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Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
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Author Topic: Local accents - do they still exist?  (Read 56218 times)

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Offline Sylvaticus

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2013, 11:12:30 »
A touch of history for the thread, and an accent that no longer exists. The story starts in Massachusetts but ends in Kent (and in real life it went in the other direction). Many years ago, I read a book about the accent of Martha's Vineyard, a secluded coastal island near Boston. Nowadays it's known for the weekend houses of the wealthy, but it was formerly an isolated fishing settlement that had preserved the accent of 400 years ago. Reading the descriptions of their speech I realised I was listening to my grandfather, and he'd never been near north America. Twenty years later, another book, about the same isolated community, where inbreeding had concentrated a gene for congenital deafness and where everyone, hearing and deaf, used sign language. The author traced the family histories back to the original settlers and their origins in the Wye-Tenterden area, where the gene mutation had occurred before they departed. So that brings us back to my grandfather. My paternal family lived in the same area during those centuries. But time has now caught up with both Wye and Martha's Vineyard, and both have their respective modern accents today.

Nora Groce. 1985. Everyone Here Spoke Sign language. Harvard University Press.

A fascinating mix of linguistics, history, genealogy, genetics and audiology.


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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2013, 22:26:02 »
Once heard someone describe the Medway accent as 45rpm cockney played at 33rpm. :)

Offline ChrisExiledFromStrood

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2013, 20:34:13 »
The increased mobility over the last 100 years has certainly led to a blurring of local accents.


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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2013, 18:04:59 »
I was raised in Higham, with a local Dad and an Orcadian Mum, so I was exposed to varying influences, but thanks to "Speech Training" at Rochester Maths, I ended up with something pretty close to Standard English, which was made clear to me wherever I lived north of London.  I was thought to sound "posh", which I certainly was not.  On visits to the the US, I was quite accustomed to being told, e.g., in eateries, by waitresses, " I just lurve your accent", which I found a bit embarrassing because I never thought I had one!  Of course, I did and still have.  As a young man I was quite practised in a little party trick where I would identify which town in England people came from by their accent.  One couldn't do that now, such has been the increased social mobility over the decades.

I found in my childhood, say in the fifties, a big difference between educated speech, say of the clergy, civil servants and local government officers and "native" speech, be it country-style or urban in nature in and around the Medway Towns.  There was an old Rochester rural accent that I recall, where the city would be pronounced "Rodgester".  This was quite unlike the "Cha' um" speech which we'd now call Estuarine.  My younger sister, educated in Hoo and now living in Canada, where she has been for thirty odd years, still speaks like a Chathamite on her return, despite the speech being dotted with US/Canadian terms.  I sometimes wonder whether the Canucks in Alberta think that her accent is typical of English people, bacause they will be rarely exposed to Standard English.

Far away

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2013, 13:34:21 »
Everywhere in the world has regional accents, they develop naturally once people stay together long enough to create one. They say that we are most dynamic linguistically at around the age of 10 - when we create and absorb more language than at any other time in our lives, and if your schooling takes you away from your home community at around this age there may be little barrier to absorbing a new accent, even if it is just day school.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2013, 11:45:54 »
I've always understood that natural barriers such as a river or mountain range were often the barrier between accents or dialects, but that obviously does not apply to Kent, unless the  Medway is a big enough barrier.

In my experience there is conflicting evidence about whether one loses one's birth accent. My maternal Grandparents were born and raised in Canterbury but I only knew them as living in Rochester - but they never lost their Canterbury accent. On the other hand I worked with a colleague from South Wales, and whenever he went home for more than a few days he would come back with a strong Welsh accent that gradually mellowed, until he went home again.

There is also the question of which is the greatest influence, family or outside surroundings. My youngest daughter went to work in Tunbridge Wells about 20 years ago and when she went there she got some leg-pulling about her 'estuary' accent. She now lives in Southborough with a partner who comes from Wiltshire, and neither he nor her have lost their original accents - yet it is quite obvious where their 14 year old daughter, born in Southborough and going to school in Tunbridge Wells, comes from.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Fred the Needle

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2013, 11:41:25 »
Yes, it definitely does still exist.  The Gravesend accent is very different to the Medway Towns one for example.

Problem is the differences are generally subtle and if you only go a relatively short distance from "base" you don't notice it.  Travel a bit more and the differences become apparent though.  Add to that other features like hills and valleys and you get sudden "jumps" in accent.

On the odd occasions that I come to Kent from my dwelling in Harrogate, I actually notice it more than I remember from my youth.


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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2013, 11:38:36 »
I was also born in Tunbridge Wells, then spent the next 20 years or so in Hythe and Folkestone. Now I live in France with (funnily enough) French neighbours. Whenever I explain the English words for something to them the English word always come back from them with a cockney sound to it. That's not how I said it it, did I?? Try as I might to say it "posher" it never sounds any different.

Far away

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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2013, 11:16:14 »
Language always changes and reflects how much contact a community or individuals in the same have with others. The language as we remember it as a child was only one point on a river of change for language in that location. In the past there were not just invasions by foreign armies bringing change, but local changes in industry and agriculture. A lot of the changes we have seen in our lifetimes has not been caused just by TV but the way we are educated and the fact so many of us no longer live in the communities our families may have inhabited for generations.


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Re: Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2013, 06:59:41 »
Although I've lived away for many years now, I still notice that there are distinct accents - Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Gillingham and Chatham are all subtly different.The best place to hear the differences is in the backstreet pubs where people tend to speak naturally. 

I think the 'Medway Cockney' to which Ted refers is largely Gillingham which has been corrupted by television influences and a hint of Essex. I believe the technical turn is 'estuarine', a reference to the origins of this 'mockney' accent's being centred on the Thames Estuary.

Ted H

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Local accents - do they still exist?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2013, 20:20:06 »
I was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1926 but we moved away while I was very young and ended up in Gillingham. When visiting our relatives at "the Wells" as a boy, I realised that they had a distinctive accent. After I joined the RAF and spent long periods away from home, coming on leave I realised there was a distinctive Medway Town accent, some people called it "Kent cockney", but I don't think it was that bad ! I moved to Essex in 1961 and the local accent was very pronounced - now I don't notice it. Has speech changed, or have I just got used to it ?


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