What does ACCENT mean in American English?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Sep 15 14:00:52 UTC 2001

Remember too the research which shows that undergraduates rated a
native speaker of Amnerican Englisbh (with outward Asian identity) as
more difficult to understand than other native speakers of the same
variety. We must always remember that the ear its attached to all of
the brain - not just the part that converts signals to phonemes, then
to morphemes, etc... .


PS: Jessica Williams' research. University of Illinois Chicago? I can't recall.

>>True enough, but what I was looking at (out of the full discourse
>>context, to be sure) was not just "accent" but "I don't like her
>>accent", which I think for most speakers represents quite a different
>>environment than "the accent is on participation".
>Certainly the quotation as read would seem to refer to "accent" in sense #3
>in the AHD4:
><<3. A characteristic pronunciation, especially: a. One determined by the
>regional or social background of the speaker. b. One determined by the
>phonetic habits of the speaker's native language carried over to his or her
>use of another language.>>
>It is not so clear (to me) whether it refers to (a) or to (b).
>When I was in college, I heard many complaints from classmates about the
>instructors' "accents", and I don't remember a case where the reference was
>to social or political implications: the complaint generally was simply
>that a "strong" Indian/Russian/Filipino/whatever "accent" made the
>lecture/discussion partially incomprehensible. In some cases, I think
>"accent" subsumes grammatical peculiarities along with "foreign"
>pronunciations, in this sort of casual usage.
>-- Doug Wilson

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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