Accents? What are you talkin’ about?

british-english-accentcartooncat-jpgoriginal-copyOliver Kamm, a journalist for The Times, has recently come to the support of Sky News’ Senior Political Correspondent Beth Rigby, who has been criticised due to her regional accent.

Rigby’s accent consists of Estuary English features; a language full of contractions, such as ‘innit’, and g’clippings. Her accent was heavily mocked over social media, with some even stating for her to have “electrocution lessons”. Maybe this commenter ought to have spelling lessons first before trying to make bold statements. Isn’t the media meant to reach out its audiences? This would be more efficient if everyone on the television didn’t have the same monotone voice.

Kamm himself has responded to these comments made upon Rigby’s speech, stating linguistic prejudices should be the least of our worries, especially now in 21st Century Britain. Can we honestly not think of anything else to complain about other than accents? Scholars of sociolinguistics have in fact cleared the air on the ‘problems’ with not pronouncing -ing in some accents – going all the way back to the 1930s, it was actually seen as more refined and a feature of proper pronunciation to not pronounce the single sound appearing on the ends of words, such as wantin’, talkin’ and goin’. Having people in the media with accents similar to each of our own, gives a more relatable feeling as to what has been said. It doesn’t show the information as being untrustworthy or unreliable, but instead gives off a sense of diversity. Accents do not hold positions of intelligence – Beth Rigby still uses standard English in her work, however when read out, it sounds slightly different to those RP newsreaders.

In contrast to this, is the factor of whether or not what has been said, has been understood. Regional accents can be difficult to understand, suggesting why there is a lack of TV personalities or newsreaders with a strong accent. The First Director-General of the BBC, Sir John Reith, believes in spreading “correct” English – so passionately, he established the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English. To Rigby’s critics, her Estuary English accent, is not proper English. Even males with authoritarian positions in politics have diverged their accents; not going to an all boys public school could seriously cause their accent to be mocked (cough cough Tony Blair).

Accents are part of our identity, they make us up as our own key individual. Every English speaker has an accent of their own – so why do we mock? Is it to prove a reflection on correctness, or simply, people don’t have anything better to do.

Medalling with the English Language.

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Text A is a blog from the Oxford Dictionary which presents a descriptivist view, as they are simply there to sell the dictionaries – the increase in the coinage of lexis means more have to be produced, however they will sell more due to people, especially those keen on English, wanting to keep up to date to the new vocabulary marked worthy to be in the dictionary. Text B is an online The Guardian article, which linking to text A, also has a descriptivist view. This is shown through the article discussing both the advantages and attitudes to language change, instead of enforcing change to be resisted. Text C differs from text A and B as it holds a prescriptivist view. It is also an online article (like text b) shown by the hyperlinks surrounding the actual text, however, is written on a Roger Moseys sport blog where he clearly states that language change is a “license to inflict cruelty”, stating that ‘to poduim’ is a worse offence than ‘to medal’. All three texts have the genre to inform their readers on the issues and controversies of language change, however present different views, shown through their descriptivist and prescriptvisit language. The audiences for these are all likely to be rather educated and particularly interested in language and its development, however the audience for text C is more likely to be those interested in sport due to it being a sport blog, however the hyperlinks show that they have chosen to rad this article so in some way must have little interest. The purpose of all three of these texts is to inform and educate their audiences and language change, but all have it based on the semantic field of ‘verbing’, brought on with the Olympic/sport jargon ‘medalling’ and ‘podiumed’.

In the title of Text A “Meddling with nouns: who’s medalling now?” uses homophones with ‘meddling’ usually meaning to mess with, and the verb medal, this is a play on words, especially with the rhetorical question likely to be used for amusement to readers- by using the verb ‘meddling’, this suggests that verbing nouns is messing and corrupting with the English language. Text B’s title uses an imperative “Mind your language”; this phrase is used for a humorous effect to remind the audience of when using “bad language”, taboos, in the wrong contexts, but as it is from a descriptivist view it could be humouring at the fact that same people (those with prescriptivist views) class changing language as bad language. Even though text A and B present rather humorous views, text C shows it is fairly suited towards the upper class audience or those who believe they are elite with a title “medalling in the language of sports journalism”, so simply states how the term ‘medalling’ has come to be in use in terms of sport.

Text A points out that the term ‘to medal’ is in fact not new but is only just gradually coming into fashion from the rise of sport and how advances in technology and the media allow us to communicate in the world of sport and participate together “earliest known using…in 1996”, text B also claims the usage to not be new, however clearly states it’s just the case for athletes “common among athletes for years”, therefore this could be suggesting that it is only jut becoming more common to the rest of society due to the popularity in sporting events. All three texts mention the idea of language change coming from Americanisms we see as prestigious. Text a “more common in British English” shows that we are ‘borrowing’ from the US in terms of language for our benefit of understanding the sport jargon, however in text B this suggests that people see the “Americanisation’ of English” as a complete negative due to them blaming it on “television,music, the computer and similar new-fangled inventions” linking to Mackinnon’s theory of it being contextually inappropriate. By using the adjective “new-fangled” suggests that those with who don’t like the change in language are rather archaic as they are unfamiliar with new technology and inventions and are unable to fund use/the advantages of them. Text C is familiar with ‘to medal’ however is hostile to using ‘to podium’ by calling “[adopting] American sporting language” as a “pet hate”, which is used as an idiom.

