanut Gallery (The essence of freedom is the proper limitation of government.)
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To: JouleZ

Ain’t that the way you’re spose’d to say it? LOL!


165 posted on 10/10/2010 9:40:19 AM PDT by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis "Ya gotta saddle up your boys; Ya gotta draw a hard line")
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To: bboop
Glad you liked my home county.

Yes, we are a bit of a Heinz 57....part Celtic; part Anglo-Saxon; part Viking.

Never truly appreciated the beauty of Northumberland till I moved away...same with lots of folks I suppose.

FRegards,

166 posted on 10/10/2010 10:11:41 AM PDT by Churchillspirit (9/11/01...NEVER FORGET.)
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To: Churchillspirit

“Glad you liked my home county.

Yes, we are a bit of a Heinz 57....part Celtic; part Anglo-Saxon; part Viking.”

My family, the Sheffields, had always thought were were the ultimate Anglo - Saxons until we did DNA tests on many of our male family members. The results showed that we were actually descended from Vikings that had settled in England.
But I’m mostly Scots-Irish (due to intermarraige) or as you would say Ulster-Irish.


167 posted on 10/10/2010 2:32:57 PM PDT by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis "Ya gotta saddle up your boys; Ya gotta draw a hard line")
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To: Peanut Gallery

Maybe, but the last Bush presidency demonstrates that swagger alone isn’t enough.


168 posted on 10/10/2010 6:47:37 PM PDT by dr_who
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To: Forward the Light Brigade

I think the accent from the area of Farmington Maine has the a pure and undiluted older New England accent. Not too many of them left alive


169 posted on 10/10/2010 6:56:37 PM PDT by Chickensoup (There is a group of people who suck off the productive. They make rules then find infractions.)
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To: BnBlFlag

Ain’t that the way you’re spose’d to say it? LOL!

***********

Yup, that’s right and the beauty is we still understand each other. I love the twang and drawl. Someone should write a C&W song about that alone.


170 posted on 10/10/2010 8:51:23 PM PDT by JouleZ (You are the company you keep.)
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To: SunkenCiv; All

Re Ressians, years ago when we lived in NJ, my father told me of a group of people living on the north Jersey/PA or NY border called the Jackson “Whites”. He said these were AWOL Hessian soldiers who hid in the back woods and ended up marrying/? Indians and escaped/owned? Black slaves.

Family history, my grandfather was a marine engineer in Bismarck’s navy. Apparently he did not like what he felt was the direction of Bismark’s policies, so he and my grandmother emigrated to the US, probably later 1880s. Here he served as chief engineer on several major ocean liners, and in WW1 had an important role in converting a big liner into a troop carrier. Bismarck may have kept peace for 40 years, but his aftermath resulted in the horrible bloodbath of WW1, which then resulted in WW2. Rather ironic that my grandfather in leaving what he thought was a bad situation, acted against it decades later.


171 posted on 10/11/2010 12:31:25 AM PDT by gleeaikin (question authority)
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To: prisoner6; SunkenCiv
I read somewhere, perhaps in a biography of a Duchess of Devonshire, that the English upper class was acquiring a drawl about the time of George III.
172 posted on 10/11/2010 12:06:26 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: colorado tanker

That may explain some of the stagings I’ve seen of Shakepeare’s plays.


173 posted on 10/11/2010 1:27:37 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: gleeaikin

Bismarck also gave us the welfare state. As German Chancellor he wanted to head off the socialists’ calls for nationalization of industry. His idea was to found a welfare state provided health care, accident insurance and pensions if the socialists would leave the ownership of industry in the hands of the industrialists, his allies.


174 posted on 10/11/2010 2:15:27 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: mjp

Yes, the source of the American accent is based on various regional accents in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Some of those regional elements still exist in the UK but they are not “BBC English”, so people don’t think of them as an “English accent”. What’s also interesting is that using “aks”/”ax” for “ask” can be found in Old English as well as Chaucer’s Middle English (it can be found in The Canterbury Tales).


175 posted on 10/12/2010 6:02:34 AM PDT by Question_Assumptions
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To: FrankR
The "prone" position for proper typing that I learned in 1962 in Mrs. Johnson's typing class using a manual Underwood typwriter no longer applies in this modern world of computers

You were in that typing class too?
The Remington's kicked ass, Underwoods were scrap metal, imo.

176 posted on 10/12/2010 2:56:55 PM PDT by ARepublicanForAllReasons (Darn, lost my tagline... something about boarders, in-laws and bad language.)
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To: ARepublicanForAllReasons
It was those little round typewriter erasers with a little green brush on them, and, correcting 4-layer mistakes using carbon paper that I hated the most.

Later in business when someone invented the IBM self-correcting Selectric typewriters with the little round element(s), and then copy machines that life got better. And now computers, where you can cut and past, is heaven for writing.
177 posted on 10/12/2010 3:35:18 PM PDT by FrankR (You are only obligated to obama to the extent you accept his handouts.)
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To: FrankR
where you can cut and past,

...cut and paste... LOL!

When my mom brought home a spare IBM Selectric from her job at McDonnell-Douglas, I was in Heaven (well, sort of) when typing up term papers.

178 posted on 10/12/2010 4:21:03 PM PDT by ARepublicanForAllReasons (Darn, lost my tagline... something about boarders, in-laws and bad language.)
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To: ARepublicanForAllReasons
LOL I should have cut and PASTED that line, huh?

I used to do a newsletter using an IBM Selectric and typed directly onto memeograph stencils; having a complete set of 8 elements made it nice to have font changes...that was back in the late 60's.
179 posted on 10/12/2010 4:34:09 PM PDT by FrankR (You are only obligated to obama to the extent you accept his handouts.)
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To: prisoner6

Here is a link to many links of English- both English-English and American-English and a few others too (some Irish, Welsh). I was disappointed with the Lib of Congress’ though...


180 posted on 10/14/2010 5:31:48 AM PDT by PghBaldy (Like the Ft Hood Killer, James Earl Ray was just stressed when he killed MLK Jr.)
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To: razorback-bert
In WWI the British army found the height of the lower classes was 5'6” and the upper class was 5'9”, by WWII the difference had disappeared.

Theory: WWI trenches were 5'6" deep, so all the upper class guys got shot in the head.

181 posted on 10/14/2010 5:39:26 AM PDT by Sloth (Civil disobedience? I'm afraid only the uncivil kind is going to cut it this time.)
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To: prisoner6

Later.


182 posted on 11/21/2012 8:51:25 AM PST by Southside_Chicago_Republican (If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.)
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To: oldsalt
And Dr. Chase is now on Chicago Fire with a perfect “American” accent.
183 posted on 11/21/2012 11:19:02 AM PST by Excellence (9/11 was an act of faith.)
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