Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Accent

Accents intrigue me. When I speak to people on the phone from other parts of the country, they can tell that I am from the New York City area.  But even within New York City itself, people from different ethnic groups, different generations, and different neighborhoods have different accents.  Many of the Irish from Queens have a distinct sound as do many of the Italians with roots in Little Italy.  I wouldn't even attempt to categorize the accents of Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians within New York City.

Yesterday, after my older son heard me talking to my father and mother, he told me that I talk to different people with different accents. He said he noticed this especially when I spoke to my father and one of my brothers. He then imitated how I sounded.  I recognized the voice immediately.  I assume that my father's accent, speaking style, and expressions are representative of the speech of working class Irish and Germans from the Bronx and Queens. When I speak to my father, I do not consciously imitate his speaking style, but I realize that it is something that I do in order to be able to better connect with him. I recall also that whenever my father spoke with his brother, his speaking style changed significantly, to what I assume is authentic from their family background.

My son also told me that I speak with a very hard "r" sound.  He told me that among English speakers worldwide, the hard "r" is only found among the Northern Irish and Americans. He said that the Australians, Scottish, British, etc. do not have a hard "r." Of my immigrant forbears, I do know that one of them was from County Donegal in Northern Ireland. I suspect that I may use a particularly hard "r" when I am trying to either speak clearly, stress something, or give a command. But until my son told me all this, I had ever heard of a hard "r" let alone knew that I spoke with one.

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