Adult speech changing over time
charles at FREUDE.COM
Sat Mar 10 14:06:06 UTC 2001
"Linguists have usually assumed that pronuciation is fixed by early
adulthood, and I have not previously seen studies of changes over time in
the speech of adults."
I am not a linguist (I am a retired mathematics professor) but have paid
attention to language since I was a child. I have anecdotal evidence that
adult speech does indeed change over time.
(1) In the early '70's I went to a math meeting and met a mathematician
from Louisiana who spoke with a remarkably thick southern accent that
sounded to me like Alabama or Mississippi. (I am a native of Atlanta.) I
changed specialties in mathematics and did not meet him again until two
years ago, giving me a kind of fast forward on his speech patterns. His
speech had moved a long way toward a sort of generalized Southern.
(2) In the 70's I met a native American woman who had married a Swiss
farmer in her twenties. When I met her she had lived on the Swiss farm
(outside Zurich) for about ten years and had had little opportunity to
speak English. She had a noticeable Zurideutsch accent. (Zurichers speak
English with an accent all their own, not like other German speakers.)
(3) I grew up in Atlanta and Savannah, but went into the service at age 18
and then went to Oberlin College. Since then, except for three years, I
have lived in Ohio. My southern relatives claim I have a Yankee accent.
(Ohioans claim I have a southern accent.)
I suspect that some adults' speech patterns are far more malleable than
others. I know a lady from Alabama in her eighties who has lived in
Michigan most of her adult life who still speaks with a strong Alabama
(Birmingham area) accent. In my younger years, I knew many mathematicians
who had left Germany because of Hitler (now many are dead), and some spoke
English with far more of an accent than others. A couple of them told me
in their later years that it had become quite hard for them to give a
mathematics lecture in German.
Charles Wells, 105 South Cedar St., Oberlin, Ohio 44074, USA.
email: charles at freude.com.
home phone: 440 774 1926.
professional website: http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/math/wells/home.html
personal website: http://www.oberlin.net/~cwells/index.html
NE Ohio Sacred Harp website: http://www.oberlin.net/~cwells/sh.htm
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