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theninjkaymarie
01-01-2015, 03:43 AM
So, in my fiction I have two twin characters who were born in 1553. The book takes place in the late 2000s, so they have been alive for over 450 years.

I want to ask how their accents might sound now.

One is a boy and one is a girl, and they were both born in London in 1553, as stated previously. I have done research on Shakespearean pronunciation of English which was just a little after this time, so I know about how they would have spoken as children.

The girl remained in London for all of her childhood and teenage years, while the boy ran away when he was thirteen and spent a year in France and a couple of years in Spain before returning to England when he was 19.

After this, the two both left home and began traveling the world with a performing group. Since then, they have been traveling the world and only spend short periods of time in their native England. The boy, who suffered from a lot during his childhood (I won't go into details) likes to stay away from England and spends more time abroad than his sister, and has not spent extended time in England since he was young. The other members of the performance group are from all over the world, so there isn't any accent that is more influential in their lives than the other.

So, I have a few questions about how they would speak during the book.

For the girl, it's a little more straightforward. She only knows English and French, and speaks in English unless French is necessary. I know that her childhood accent is very, very different from what is a British accent today, and she would not be exposed to her native accent since she and her brother would be the only ones who remember it. So, would she still speak like she did as a child (she has made no efforts to change her accent), or would her accent today sound more like a modern accent?


For the boy:
He likes to try to forget his past and almost always puts on a Brooklyn Accent from America. The boy also knows several other languages and has spent a great deal of his time perfecting various regional accents, and is quite good at mimicking them. Assuming he's been using the modern Brooklyn accent for a few years (and before that, he used a different non-native accent, as every few years he decides to switch his accent up just for the heck of it), would there still be times he'd slip back into a more native accent (such as when he gets distracted or angry) or would he keep the Brooklyn accent? I know I've heard of imitation actors who forget their own voices, but I've also heard of people moving from America to England or vice versa who have lived in the new country for 50 years and haven't lost their original accents. If he does slip back into a different accent, what would it most likely sound like?

I've looked at various websites about changing accents and losing accents and get a mix of answers, and I figured that it might be a little different for someone whose native accent no longer exists because of such a great time span. Also, since they travel a lot and aren't exposed greatly to a new accent to acclimate themselves to, things could be different there as well.

Thank you for your help and please let me know if I need to add any more information.

cornflake
01-01-2015, 03:55 AM
So, in my fiction I have two twin characters who were born in 1553. The book takes place in the late 2000s, so they have been alive for over 450 years.

I want to ask how their accents might sound now.

One is a boy and one is a girl, and they were both born in London in 1553, as stated previously. I have done research on Shakespearean pronunciation of English which was just a little after this time, so I know about how they would have spoken as children.

The girl remained in London for all of her childhood and teenage years, while the boy ran away when he was thirteen and spent a year in France and a couple of years in Spain before returning to England when he was 19.

After this, the two both left home and began traveling the world with a performing group. Since then, they have been traveling the world and only spend short periods of time in their native England. The boy, who suffered from a lot during his childhood (I won't go into details) likes to stay away from England and spends more time abroad than his sister, and has not spent extended time in England since he was young. The other members of the performance group are from all over the world, so there isn't any accent that is more influential in their lives than the other.

So, I have a few questions about how they would speak during the book.

For the girl, it's a little more straightforward. She only knows English and French, and speaks in English unless French is necessary. I know that her childhood accent is very, very different from what is a British accent today, and she would not be exposed to her native accent since she and her brother would be the only ones who remember it. So, would she still speak like she did as a child (she has made no efforts to change her accent), or would her accent today sound more like a modern accent?


For the boy:
He likes to try to forget his past and almost always puts on a Brooklyn Accent from America. The boy also knows several other languages and has spent a great deal of his time perfecting various regional accents, and is quite good at mimicking them. Assuming he's been using the modern Brooklyn accent for a few years (and before that, he used a different non-native accent, as every few years he decides to switch his accent up just for the heck of it), would there still be times he'd slip back into a more native accent (such as when he gets distracted or angry) or would he keep the Brooklyn accent? I know I've heard of imitation actors who forget their own voices, but I've also heard of people moving from America to England or vice versa who have lived in the new country for 50 years and haven't lost their original accents. If he does slip back into a different accent, what would it most likely sound like?

