Skip to comments.Did Americans in 1776 have British accents? (Suprising answer)
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.
Reading David McCulloughs 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.
Id 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 hadnt yet diverged. Thats not too surprising.
Whats surprising, though, is that those accents were much closer to todays American accents than to todays British accents. While both have changed over time, its actually British accents that have changed much more drastically since then.
First, lets 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 regions British connections in the post-Revolutionary War era. Irish and Scottish accents are still rhotic.
If youd like to learn more, this passage in The Cambridge History of the English Language is a good place to start.
■American English, Rhotic and non-rhotic accents, Received Pronunciation - Wikipedia
■The Cambridge History of the English Language - Google Books
I got the impression that the DFW part of Texas was essentially the midwest.
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.
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!
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).
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.
‘Shakespeares 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. Hamlets 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.
To me Shaw the playwright was admirable, while Shaw the thinker was not.
“Have you seen John Hustons 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
“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.
“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!
Actually, I almost flunked Latin in High School,lol!
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.
Don’t say that too loudly. Them’s fightin’ words.
Seriously though, most Texans consider themselves Texans first, Southern second and American third.
Ain’t that the way you’re spose’d to say it? LOL!
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.
“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.
Maybe, but the last Bush presidency demonstrates that swagger alone isn’t enough.
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
Aint that the way youre sposed 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.
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.
That may explain some of the stagings I’ve seen of Shakepeare’s plays.
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.
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).
You were in that typing class too?
The Remington's kicked ass, Underwoods were scrap metal, imo.
...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.
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...
Theory: WWI trenches were 5'6" deep, so all the upper class guys got shot in the head.