PDA

View Full Version : French regional and class accents



CWatts
02-14-2015, 07:28 PM
So among the mammoth amount of research I have for my WIP, I have a MC who is a French expat in America. While I do plan to study the language (though not use it gratuitously in the novel) there are obviously a lot of nuances an English speaker may never quite get.

She is from Paris from a lower middle class/working class background (educated but downwardly mobile). This is late 19th century so her speech would be different from the modern and class differences more pronounced I would think. I have some scenes where she is interacting with a man from Marseilles who is more affluent and is sort of at the edges of the upper class (he is an entertainer favored by them). How would they sound to each other?

On a related note, how would she perceive different American accents? She has lived in New York City for a little over two years and is reasonably fluent in English. Another major character is from Virginia, she would notice that he speaks slower and it's not as harsh/nasal but what else?

King Neptune
02-14-2015, 08:20 PM
The difference between the woman from Paris and the man from Marseilles would be rather large. Marseilles has influences from other areas around the Mediterranean, while Paris is Paris. I don't know the Marseilles accent, but in eastern and southern France the sounds are flatter, more like English. I have heard of native Frenchmen being taken for Americans in Paris because of their accents (wine makers from around Lyon, so they were somewhat cultured). She probably would consider his accent low and foreign, even if he was wealthier and better educated. The guy probably would be trying to sound more Parisienne, and the woman might sound like what he strove toward as an accent. Remember that Parisians consider their accent to be the ultimate of the French language, and that includes working class probably more than upper class.

As for the other part, it depends on who she dealt with in NYC. If she associated mostly with immigrants, then she wouldn't have a good idea of the sound system of American English; although she may have heard a lot of vocabulary.

CWatts
02-14-2015, 09:34 PM
Remember that Parisians consider their accent to be the ultimate of the French language, and that includes working class probably more than upper class.

As for the other part, it depends on who she dealt with in NYC. If she associated mostly with immigrants, then she wouldn't have a good idea of the sound system of American English; although she may have heard a lot of vocabulary.

Excellent. My character is already contemptuous of this guy for political reasons so this plays right in. Though now that I think about it, with his acting skills he could sound pretty much any way he wants (probably whatever he thinks most likely to get her in bed...).

There was a French enclave in NYC at the time (in what is now the SoHo cast iron district - right before most of those went up). Of course she would be dealing with a lot of Irish, and may actually find them easier to understand than Americans if she studied British English. Italians were also arriving in NYC at this point, and there was a huge German population but she's rather frosty with them (esp. Prussians).

Of course all this polyglot utterly confounds my Southern boy but that's another story. :)

King Neptune
02-14-2015, 10:48 PM
Excellent. My character is already contemptuous of this guy for political reasons so this plays right in. Though now that I think about it, with his acting skills he could sound pretty much any way he wants (probably whatever he thinks most likely to get her in bed...).

There was a French enclave in NYC at the time (in what is now the SoHo cast iron district - right before most of those went up). Of course she would be dealing with a lot of Irish, and may actually find them easier to understand than Americans if she studied British English. Italians were also arriving in NYC at this point, and there was a huge German population but she's rather frosty with them (esp. Prussians).

Of course all this polyglot utterly confounds my Southern boy but that's another story. :)

I didn't ask the year; it looks like early 20th century, so there would have been people from everywhere in NYC.

I don't know how people from different linguistic origins perceive English and its many accents, but I have found that I simply can't understand some French accents. She might find some American accents as incomprehensible.

The polyglot and the Southern boy might utterly confound each other.

CWatts
02-15-2015, 12:19 AM
I didn't ask the year; it looks like early 20th century, so there would have been people from everywhere in NYC.

I don't know how people from different linguistic origins perceive English and its many accents, but I have found that I simply can't understand some French accents. She might find some American accents as incomprehensible.

The polyglot and the Southern boy might utterly confound each other.

Yes that's kind of the point LOL. Time period is 1870s so we have an ex-Communarde clashing with an ex-Confederate. Fun fun....

King Neptune
02-15-2015, 12:30 AM
Yes that's kind of the point LOL. Time period is 1870s so we have an ex-Communarde clashing with an ex-Confederate. Fun fun....

Yes, tht could be very funny.