I've looked at various websites about changing accents and losing accents and get a mix of answers, and I figured that it might be a little different for someone whose native accent no longer exists because of such a great time span. Also, since they travel a lot and aren't exposed greatly to a new accent to acclimate themselves to, things could be different there as well.

Thank you for your help and please let me know if I need to add any more information.

I think mostly the answer is that a. it's fantasy, and b. what you've already noted.

No one has lived 450 years, so as to how that kind of time span is going to affect someone's accent, up to you.

The rest, in my experience, and I'm not a linguist or Dr. Doolittle or anything, just knowing people who've moved from one country to another kind of experience, varies, but is mostly in the mushy middle.

Most people I know who've moved from England or a Commonwealth country to America, and stayed for long periods, like decades, end up with a 'softened' accent. It's very discernible to Americans as English- or whatever-accented speech, but back home, or when put in a room with other people who didn't live a long time in America, the accent is distinctly mitigated. Whether it's stronger on certain words, or when someone is tired (again only in my anecdotal experience, but that seems to be the case more than angry w/re accents as opposed to native vs. second tongues), or whatever, is usually the case but seems more individual.

People who try to employ different accents or go through more would probably end up more in a mushier middle of whatever is dominant with that lilting 'it's from somewhere but ...' thing going on, I'd think, but again, I dunno and the time period you're talking about, no one does.

This is, though, I think different than people who have an accent that lingers from having a different native language and English as a second (or third or whatever) one. Those accents seem stronger and more pervasive.

lenore_x
01-01-2015, 04:23 AM
What cornflake said. I'm not a linguist per se, but that was my undergrad major. People can have more than one accent; just as you can be bilingual, you can be bidialectal. (Or tri, etc.) I'd find it believable that your characters can speak seamlessly with modern-day accents. They may or may not be able to remember their native accents. But yeah, nobody has lived 450 years (that we know of :tongue), so there's no way to answer this question definitively. Do what you want; the linguist brigade won't come after you. Probably.

buirechain
01-01-2015, 04:38 AM
I'd imagine if they could put on something that sounded like their native dialect, it would be recognizably different and more modern (if there was someone suddenly transported forward from the time they lived). And their current accents would depend on their sources (not just from the traveling troupe, but also from tv/movies/radio etc. There would be some oddities in their language, things that they wouldn't notice unless someone called them on it (okay, I'm basing this on my own experience; my accent is fairly generic US now, but I've lived all over the country and have various influences from various American dialects which can be heard a word there).

Maybe another way to think about this is that a dialect is more than just an accent. There's vocabulary as well. As time has passed, your characters must have picked up modern vocabulary. If they were still using Shakespearean vocabulary even with a modern accent, they wouldn't be comprehensible. So where did they pick it up? Which dialects vocabulary would they use and why?

ClareGreen
01-01-2015, 05:44 AM
It may be worth noting that the Shakespearean accent isn't that far different to some more modern English accents, from what I've heard of it, and is perfectly intelligible if a little rustic. It's the speech patterns and more modern usages that'd trip them up, not the accent - people would just assume they were from somewhere rural, like darkest Northamptonshire, deepest Somerset or somewhere out on the fens of Anglia.

Layla Lawlor
01-01-2015, 07:51 AM
Based on the people I know, the extent to which people retain or lose their native accent is all over the map; it depends on how much of an ear for languages a person has to begin with, who they primarily interact with, etc. I have a friend who is Swedish but fluent in English, who married an American and then moved to England with her American spouse, and while she didn't have that much of an accent to start with, after a couple years of interacting primarily with her American wife, she now sounds COMPLETELY American with barely a trace of an accent -- noticeably more so than when I first met her -- despite the fact that they both live in England.

