Meaning of "accent"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Fri Dec 1 23:09:49 UTC 2006

This is very interesting. Even among nonlinguists
I have only very rarely encountered "accent" to
mean non-native (whether of dialect or language)
features in general, particularly ones that could
be written down (unless in a literary attempt at
dialect, clearly not the case here).

Of course, someone else's nonlinguistic
definition is only worth considering as
folk-linguistic data. Why would us linguists give
a whack what some nonlinguist says?


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>Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject:      Meaning of "accent"
>At 12/1/2006 04:04 PM, Dennis Preston wrote:
>>"Accent" is usually the term among dialectologists reserved for the
>>phonetic-phonological aspects of dialect or "dialect pronunciation."
>>"Foreign accent" or the name of the L1 (e.g., "French accent")
>>usually keeps this clear. I ain't real fond of it since 'accent' for
>>stress is also around.
>For someone else's understanding of what "accent"
>means [copied from another list]:
>[F]rom a book review in the SIAM Review, Vol 48,
>Dec. 2006, pp. 794-795.
>Postmodern Analysis. Third Edition.
>By J¸rgen Jost. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2005. $49.95.
>xvi+371 pp., softcover, ISBN 3-540-25830-2.
>>Jost outsourced the production of this book, and unfortunately the folks who
>>converted his lecture notes into a finished product were not of his high
>>caliber. The book was translated from German into English by someone whose
>>native language is neither. The accented English
>[This of course is where I balked.]
>>is mostly understandable
>>(evidently "we show the intermediate value theorem" on page 13 means "we
>>prove the intermediate value theorem") but occasionally verges on
>>unintelligible (as in "not for x = 0 only" on
>>page 205). [Some comments on typography deleted here.]
>>Alas, the once-proud publishing house of
>>Springer-Verlag no longer copyedits advanced mathematics books; this one
>>sorely needed the ministrations of an editor.
>Yes indeed, and more than a copyeditor.
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
preston at

The American Dialect Society -

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