Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Voice of the Almighty

(If you tried the files yesterday and they didn't work, try them today. I've now converted them to mp3s.)

Well, not really almighty. More like the voice of me. A Free Man wrote a post about accents earlier this week and linked to an accent web site that fascinated me. He even linked to an example of his own rendition of the paragraph used on the site. His little experiment inspired me to do one of my own. When I got home today I forced my wife to read the paragraph and then followed up with one of my own.

I was actually a little surprised by both readings. First, I've never lived outside of Georgia. I'm well traveled and well educated, but I actually sounded less like the locals than I expected. K, on the other hand, spent a significant portion of her life in Ohio and Pennsylvania and spent the end of her formative years in Marietta, GA, an area so full of transplants that the local accent is, well, Yankee. I've always thought she sounded very much like a northerner and she sticks out like a sore thumb in our little corner of rural south Georgia, but I honestly hear a few of the soft notes of her adopted home coming through in her recording.

Of course, that's not to say that I just have a standard American accent. I'm aware that I still have a tendency to stress first syllables in words more so than the average American and I've never tried to add the e glide at the end on my long i sounds, but my vowels sounds are usually just one syllable now. I can't say that was the case in Kindergarten. I also pronounced "Wednesday" as "WINS-dee," something that pretty much every example from the South on that accent web site did.

As for that long i, I have never pronounced it as "ah". I've not met anyone who does when not making fun of a stereotypical accent. The "ah" thing is basically a lazy way of representing the sound of a long i without the e glide, I think.

Oh, and if you noticed that my wife's script was a little different than mine, it's because she humored me and added in a glass of milk to demonstrate her tendency to pronounce the short i in milk as a short e.

I'd love to hear some of my readers do their version of this experiment. If I think of it, I'll try to get some of my more traditionally Southern-sounding relatives to let me record them as well.


courtney said...

I can't open them, but I already know what you sound like.

Kim sounds very northern to me too. I've always thought she has a very pleasant voice. Yours is definitely southern, but it's an educated southern. It's not so much the southern accent that bothers me so much as the redneck accent. It bothers me when people purposely mispronounce things.

And don't even get me started on putting a- in front of verbs, like "I'm a-goin' to the store." Some of my relatives do that and it drives me crazy.

Julie said...

I never know whether I should be happy no one can ever pin down my accent or even care. Mostly, I guess I don't care. I've never really had an accent so it's not a big deal. I do tend to pick up words and phrases from people I've been spending a lot of time with... How 'bout that?

Chris said...

It really is interesting to hear some of the samples from around the country -- how people can speak the same language yet sound so different.
That's kind of funny that Kim said "melk". I had never noticed that in her speech.
I've always struggled to stop flattening my long i sounds. I'm not so lazy as to say "ah", I don't think, but I don't quite get to a proper long i sound either. My computer is too stubborn and slow for me to dare try recording sound onto it; otherwise I would play along.

Rassles said...

I totally can't figure out how to record stuff. Otherwise I would.