On the flip side, I know people who've lived in the U.S. for decades and still maintain their native accent very strongly.

My general thought would be that someone who's lived all over the place for 450 years, even if they're not trying to affect an accent, would have a kind of vague, undefinable accent that can't be pinned down. I know a few European polyglots (including the friend I mentioned above, when I first met her) who are like that; you can't really tell where they're from by the accent. At the very least, I can't imagine that the characters' accents would still be recognizably the one they started out with. But it might be a lot closer to the original if they rarely talk to people and doesn't interact much with the community where they live; I would think if they have an active social life and spend a lot of time talking to the locals, their accent would slide closer to the local accent without really intending it to.

atthebeach
01-01-2015, 10:45 AM
Well I am a linguist, and I am impressed by the answers, and agree with them. And since it is fiction, you have plenty of flexibility.

Definitely social pressures and priorities, preferences, time spent around different languages or dialects, ages when using languages, and a myriad of other factors contribute to dialect. Have fun with it!

theninjkaymarie
01-01-2015, 12:04 PM
Thank you so much for all of the great responses! I guess I'll just take some liberties with it. I just wanted to make sure there wasn't a "right" answer that might make people who are more educated on the topic turn their heads. I figured it would be a little ambiguous, but it's good to know for sure!

Bolero
01-01-2015, 12:30 PM
You might enjoy reading Barbara Hambly's vampire series. The main human character is a linguist, the vampires originate at different periods and the matter of their accents does come into the story in places. Very atmospheric, historically beautiful books. They are actually set in the Edwardian period.
You are looking for the ones referred to as "James Asher"
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/barbara-hambly/

TheNighSwan
01-01-2015, 03:29 PM
For what's it's worth, it has been observed that even people who stay within the same speech community all their life can have their accent slowly shifting over time (along with that of their community).

There was a phonetic study comparing the phonetic qualities of vowels in two speeches of Queen Elizabeth II, one speech that she gave at the beginning of her reign, and another she gave 50 years later; significantly measurable differences were found between the two.

So in other word, even the literal Queen's English is not set in marble and slowly changes over time.

Mr Flibble
01-01-2015, 03:32 PM
Gratuitous Highlander quote:

You talk funny, Nash, where you from?
Lots of different places


OK, probably used to explain Christopher Lambert's accent :D

Societal pressures, and a desire to fit in, can change an accent radically and quickly

I used to have a very rural Sussex accent, until I went to secondary school in a nearby town, and got the urine extracted on a daily basis. So I very quickly, and without initially noticing, changed my accent to fit in. So now I sound like a bleedin' chav. Yay.


Some people's accent will change to blend in with those that surround them -- I know a Scots guy who only sounds Scottish when he's pissed. Rest of the time he sounds local. Others will keep some of their original accent, though it may get watered down. Geordies, for example, seem to keep at least some of their accent though it does at least become intelligible to others :D

So, partly this will depend on who surrounds them now, and whether they are the sort of people who will naturally absorb the local accent or not. Most people's accent does change over time, but your characters might not be ever so noticeably different from anyone else's.

Orianna2000
01-02-2015, 03:10 AM
Some people are more impressionable when it comes to accents, sort of like vocal chameleons. For instance, I grew up in California, but when I moved to North Carolina, I developed a southern accent. My family didn't notice, but when I went back to California on vacation, just a year or two later, some total strangers came up to me and were all, "Oh, what an adorable accent!"

And when I started watching a lot of Doctor Who and Torchwood, as well as researching British language for a novel set in London, a lot of British expressions and pronunciations found their way into my vocabulary. It wasn't on purpose, but I tend to pick up whatever I'm exposed to. I don't convert entirely--I doubt the locals here in Tennessee think I'm native--but I definitely don't sound like I'm from California anymore.

Other people can leave their native country as a child, and never lose their accents. So you have a lot of leeway, as far as that goes.

smellycat6464
01-02-2015, 02:28 PM
To echo what others have said, I'd expect your character's accents to change with the times.