Text A goes onto to discussing that language lovers become “upset” when nouns are turned into verbs and that it is “awkward and abominable”, emphasised by its alliteration. This links into Mackinnon’s theory that they believe verbing is useless and ugly due to the very strong adjective “abominable” suggesting they beloved it was to the extremities of being morally wrong, especially with medalling and podiuming being “targets to public disgust” which almost personifies them as they are receiving human cruelty even though they are only words. This links into text c where it personifies the English language to get across the point that change is almost violent like upon language “inflicting cruelty” with “plea” being used as if the writer is simply begging for it not to be changed. Text C also kinks to Mackinnon’s theory fully when it states “[podium] seems ugly and unnecessary” which is basically the whole point of his theory. Text C also displays features of Mackinnon’s theory when it says “good use of language should be the hallmark… for all broadcasting.” Suggesting it is the theory of opposites in it being correct/incorrect.

Text A says how the English language has developed from foreign trade or ‘borrowing’ of words linking into Aitchison’s 2013 theory in the form of infectious disease, that we ‘catch’ words from those around us and choose what new spelling etc. we want and not at random as “English can use the same form for both.” Text B uses many references to Aitchison’s ‘Crumbling Castle’, by using the adjective ‘beautiful’ ,in “beautiful language is being dragged” shows that language is something that has been so carefully designed and that changing it should be resisted – this is also found in text C when it says “we maintain standards…enhanced for millions” suggesting the English language needs to stay exactly how it is for it to be perfect and changing it would make it ugly or unpleasant (Mackinnon 1996), however by saying “standards” shows that change would be classed as lazy or sloppy as the standards are already at the best they can be, therefore linking to the Damp Spoon Theory, also from Aitchison.

Text B uses language features like alliteration in “controversy continues” to link the controversy of the language to the controversy athletes seem to gain whilst in important events like the Olympics over things like drugs and cheating. By referring metaphorically to those who seek language change as “barbarians” show the exaggeration that those who are uneducated are the ones who are ruining language, not the guardian readers therefore reassuring them and by calling language change as “evil” is a hyperbole likely used for the humorous effect linking it to those barbarians destroying language. The Guardian believes that their audience may have prescriptivist views whereas the writes are writing from a descriptivist point of view “Gary Glitter has more chance of a Christmas No.1… than persuading the guardian readers that ‘to medal’ is ok.” By referencing Gary Glitter, the writer is using humour to display how he has no chance of getting his readers to accept the new verbing change.

 

World Englishes.

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English is used as a first, second or foreign language by approximately 2 million people worldwide, however, it is not the most widely spoken language in the world. English is spoken by 300 million native speakers, whilst Spanish is spoken by over 400 million, and Mandarin by 800 million speakers. So is the term “World English”, big enough to describe the current status of English?

There are fewer native speakers of British English than there are of English speakers around the world. The difference between those who use it as a first or second language, is that those using it as a secondary, have had to adapt it for their own use, establishing their own varieties rather than taking it on as a whole.

Braj Kachru (1992) derived the ‘Three Circles’ model before the rise of the internet which establishes World Englishes. However, his model doesn’t address diversity and can be seen to suggest judgements about ‘better’ usage. Canadian English has both aspects of British English and American English, reflecting the influence of culture. The language draws heavily on English, American and French influences including spellings, phonology, lexis and grammar. Indian English is embedded into Indian life, culture and literature however differs when it comes to speech; in terms of phonology, Indian speakers have little distinction between /b/, /v/ and /w/.

English as a lingua franca (ELF) refers to English being used as a contact language between speakers of different first languages. Jennifer Jenkins (2006) has developed 5 characteristics of ELF:

  • allows communication
  • an alternate to English as a Foreign Language
  • include innovations that characterise local varieties of ‘correct’ English
  • useful in code-switching and linguistic accommodation
  • used for description for the purposes of possible codification

Apostrophes. Are they even needed?

apostrophe_800Whoever would have thought apostrophes could be that controversial. So controversial that some cities have banned them, only to lift the ban after citizen protest.

Birmingham City Council said the move had been taken for the purposes of consistency and to avoid costs and confusion over whether place names should ever take an apostrophe; yet also to end time consuming queries. Honestly, apostrophes are redundant, and the difference they actually make are only small. Tremendous amounts of money are spent every year by businesses on proof readers, part of whose job is to put apostrophes in the ‘correct’ place – to no semantic effect whatsoever. What’s the point? If it can’t be done correctly, then why be done at all?

On the other hand some believe that not using apostrophes is a sign of regression, like the words are being dumbed down. All over the UK, teachers are trying to teach children correct grammar and punctuation, however with the ban on apostrophes the children will not understand from right and wrong if society becomes different to academia. The abolishment could prove to be the first step towards linguistic anarchy and who would want that? So I guess you could say, apostrophes are pretty important (only in some cases really).

To be completely honest, I don’t think apostrophes are needed whatsoever, unless it’s for contractions like were and we’re, hell and he’ll, but only due to the confusion it can create. Other than that, all other words are pronounced and read the same, so is there really any need for them in the English language today?