How world wide multiculturalism is changing our way of speaking

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What should you know and understand about an American accent; an Australian accent; an English accent; or a South–African accent?

Answers from Elena Ornig

Let us first establish what an accent really is. By expressing yourself through speech you pronounce words in a particular manner that includes: the characteristics of sound of your voice (pronunciation); the tone of your voice (weaker or stronger); a stress upon syllables or even a verse (articulation); and even word connection in the structure of a sentence. All of the foregoing characteristics will give an indication of where you originally come from. Any native speaker from a particular geographical location will pick up on such characteristics and will recognise them as a different accent.

What one has to recognise before comparing and understanding different accents is the differences between internal dialects in each of the subject countries.

In America for example, the official number of different dialects ranges from three to twenty four, and some arguments have been made that it is practically impossible to determine an actual figure.

In Australia, such distinction is basically very vague because the differences in vocabulary and word pronunciation are too minuscule to accurately take into account. In England, the complication of different dialects is constantly changing due to the many immigrants who are establishing their own ‘mixed with English’ vocabulary, with English people starting to use them frequently as their own. In South Africa the dialects are more related to a social classification: cultural (upper class), general (middle class) and broad (working class).

English language

Why did we jump from the accents to the dialects? For one reason only – to show you how they are interconnected and have influenced each other. Dialect is defined as a specific vocabulary that belongs to a close region or even smaller group; and accent, as we established earlier, is the actual pronunciation of a word or sentence. When new vocabulary is in place it usually has particular pronunciation attached to it and sometimes even to the specific structure of the sentence or the group of words.

In our modern world with fast and highly developed communication combined with easy commuting, plus even geographical relocation that results in the establishment of new ethnic groups in new countries – the process of integration of new accents and new dialects is changing rapidly. Some are disappearing and some are just evolving.

There is no doubt that world wide multiculturalism is changing our way of speaking. Still, we can recognise some differences in pronunciation and vocabularies of four major countries that choose to speak English as a main language for communication.

In America, unlike Australia, there are still strongly recognised differences in how people speak in New York and New England compared to rural Virginia, or Boston, or even in Houston.

In England you can also hear strong differences between such regions as Manchester and Salford or Oxfordshire and Derby.

In case you have now decided to learn and understand more about different accents of English in English speaking countries, it is suggested you start your search from Wikipedia. It has enough information, including a considerable bibliography, to help you look for more.

My warmest regards,
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Written by Elena Ornig

Managing Director of Publishing Company "Julia Sophistique Pty Ltd". Committee member of Australian Computer Association GC Chapter. Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Member of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland. Member of the IT Forum Gold Coast. Sponsor of the Helensvale Writers' Group, Gold Coast. Committee member of the Gold Coast Writers Association Honored VIP Member of STANFORD WHO'S WHO in America. Publisher, writer and blogger.