[Ads-l] childhood accent development (UNCLASSIFIED)

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Mon Jul 13 18:10:40 UTC 2015

You're just in time!  

First, Marilyn vos Savant's column in Sunday's Parade Magazine, 2nd question:

My 3-year-old granddaughter was born and lives in London with her parents, who grew up in the U.S. She has an English accent. She does have English friends, but she still spends nearly all her time with her parents. Why doesn’t she sound American?—M. D., ChicagoYoung children sound like their parents only until they start to socialize. Then they acquire the accent of their peers and forever sound different from mom and dad. If your granddaughter’s friends were mostly Americans, she would sound American. Or if the family had lived in the U.S., then moved to England when she was a teen-—around puberty, one’s homegrown accent is ingrained—she would always sound like them.

She doesn't cite her sources, but perhaps if you ask ...

Second, see the article in yesterday's NYTimes Sunday Mgazine, "Broken Lives" (titled on-line "The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá"), by Susan Dominus, on two pairs of identical twins, one of of each pair having been sent at a very young age by a mixed-up hospital to live with the wrong parents.  

Dominus writes:

"[Thomas] Bouchard [Jr., a psychologist at the University of Minnesota], went on to research more than 80 identical-­twin pairs reared apart, comparing them with identical twins reared together, fraternal twins reared together and fraternal twins reared apart. He found that in almost every instance, the identical twins, whether reared together or reared apart, were more similar to each other than their fraternal counterparts were for traits like personality and, more controversial, intelligence. One unexpected finding in his research suggested that the effect of a pair’s shared environment --say, their parents -- had little bearing on personality. Genes and unique experiences -- a semester abroad, an important friend -- were more influential."

While the article doesn't, I think, say anything specific about accent, here it too gives the impression that a child's accent may be more influenced by friends, schoolmates, or perhaps teachers than by parents.  Thus if Thompson was reared in Chicago -- from a young enough age -- his accent might have been Chicagoan rather than the Northeastern of his parents.

P.S.  The article is fascinating -- identical twins raised separately and fraternal twins raised separately, in two very different environments and economic conditions.  How they first became aware of each other is a marvelous story.


 From: "Mullins, Bill CIV (US)" <william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL>
Sent: Monday, July 13, 2015 1:19 PM
Subject: [ADS-L] childhood accent development (UNCLASSIFIED)


Asking for help here . . . 

One of my interests is conjuring/sleight-of-hand.  A specific puzzle I think about a lot is "who wrote _The Expert at the Card Table_" ?  (which is a seminal book on sleight of hand with playing cards)

Nominally by S. W. Erdnase, this name has long been assumed to be a pseudonym (reverse it for an obvious name -- E. S. Andrews).

I've recently been going round-and-round with a British magician who has proposed that a Chicagoan, Harry Thompson, wrote the book.  I find his theories lacking for a number of reasons.  One of them is what I'm hoping the readership here can help me with.

The illustrator of the book was interviewed in the 1940s, some 45 years after working on it.  He remembered the author as not seeming to be a native Chicagoan, and seeming to be from "the East" or NYC, presumably from his accent.

I've suggested that Thompson, born and reared in Chicago, wouldn't have left this impression. My British colleague says that Thompson's parents came from NY State and Massachusetts -- "What makes you think Harry would have a different accent to the rest of the family?"

My own experience and anecdata make me think that.  I know many kids of 1st generation immigrants whose accent reflects the place they grew up, rather than their parents' foreign accents.  I have a middle Tennessee version of a Southern dialect, reflecting where I was raised; my parents are from rural areas of TN that have distinctly different accents (to my ear).  Huntsville, where I live, is full of people who came here from elsewhere in the country for work at the local army base and NASA; their kids, with whom my son goes to school, tend to have North AL accents rather than whatever accents their parents have.

Is there academic literature on this?  Do kids tend to have accents that reflect the locale of their childhood, rather than accents that reflect where their parents may be from?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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