Fwd: crosspost of possible interest

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 17 04:02:37 UTC 2002

As usual, responses should be directed to the poster, Mr. Lee, as
well as copying us.


--- begin forwarded text

LINGUIST List:  Vol-13-98. Thu Jan 17 2002. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 13.98, Qs: "Standard American" Accent

Date:  Thu, 17 Jan 2002 12:17:58 +0800 (CST)
From:  clee at cc.NCTU.edu.tw
Subject:  Standard American accent?

Dear Linguists,

Someone recently asked me if there was a "standard" American accent.
I responded by saying that there are many different American accents
and no standard one.  But I also mentioned that there was a general
concensus among Americans that the northwest accent, seemed to be
special among all of them in that it:

    1. is the one most people have no problems understanding,
    2. is the one that seems to have the least noticable accent,
    3. is the one that is the most nondescript, is the one people
          made least fun of, etc.

I recall being told something to this effect 20 years ago and I think
they said this was due to some research (anybody know if this is
true?).  But the research also suggested that this may not be due to
anything special about the northwest accent but simply because the
national TV newscasters spoke with this accent.  But the research also
left open the possibility that the TV networks used this accent
because they also knew or discovered that it was the most
understandable accent.


I want to make sure that my own bias (I grew up in the northwest) is
not influencing me, so what I want to ask this list is if there has
really been any research in this area, regardless of whether it was
from 20 years ago or more recently?  If so, what research has been
done and what were their conclusions?

Also, other questions that come to mind are:

   * Is there a way to "objectively" determine in a linguistic way
        which accent should be the most understandable apart from
        other factors such as accent exposure or social norms?
   * Is there a way to quatify what is the most nondescript (i.e. central)

- Charles Lee, Ph.D Linguistics

LINGUIST List: Vol-13-98

--- end forwarded text

More information about the Ads-l mailing list