How are Accents Formed?
Why do you Have an Accent?
I grew up in Brooklyn N.Y. As a child, my family and I would go on vacations often, usually going South like to Virginia, Carolina, Florida etc. I remember always wondering why the people spoke so differently than we did. I would always ask my parents why do those people talk funny?
I have since lived in places other than New York, and still to this day I will hear, wow you have a strong NY accent. And my response is always, I don’t have an accent, you do!
So Where do Accents Come From?
Definition of accent:
Main Entry: 1ac·cent
Pronunciation: \ˈak-ˌsent, ak-ˈ\
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle French accenter, from accent intonation, from Latin accentus, from ad- + cantus song — more at
1 a : to pronounce with accent :
b : to mark with a written or printed accent
2 : to give prominence to : make more prominent
An accent is really just the manner of pronunciation of a language. As humans began to spread out into isolated communities, peculiarities started to develop. Over a period of time they developed into identifiable accents. So basically the only reason we speak the way we speak is because of what we hear around us. Depending on your social group and where you live will determine what accent we will have.
In North America, because there is a lot of interaction with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, many different types of accents are formed.
It is found that children are able to take on accents quickly. If your family travels very often, your child will be able to change their accent within a short period of time. This can usually occur until a person reaches their 20’s. The older you get, the harder it gets to change sounds that are needed in order to speak another language.
Understanding Foreign Accents
A person trying to pronounce a word or sound that they are not use to will sound "foreign" to us because they are using rules or sounds that are used in their primary language. In each language there are sounds that do not exist in another language, so when trying to speak a new language, the person will choose what sounds the closest.
We are all born with the ability of producing all sounds of the human language. But we only use what hear, disregarding any foreign or unnecessary sounds.
So in reality we all have an accent. What is normal to you is not normal to somebody else.
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