[Fwd: PRESS RELEASE: FAU Graduate Students Offer Speech Therapy Via Webcam to Republic of Rwanda Citizens]

alex gross language at sprynet.com
Sat Feb 5 06:24:03 UTC 2011

 Glad you posted this here as well, Anne Marie.  I agree with every single 

I have the feeling that even during the 60s I, along with most of the people 
I worked with--that all of us were instinctively gravitating away from RP & 
towards estuary.  As I said towards the end of my British English 
piece--concerning an attempt by the University of Surrey translation studies 
department to insist that all "low-class American translations" must be 
forthwith replaced by "high-class English translations"--"who will explain 
these neologisms to the 95% of the British people who do not speak received 
high quality British English?"

Among linguists I've always been very impressed with speech therapists, and 
especially with David Crystal, since his practical knowledge of this sphere 
so well anchors all of his other remarkable work. I wonder if he may not be, 
faute de mieux, the greatest living linguist, a true descriptivist in the 
tradition of Bloomfield, Sapir, et al.

Yes, there is a "standard American accent," which TV announcers & others 
aspire to, pretty much free of regional traces, whether from New York or 
Boston, the midwest or the south.

All the best!


British RP is used by less that 5% of the population and is by no means the 
accent of aspiration.  Its position has been usurped by estuary English. 
However, what puzzles me is the 'fact' that Rwandan speakers of English as a 
second/foreign language have managed to acquire such a strong British (RP) 
accent complete with idioms that are incomprehensible to the American 
public.  I have been working with adult NNSs of English for more than 20 
years and have met very few whose accent is not obviously that of their 
first language regardless of the locus of learning.  I have also worked with 
Rwandans and have found their accent to be more similar to that of 
anglophone Africans albeit tinged with French.
I agree with the last post re: rivalry in the TEFL world and the probable 
commercial basis for this.
There were many interesting comments about the many varieties of English 
which leads to the question 'which variety of American English will the 
Rwandans be converted to?'.  Accent is a huge issue as it carries many 
social connotations and can act as a barrier or a conduit into various 
spheres of society.  However, it is a notoriously difficult area of 
acquisition - with some SLA researchers believing that a native accent can't 
be acquired after the onset of puberty.  There is, however, a movement 
towards a neutral accent as espoused by those (see Jennifer Jenkins) 
developing English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).  This accent is accepting of 
some intra-lingual differences and the main focus is on international 
However, I think the bigger question relates to 'ownership' of English - or 
any other language- and the 'right' of NNSs to be accepted as such.  Surely 
we have moved away from the Eliza Doolittle model!
On a slightly more facetious note, why Rwandans?  Surely, they are minor 
trade partners!