Some anecdotal evidence: a family member of mine spent a year living in the south (well, more south than our home [In America, I shouldn't assume everyone lives here, now shouldnt I?]). Allegedly, said family member developed a conditional accent. She spoke like us when back home, but when we traveled down south again, she suddenly got this twang back.

To be honest, she has a flair for histrionics (and rekindled her southern accent before we ventured outside of the confines of our car). Maybe there's a psychic connection between geography and the way we speak--who knows.

On the flip side, in my tenure down south (and I was notably more south than she was), I didn't change the way I communicated. Granted, most of the people I was with were Chinese, but I didn't develop a Chinese accent either.

But one of my friends moved down south, changed her accent, and kept it as far as I can tell. I think that's pretty cool how there was a permanent change there, as opposed to a conditional one.

Some more interesting (more or less) tidbits: I have family in Australia. When they visited, they admitted to toning their accents down for the benefit of our silly 'Murican ears. I've been told I have a variety of accents depending on the "lingual demographic" (pretty sure I made that phrase up) I was speaking to.

And, to cordially joust with your point on actor's and their native tonuges--Marisa Tomei's father allegedly joked once after the success of My Cousin Vinny about the futility of her accent coaching lessons dedicated to eradicating her thick "New Yawkah" accent, only for it to be integral in probably her most lauded movie role. So some actors can whip out their old accents again, it seems.

So, overall, it seems to be a pretty flexible aspect of your character. It is for me, and I have a while before I hit 450 ;)

Happy writing!

Once!
01-02-2015, 02:33 PM
Do your characters want to maintain their accents or do they want to hide them? I suspect that we all modify our accents to fit in with those around us, whether we do this consciously or sub-consciously. But change would happen more quickly if someone was trying to fit in.

I grew up in the north of England, but have spent all my working life in the south. My accent certainly has changed, but folk can generally tell that I wasn't born within the sound of Bow Bells.

I still say bath instead of barth. Unlike my son and wife.

afarnam
01-03-2015, 08:19 AM
My background is in linguistics too. And yes, you can get away with most everything here. People are very individual about accent change. Some people will change accent at the drop of a hat. Some voluntarily. Some involuntarily. Some people don't change no matter how long they are in another place.

I speak several languages and I can't keep my accent to something other than what is surrounding me, no matter how hard I try. I grew up in rural Eastern Oregon with a strong accent. I only have to hear one sentence spoken in my old dialect and I can speak it like a pro. I come up to US immigration wondering if I'm going to sound like a foreigner because I've been out of the country my entire adult life and the Portland agent says, "Howarya doin today?" and we're off to a great conversation. And yet no one in Europe can place my accent. People have thought I was a native speaker of German, Russian and Czech at various times, including being able to pinpoint the city where I learned the language. So, I'm a strong accent adopter.

I can't fake an accent to save my life though. My husband once new an African guy who lived in the Czech Republic for a few years. His Czech was so good that he could fake the accents of half a dozen cities perfectly. Over the phone, people were sure he was born in those places and then he shows up to a business meeting and he's black and they are utterly confused. And Czech is no easy language.

On the other side, you have my mother who grew up in Michigan and left when she was 20, never to return. She has been in Eastern Oregon for more than 40 years and her accent is still Michigan through and through. My mentor in journalism was Alan Levy, former editor of The Prague Post. He spoke Czech quite well but no one could understand a word he said because he never could learn a correct accent, although he lived in that country longer than any other American on record at the time. Those are examples of very slow accent adopters.

So, you could argue that your girl character is a very slow adopter and her modern English could be sprinkled with a Shakespearing twist. It might be really fun. You could also get away with saying your character is very fast and can adapt to anything.

