Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The glory of regional accents

I've never enjoyed the felicity of Professor Higgins in being able to distinguish an inhabitant of Limehouse from one from Bow, but the distinct differences between an Ipswich accent and a Suffolk one, and between a Suffolk and a Norfolk accent were always clear. In London, I can still pick out an Anglian voice in a noisy and crowded pub and gain comfort from it - much, I suppose, as men did in Kit Marlow's day when rapid agglomerations of those regional loyalties, often with knives drawn, protected strangers in London's inns and taverns. And after a few years here, the accent of North London sounds quite different to that of South London despite being separated by no more than the width of the Thames.

So I'm happy that regional accents are thriving. Accents are about identity; identity is about locality. Accents are a rejection of the homogeneity of the Leviathan State in favour of difference and diversity. As Pakistani moslems with thick Bradford accents travel outside that town to discover that it's their accent, not their colour or their dress or their faith, by which they are primarily identified then they cannot help but strengthen their own Bradford identity; a couple of generations of this will dilute jihadism away far more effectively than State measures ever can. Our Bradford moslem will take more comfort from the sound of an 'infidel' Bradford voice in a London crowd than he will from the Prophet, and this is good.

5 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

In my experience, Pakistani Moslems from Bradford (or indeed those from Oldham) will have a distinctively Bradford (or Oldham) accent, but it will still be noticeably different from the accents of white people from the same town.

Tamianne said...

Yes, the same seems to be the case on the outskirts of east London/Essex. The Indian people who have settled here have picked up the regional accent, but still have a distinct way of talking both in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. For example, they use the words 'innit' or 'isn't it' as a tag question even when it doesn't make grammatical sense. An Indian friend of mine will say things to my daughter like "You're hungry, isn't it?" It's an interesting subject.

Anyway, the at least partial integration in terms of speech has got to be a good thing, innit?

Tendryakov said...

It's city accents that are surviving. Worcestershire had a distinct accent (remember Tom Forest in the Archers) with elements of Black Country syntax, such as "Er ent a-cummin" = She's not coming. But in a generation it's almost gone, since huge numbers of townies, particularly Londoners have descended. Like other rural accents, Worcestershire folk are embarrassed by their accent, what's left of it, because of its rustic, yokel connotations. There is barely a trace on local radio even.

Tendryakov said...

It's city accents that are surviving. Worcestershire had a distinct accent (remember Tom Forest in the Archers) with elements of Black Country syntax, such as "Er ent a-cummin" = She's not coming. But in a generation it's almost gone, since huge numbers of townies, particularly Londoners have descended. Like other rural accents, Worcestershire folk are embarrassed by their accent, what's left of it, because of its rustic, yokel connotations. There is barely a trace on local radio even.

Tamianne said...

Tendryakov, after reading your comments about the city accents surviving it made me think about what has happened in Essex (at least in the southern part of the county), where I'm from. There have obviously been a lot of people who have come here to live who were originally from the east end of London and who brought their accent with them. What is interesting though is the way that their accent has then changed and maybe in an attempt to distance themselves from a more cockney sounding accent they now overpronounce many vowel sounds and consonants. So, in fact a new regional accent has developed here, which you couldn't really call a city accent or a country one.

Travelling on the train from here to inner London is interesting as you hear the accent changing and more 't's been dropped etc. the closer to the centre you get.

It is amazing that we have so many regional accents, when there are countries, such as Chile, that despite being more geographically isolated from one region to another hardly have any regional variation.