> From:
language at sprynet.com
> To: hopper at cmu.edu; grvsmth at panix.com
> Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2011 05:08:44 -0500
> CC: funknet at mailman.rice.edu
> Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] [Fwd: PRESS RELEASE: FAU Graduate Students Offer 
> Speech Therapy Via Webcam to Republic of Rwanda Citizens]
> Thanks for your message, Paul. Yes, Angus has it right.
> And you certainly have it right about this:
> > I too wondered if there isn't a bit of global rivalry surfacing
> > here between the British and American accents. There's
> > quite a story to be told about this, I think.
> Yes, there is. I grew up in the US but against the
> background of a British family on my father's side. Have
> a half-brother who was a well-known British artist &
> a half-sister who after my father's passing continued to
> publish the A-Z Atlas of London. Spent considerable
> time with my older siblings when they came over here
> during my youth & visited with them in England during
> the 50s. I lived in the UK from 1963 to 1971, worked as a
> dramaturg for the Royal Shakespeare, have published
> in both nations, and have written extensively on Brit-US
> relations including accents, for instance the following on-line
> excerpts from my Sixties book:
> http://untoldsixties.net/eng2.htm#totop
> http://untoldsixties.net/eng1.htm#totop
> http://untoldsixties.net/thea.htm#totop
> I would simply add the following thoughts:
> Those many Brit actors & TV reporters who flourish
> over here have for the most part had their Brit accents &
> expressions cleaned up for US usage. Though I doubt
> if they used the U/Fla method...
> When I was in Britain, posh RP tones became so
> overbearing that there was a strong reaction against them.
> And if I'm not mistaken the English sociolinguist
> Peter Trudgill has campaigned fiercely against them.
> Which has led to the many more varied accents one
> hears on English TV today.
> Not all Americans, even among the educated,
> are able to understand all (or even many) Brit accents.
> And not all Brits can handle many American ones.
> Some episodes of "Shameless" I can follow, others
> leave me mystified. There are even a few pieces of
> Monty Python where subtitles would be useful.
> Most Americans don't want to admit they don't
> understand some Briticisms, & vice versa for the Brits.
> There could be a linguistic principle here, that people
> in general don't care to confess when they don't
> understand something, after all others might interpret
> this as a failing.
> Here's an amusing story I so far have only one
> source for: at a WWII strategy meeting Monty spent
> some time upbraiding Ike about how barbaric
> Americans proved themselves whenever they
> pronounced "schedule" with an "sk" sound.
> Ike took it for as long as he could but finally
> replied, "Well, I guess it's wrong, Monty, it
> must be just something I learned in shool."
> All the best to everyone!
> alex
> PS--Since this purports to be a scholarly group, you might
> be interested in Norman W. Schur's book "British English"
> (Harper Perennial 1987). It functions as an English-
> American dictionary listing 5,000 differences in nouns,
> verbs, adjectives, & idioms between the two languages.
> Other similar volumes exist.
> **************************************************
> The principal purpose of language is not communication but to persuade
> ourselves
> that we know what we are talking about, when quite often we do not.
> **************************************************
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Paul Hopper" <hopper at cmu.edu>
> To: "Angus B. Grieve-Smith" <grvsmth at panix.com>
> Cc: <funknet at mailman.rice.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 11:10 PM
> Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] [Fwd: PRESS RELEASE: FAU Graduate Students Offer
> Speech Therapy Via Webcam to Republic of Rwanda Citizens]
> > Yes, Angus gets it right. Terminology is part of the power/money play of
> > medical organizations. Optometrists have explicit rules about it (a
> > brochure put out by the New York State Optometrics Association 
> > recommended
> > that clients should be referred to as "patients", the receptionist 
> > should
> > be a "nurse", to insist on the title "Doctor", etc.)
> >
> > I too wondered if there isn't a bit of global rivalry surfacing here
> > between the British and American accents. There's quite a story to be 
> > told
> > about this, I think.
> >
> > Paul
> >
> > On Thu, February 3, 2011 10:23, Angus B. Grieve-Smith wrote:
> >> On 2/3/2011 9:56 AM, Natalie Weber wrote:
> >>
> >>> I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that this "therapy" aids
> >>> in developing a more American accent, no matter what English dialect 
> >>> you
> >>> had previously learned, and is called "speech therapy" to make it more
> >>> palatable to those who pay for the service? Many language courses do 
> >>> not
> >>> emphasize natural pronunciation, assuming that "it will just come when
> >>> you are more fluent", so I would imagine such a speech therapy service
> >>> could be in high demand.
> >> I think that accents are being pathologized because that puts
> >> speech trainers in a class of "medical practitioners" rather than
> >> teachers,
> >> and allows them to demand higher fees and greater prestige. It may even
> >> be
> >> paid for by some insurance companies, for all I know.
> >>
> >> It may also be a case of "when you've got a hammer, everything
> >> looks like a nail." These two explanations are not mutually exclusive.
> >>
> >> --
> >> -Angus B. Grieve-Smith
> >> grvsmth at panix.com
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >
> >
> > -- 
> > Paul J. Hopper
> > Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of Humanities
> > Department of English
> > Carnegie Mellon University
> > Pittsburgh, PA 15213
> > and
> > Senior External Fellow
> > School of Language and Literature
> > Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)
> > Albertstr. 19
> > D-79105 Freiburg i.Br.
> > Germany
> >
> >
> >


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