Monday, March 14, 2011

You say tomato; I say potato

The British Library's research into accents in the UK has attracted media interest, with some of the first findings being made public. This report in the Daily Mail takes a look at some of the results and offers the view that we aren't adopting American pronunciation as rapidly as some had assumed. Of course, this being the Daily Mail, they have to build in some kind of reactionary nationalism, stating that "many British English speakers are refusing to use American pronunciations" (my italics) which suggests that it's a conscious decision, when change often doesn't work like that.

Jonnie Robinson, curator of the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library (and speaker at the Emagazine Language conference this Wednesday) is quoted in the story:

British English and American English continue to be very distinct entities and the way both sets of speakers pronounce words continues to differ. But that doesn’t mean that British English speakers are sticking with traditional pronunciations while American English speakers come up with their own alternatives. In fact, in some cases it is the other way around. British English, for whatever reason, is innovating and changing while American English remains very conservative and traditional in its speech patterns.
John Wells looks at The Guardian's coverage of the study here and is a bit more sceptical about what the results tell us.

On a similar theme, but this time focusing on dialect and spelling, the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan writes in the Daily Telegraph about the influence of  the internet on spreading American English (rather than English English) around the world.

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