Accents relevant to politeness? yass67 at POPPY.OCN.NE.JP
Tue Jun 24 22:53:56 UTC 2003

Dear Mr.Hause and Mr(?).Kammert,

Thank you very much indeed for your very interesting comments below!
Really appreciated!

I hope it is okay to tell you the background for my curiosity.

In Britain there seems a new type of English called Estuary English. It is
to be a kind of accent, but the speakers seem to use particular expressions
such as "mate" as a tag, and seem to talk to people in the way they'd talk
to their friends. So this may be more of a dialect. This and some other
elements seem to create an assumption that Estuary English is like an
'equalizer' or 'democratizer' of social status between two speakers.

Also the frequent use of a consonant called the Glottal Stop may make the
speaker less formal because it seems it is 'polite' or 'socially more
acceptable(?)' to say "better" with a T in 'strip, star, particular' instead
of "be'er', especially in job interview situations in which you will have a
kind of 'power relations' with your potential employers.

By the way, now here in Japan young people (even among university students,
let alone TV celebs!)  seem to be using a particular way of speech called
'tame-guchi'. A website said that this is originally from the way Japanese
mafia (i.e.yakuza) spoke and high school delinquents students adopted it in
1960s, and therefore, originally from presumably a fairly lower part of the
society like Cockney's working class. (I assume that this is neither an
accent nor dialect, just a manner of speech - yet.)

What they do is to talk to their superiors like elderlies, parents, teachers
or maybe even to your boss as if they talk to their friends with the equal
social status. Someone translated the term into an English word like 'even
talk'.  And they rarely seem to use the kind of expression that
traditionally show respect to others. One of my friends said that maybe this
phenomenon is a result of American style democratisation or equalization of
social status (i.e. American culture). (I shouldn't forget to tell you that
Dr.Paul Coggle claimed that Estuary English has "Openness to Americanisms"
(p61, Do You Speak Estuary?
1993). )

I just thought that there may be something in common between American
English, Estuary English and tame-guchi in terms of showing power relations.

If any of you happened to know the democratisation or equalization (or even
Americanisation?) of the society through 'new speech' like Estuary English
or 'tame-guchi', I'd be glad to hear any comments. Thank you!

Best wishes,

Yass Shoji (Mr)

>I've waited for one of the professional linguists, but since there were no
responders, here is a rank amateur's thought:  From an Army officer's
viewpoint, where rank is significant, accent is basically irrelevant.  There
are dialect differences in some speakers, but I haven't noticed any number
of speakers who shift accent based on person addressed (or for any other
reason than humour.)  This strikes me as a Japanese cultural question that
doesn't translate to American culture.
Dave Hause, dwhause at
Ft. Leonard Wood, MO
So you don't have to learn or be taught to speak with a certain accent?
Okay. In Britain, it was said that officers at a higher rank had to learn
BBC accent long time ago. (The source: BBC Radio Five Live's late night show
in which Prof. JC Wells and Mr. Robert Freebern of London's Voice and Speech
Centre appeared as commentators in 1995 or so)(YS)

Jan Kammert <write at>
I think that most Americans cannot control their accents... at least not
much.  I can fake a southern accent, but I'm sure someone with a real
southern accent, would notice that I was faking it immediately.
>I think that, with certain people, pretending to have an accent might be
taken as
an insult.
Comedians may do this to make fun of people. I agree. (YS)

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