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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Karen Worst singing accent. (222* d) RE: Worst singing accent. 03 Jul 18


This business of accents is odd. I know a person who sounds completely 'English' and has never lived in Ireland but whose ancestors (not sure how far back) were Irish. This chap, who is lovely, sometimes sings in an Irish accent, and it always feels strange.

But as a child I was always puzzled about why pop stars sang in odd accents, with Mick Jagger being a prime example. It took me a while to realise they were imitating American accents. I have read pieces which on the basis that Jagger would have been imitating African American accents accuse him of being an example of latter day 'minstrelsy' though the comparison only goes so far. It is an emotive term, but the contexts and attitudes are different.

I'm not sure if anybody has mentioned 'code switching' here, but linguists have noticed that most of us can speak in varying degrees/styles of accent. We tend to switch depending upon the context and company. Another term is I think accommodation, which is how when two people with different accents meet, their accents automatically tend to get closer together. These terms seem potentially useful to me when thinking about the way people sing.

Thinking in terms of just English, it isn't just accents, but the whole language has changed a lot over the years. If we went back in time to the centuries when some traditional folk songs are said to have started, I don't think we would understand much of what people said. Certainly not the French speaking Normans. Reading it is problematic too. So it isn't just that the 'accent' has changed over the years, the whole language has too. So the 'old' songs, it seems to me, have to have changed too.

Jack, on transcribing oral texts, the linguists have devised methods of annotating these to show pauses and so on. There are also complicated methods of showing how pitch varies during speaking (which I cannot use, just know about). But you are right that the printed word cannot capture everything about a spoken version, and a spoken version will omit all of the non-verbal communication that accompanies the verbal.

I once met a Frenchman who had learned to speak English in Yorkshire and had a wonderful Yorkshire accent. It came as a surprise, but I quite liked it: you felt he had learned it among people, not from books teaching Received Pronunciation.

Accents are emotive things.

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