‘IDEA’: Dialects of the English language

The English language always interests me, especially in its many different dialects.

Some of you may be familiar with the IDEA website. I’ve blogged about it before, but I thought it might be of interest for readers here to check out the IDEA site. The acronym stands for ‘International Dialects of English Archive.‘ If you follow the link you will see the page which contains sound files of American dialects, with the voices of people from various parts of the U.S.. The participants are given material to read aloud, and thus we get some idea of their regional or local dialect.

On the IDEA website there are people from every region of the U.S., and if you find the drop-down menu at the top left of the page you can find voice samples from other English-speaking countries.

This is fascinating to me; I love our language, though I do get the impression that all our regional or local American dialects are fading away and being leveled out, so that the dialects become less distinct and more similar to each other. It seems the younger the speaker, the more generic is the accent or dialect. Some exceptions exist, of course. People from rural areas tend to retain more of an accent though even they are affected by ‘media English’, (the sort of non-accent, or more accurately, mid-American accent) which usually overpowers the natural accent.

I wonder if those of you reading this blog find that the accents on the recordings are like those of the average native of your area, or not? I thought the New England speech samples were identifiable as such.

But speaking for myself, it seemed many of the speakers from Texas didn’t sound as though they are Texans or even from the South, whereas in the past, accents were very noticeable and well-defined.

Most of the recordings are from several years back, and even in that length of time, people’s speech can change, especially as our society is undergoing so many changes.

6 thoughts on “‘IDEA’: Dialects of the English language

  1. New England Yankee Supremacist reporting for duty.

    Yes and no. On my road, Yankee Twang is a thing. But on the main drag it ain’t.

    Surrounding towns like Buxton have it, and if you go north into Lakes Region it goes from thick to wicked ‘tick.

    My own accent is a blend of Maineglish and Massachusettes English because my family is Massachusetts stock, but I was born in Maine.

    I’m a bit of a running joke in the Bund because my accent is regarded as thick. To which I always remind them that they all sound like they were made for television actors.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am in the midst of reading a book, Albion’s Seed, which details the very early English immigration to the Colonies. Thus far I have learned we owe our accent and building styles predominantly to East Anglia.

    This is valuable information to me personally because my family records go back to the early 1600s which would put us in the first wave and explain my tentative hatred of new things and atheism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your replies. It’s interesting how accents differ; I wonder if it was true in earlier times or it everyone’s accents are changing?
    Some of my New England ancestors came from East Anglia — I know that’s where most of the early colonists were said to come from. Some of my maternal line came from Hampshire and some from other parts of England.
    I read Albion’s Seed several years back, and there’s a lot of information there. I think a lot of people who have read it concluded that the Anglo-Saxons in the South were a whole different people. I don’t know if that interpretation is true; some of my ancestors who settled in the South had originally come to New England, like the Bordman/Boardman family, and the Epes family. So it is a little complicated sometimes.

    I’m still working on family history, adding bits and pieces of what I’ve found out about them as individuals; there is a surprising amount of information out there about some of the early colonists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure.

      As far as micro-regional accents go… I must assume this was always the case. Maybe moreso, given the rate at which mass travel would have occurred then to now.

      It’s definitely fascinating, and reading Albion’s Seed is completely changing my opinions of the Puritans. It’s no surprise that the lines I was fed are wrong. But we’re certainly a far cry from the “they killed queers, femmes, injuns and witches before sleeping with goats because of the sexual tyranny of muh patriarchy” that I was taught.

      Liked by 1 person

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