The key is consistency both in terms of linguistics and in terms of literature. A slow adopter will always be slow to adopt accents (not necessarily bad at learning new vocabulary and grammar) and will likely not have great musical talent. A fast accent adopter will always be fast, sometimes involuntarily. And MIGHT have some musical talent or at least not be one hundred percent tone deaf.

theninjkaymarie
01-04-2015, 11:47 AM
The key is consistency both in terms of linguistics and in terms of literature. A slow adopter will always be slow to adopt accents (not necessarily bad at learning new vocabulary and grammar) and will likely not have great musical talent. A fast accent adopter will always be fast, sometimes involuntarily. And MIGHT have some musical talent or at least not be one hundred percent tone deaf.
__________________


That's funny that you say that because the boy actually has a very strong musical talent--his ability to pick up languages/accents and his musical talent are his two main skills that he's spent his many years perfecting.


Also, to everyone else, thank you so much for the answers! They've been very helpful!

Foolonthehill
01-08-2015, 09:45 PM
I was raised in Italy by a Scottish mother and Italian father. I have never lived in Scotland though I have visited it many times (every summer till I was in my twenties) and had reliatives over every year. My accent is Scottish even though I have never lived there and many people are surprised by that. I can also tone it down and make it more mellow or make it really broad (Glasgow area). I can do the same with Italian, I can speak an "actor's" Italian (with no regional accent) I can speak with a Roman accent (as this is where I live) and I can "put on" a few other accents, like the Neapoletan one. So I am guessing it is up to what the character wants and feels and how much he feels the necessity to adapt/fit in or stick out.

shaldna
01-09-2015, 05:55 PM
So, in my fiction I have two twin characters who were born in 1553. The book takes place in the late 2000s, so they have been alive for over 450 years.

I want to ask how their accents might sound now.

One is a boy and one is a girl, and they were both born in London in 1553, as stated previously. I have done research on Shakespearean pronunciation of English which was just a little after this time, so I know about how they would have spoken as children.

Where abouts in London? What class where they?



After this, the two both left home and began traveling the world with a performing group. Since then, they have been traveling the world and only spend short periods of time in their native England. The boy, who suffered from a lot during his childhood (I won't go into details) likes to stay away from England and spends more time abroad than his sister, and has not spent extended time in England since he was young. The other members of the performance group are from all over the world, so there isn't any accent that is more influential in their lives than the other.

My friend group is from all over, and over time I've noticed not that we lose our accents when speaking,but that there are certain words we use or say in certain ways that are not 'native' so to speak.



For the girl, it's a little more straightforward. She only knows English and French, and speaks in English unless French is necessary. I know that her childhood accent is very, very different from what is a British accent today,

There is no such thing as a 'British' accent. Britain is made up of FOUR countries - one of them separated by water. You can travel 5 miles and hear 7 different accents. In the time period you are talking about peoplewould have travelled even less and so accents would have been evenMORE localised.




and she would not be exposed to her native accent since she and her brother would be the only ones who remember it. So, would she still speak like she did as a child (she has made no efforts to change her accent), or would her accent today sound more like a modern accent?


Both of my parents have very, very strong belfast accents. I frequently get asked 'what part of canada are you from' - so yes, accents can change. And no, I've never been to canada.


For the boy:
He likes to try to forget his past and almost always puts on a Brooklyn Accent from America. The boy also knows several other languages and has spent a great deal of his time perfecting various regional accents, and is quite good at mimicking them. Assuming he's been using the modern Brooklyn accent for a few years (and before that, he used a different non-native accent, as every few years he decides to switch his accent up just for the heck of it), would there still be times he'd slip back into a more native accent (such as when he gets distracted or angry) or would he keep the Brooklyn accent? I know I've heard of imitation actors who forget their own voices, but I've also heard of people moving from America to England or vice versa who have lived in the new country for 50 years and haven't lost their original accents. If he does slip back into a different accent, what would it most likely sound like?

I can only speak for myself here, but I always speak in teh same voice. Even when upset, distressed or drunk I never revert back to my 'native' accent - my accent is very strong and developed over time. It's not something I 'put on' it's become a part of me.

It's something I have seen a lot - many people I know have had accents mellow or change over time until that simply becomes their voice.