An ADS evaluation of dialects in movies?

Nancy Carol Elliott elliottn at INDIANA.EDU
Fri Nov 19 14:41:47 UTC 1999

I'm just finishing my dissertation on the subject of rhoticity in American
film speech from the 30's to the 70's. I collected data on about 50
subjects per decade (4-year period in a decade's midpoint) and got a
decade average from each subject's percentage of r-lessness. The decade
average decreases steadily from the 30's to the 70's (59 -> 43 -> 33 -> 22
-> 7), with interesting differences between female and male subjects.

(Correction: Ray Milland's r-less rate is 92, not 98. And John Wayne's,
incidentally, is 4.)

Nancy Elliott

On Thu, 18 Nov 1999, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

> Very interesting!  Where did you get your percentages on r-lessness, and
> have you published anything on your 40-year analysis?
> At 04:51 PM 11/18/99 -0500, you wrote:
> >Anthony Hopkins only gets half a star for his accent as Nixon.
> >
> >Of the American films I've studied (1930's to 70's) that have overtly
> >specified regional origins for a character, I found only three (US) actors
> >that made any kind of attempt to sound like that was where they were from.
> >
> >Of the Brits in American roles, Angela Lansbury is extremely successful --
> >of course she came to NY to study acting at the age of 15. Stephen Boyd
> >(Fantastic Voyage) gets 4 stars; I only heard a couple of Belfast vowels
> >from him. Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend ) didn't sound Welsh in the
> >1940's; the only remarkable thing I found about his speech was that he was
> >98% r-less, compared to an average of 42% for male American actors of that
> >decade.
> >
> >And then there's Cary Grant...
> >
> >Nancy Elliott

More information about the Ads-l mailing list