Why do some people have accents?

21st October 2010

Asked by: BEN MATTHEWS, OXFORD

Everyone speaks with an accent. As there is no officially correct way to pronounce words. The idea of ‘accentless’ speech is a myth, though some accents are regarded as more ‘prestigious’ than others. In 2008, researchers at Bath Spa University published the result of a survey showing that people with a Yorkshire accent were perceived to be more intelligent than those speaking with Received Pronunciation. In contrast, those with Brummie accents were deemed even more stupid than people who say nothing – and also suspected of being untrustworthy, if not criminal. Accents emerge from quirks in the pronunciation of certain words, and their existence reflects the way we mimic what we hear from our social group, especially when we’re young. As social groups mix, new accents emerge: for example, the Australian accent, especially vowel sounds, have features in common with Cockney – a reflection of the fact that many Australians can trace their roots back to deportees from East London.

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