I’m excited to bring you part 2 of our discussion on accents, dialects, and speech therapy. For this post, the wonderful Ashley from AGB Speech Therapy is sharing her thoughts on the topic.
I’m so excited to be guest posting today at Talkin’ with Twang. I have quite a lot of experience with accents. Firstly, I’m a southern gal from Arkansas so I have a bit of an accent myself. Then, when my husband’s military service took us to the UK, I was thrilled to be immersed in the variety of British accents as well as the mix of American accents we heard from friends on the base. I didn’t really notice my own accent though until I moved to Utah. You see, in England, everyone talked with a bit of their own home accent, but here in Utah, I sound different. Very different if you ask some people. In fact, one of my students once told her mother she could recognize me in the school because I was the teacher with “short, brown hair that talks like a cowgirl.”
While I laughed at this, I began to think more about accents and how they play into my daily work as an SLP. The first question I asked myself is why do accents matter? Well, for me personally, I’ve always been interested in the way people talk. I guess that’s why speech pathology was a perfect fit for me professionally. But for others, accents can be a source of pride, a hurdle to opportunities or a cause for prejudice.
For many people, the way you speak is a direct reflection on your social class or upbringing. Received Pronunciation of English in the UK is a perfect example of this (think Masterpiece Theatre). For others, the phonology of their native language when applied to a different language produces an accent that is difficult for listeners to comprehend. This situation may make communication more difficult which will negatively impact the speaker. Unfortunately, accents can also be the cause for stereotyping and prejudice.
Like Kristin previously mentioned, we have to be conscious of the distinction between a disorder and difference. But, when we’ve ruled out disorders and we’re talking about accents, what is it that actually causes the differences in the way people talk? The answer, in part, lies in phonology and geography.
Accents occur because of phonology
Phonology is the set of rules that govern the patterns of sounds in a language. Phonology is the reason British vowels sound different from American vowel sounds and American vowels sound different from Australian vowel sounds, but all three languages are English! These accents exist in part because of the specific rules applied to the production of the sounds.
Accents occur because of geography
Phonology gives us the patterns we use in our language, but these patterns are heavily shaped by geography. If a location is highly accessible, then more people from other places will arrive there and in turn influence the culture by adding their own traits and taking from the existing ones. Conversely, if an area is isolated, the people there do not experience as great a shift in patterns because they are not exposed to differences.
Accents make us unique
There was a time I thought I might need to change my accent or be more aware of how I sound to others. The question, “Where are you from?” once grated on my nerves. Now, I embrace the opportunity to share my background with others and invite them to try out the “twang.” If you’d like to listen to some other accents and learn more about the specific features of regional accents, check out http://dialectblog.com/northamerican-accents/
I have enjoyed sharing with your readers, Kristin, and I hope ya’ll will join me over at AGB Speech Therapy
Thank you, Ashley! Be sure to read Part 3 of the series written by Melanie from The Speech Place.
Click HERE to read Part 1 of the series.
Click HERE to read Part 3 by The Speech Place
Click HERE for part 4 and a GIVEAWAY!