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
And we have the recordings to prove it???
I thought it was Bawney Fwank??? .....in either case, Barney Frank would have been a bone smuggling, turd burgling Marxist no mater where he was born
Don’t forget, tho — usually the ‘colonies’ have kept some of the old word/ old wayss. It’s true in Spanish, anyway.
Don’t forget “earl” as in “I’m going to change my car’s earl”.
If something like that happens, it will be a mark of a lower class person, much like “Ebonics” today. I don’t see any movement toward “Spanglish” in the SW. Those who speak it are recent immigrants.
Which one? If you put a Maine lobsterman in the same room with an Alabama sharecropper you'd have difficulty believing they are speaking the same language.
...and they had much better, whiter and straighter teeth than our cousins across the pond!
The Original GW made a deal with God. He said “I will wear wooden teeth if the rest of America can have great teeth”
So, today as a nation, we have the best smiles.....EVER!
True, there are random hot chicks worldwide that have hot smiles.... but as a rule.. Americans rock!!!!
(and we have better haircuts too than our cousins!)
Or Orl, as in Orl Well!
As my lovely Southern Belle wife would remind me..."Y'all talk like a Yankee..
Many Americans were proud to hear their children speaking perfect (for the time) English. For instance the earliest settlers of New Sweden didn't even speak Swedish ~ except for the 5 officers.
Their kids went straight from Sa'ami to English in three generations. That's probably why the "r" coloring is strongest today ~ right where the Sa'ami settled as they moved inland from the coast and its hurricanes.
You can’t use Disney films. My Fair Lady was much better.
The rine in spine sties minely in the pline.
Rex Harrison plays a professor of phonetics Henry Higgins in the movie. We can always relay on actors that play roles for expert advice. Especially when they play the role of a expert.
This is all a bit oversimplified. Visit different parts of the UK, and you’ll find that pronunciation and accent vary by region and always have. Not everyone who immigrated the US or Canada came from the west end of London. It’s probably quite rare to find any 3rd generation or greater American who doesn’t have an Irish, Scottish, German ...or Scottish by way of Ireland, or French, or (name a nationality)... ancestor. The “standard” American accent is supposedly a Midwestern accent, but it’s “standard” in name only. Your accent has everything to do with where in the US you came from, who your parents were, and how much TV you watch.
and there is fanger and wuhtuhr.
I have often thought, and I do still believe, we got into our American accents by being taught to read phonetically the one room schoolhouse as one advanced westward, etc. Hence, we became Rhotic speakers.
I think I will stick with that belief.
But an interesting article never the less. Thank you.
A side note.
With the dramatic advancement of technology over the past two decades, regional centers have sprung up to handle calls from consumers with respect to different issues involving different products.
When I have need to call a service center for a particular product, I have enjoyed hearing the varied accents from different regions of our country. On many an occasion, I have complimented the individual on the beauty of their accent only to hear a polite, “thank you” in response.
Not once have I heard, “I don’t have an accent, you do”.