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Re: YAEPT: Porn rhymes with dawn? Argumentam ad cantum!

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Monday, March 26, 2007, 14:31
On 3/26/07, Benct Philip Jonsson <conlang@...> wrote:
> > <rant> > But seriously I wish that more people in *this* > crowd read JC Well's "Accents of English". If they can't > borrow a copy people should read the Wikipedia article > <> > (aka <> and the dialect-specific > articles linked from there? > > BTW why is it Anglophones call dialects 'accents'? > An accent is a diacritical mark, or a prosodic > contour hopefully indicated by such a mark in > orhography. The possible distinction between > "traditional dialect" and "regional variety of > Standard English" is hardly that crucial any more, > and there is always the word "variety" to resort to. > </rant>
Just looked it up in the OED. The first definition of 'accent' given there is: "A prominence given to one syllable in a word, or in a phrase, over the adjacent syllables, independently of the mode in which this prominence is produced." Its earliest attestation is from 1581: SIDNEY Def. Poesie (1622) 529 "Though we doe not obserue quantitie, yet we obserue the accent very precisely." The second definition of 'accent' given in the OED is: "The marks by which the nature and position of the spoken accent were indicated in a word. [or the] marks used to distinguish the different qualities of sound indicated by a letter, called diacritical accents." The earliest attestation of this usage is 1596: SPENSER State of Irel. 30 "Being likewise distinguished with pricke and accent, as theirs aunciently." The third definition of 'accent' given in the OED is: "The mode of utterance peculiar to an individual, locality, or nation, as 'he has a slight accent, a strong provincial accent, an indisputably Irish, Scotch, American, French or German accent.' Without defining word: of a regional English accent." Its earliest attestation is from 1600: SHAKES. A.Y.L. III. ii. 359 "Your accent is something finer, then you could purchase in so remoued a dwelling." The fourth definition of 'accent' given in the OED is: "The way in which anything is said; pronunciation, utterance, tone, voice; sound, modulation or modification of the voice expressing feeling." Its earliest attestation is from 1538: BP. BONNER in Foxe A. & M. (Catley) V. 155 "He said with a sharp accent." Wells explains that an 'accent' is a pattern of pronunciation used by a speaker of English. It excludes morphological, syntactic, and lexical features which, together with pronunciation, make up a 'dialect'. Wells' books are about regional pronunciations of General English, the form of English used to communicate with outsiders (and not about regional dialects of English). Wells is thus using the term 'accent' in its third sense. While it may be true that the distinction between 'traditional dialect' and 'regional variety' may be less relevant today, the layman can hardly be expected to be aware of the subtilties at play between words like 'dialect', 'accent', and 'variety'. My experience is that most English speakers use the word 'accent' in its third or fourth sense. To restrict it to the second sense, that of diacritical marks, seems unwarranted, even if it would make the linguist's life easier. Dirk