Monday, April 14, 2008

American and Irish

From the British Library:

Linguists can use comparative information between accents to help us understand how and when language change occurs. It should, for instance, come as no surprise to discover that some aspects of pronunciation in the USA resemble speech patterns in Northern Ireland, as the English Language arrived in both places at a similar point in time. The varieties spoken in Ireland and the USA clearly retain some of the features of seventeenth-century English that have subsequently disappeared from many accents in England. Yet if we consider Australian, New Zealand or South African English, they are all noticeably non-rhotic — that is 'R' is not pronounced after a vowel in words like farm, corn and better.

Large numbers of English-speaking colonists arrived in the southern hemisphere around the beginning of the nineteenth century — some two hundred years after English was transported across the Atlantic. We can probably assume, therefore, that the vast majority of the emigrants to those countries at that time were speakers from parts of England that were already non-rhotic. In other words, we can infer that speakers in South East England, the East Midlands and East Anglia began to omit the sound after a vowel some time in the eighteenth century. The fact that even in England there remain ‘relic’ areas, such as Bristol, where 'R' is still pronounced shows just how long it takes for a sound change to work its way through a language as a whole.

To hear all the different English accents, click here.

No comments: