Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by andrew from Charlottesville, VA. andrew Wonders, “Why do people speak with an accent?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, andrew!
If you've ever pretended to be James Bond while playing spies with your friends, you know that part of acting like Agent 007 is talking like him. That means speaking with your best fake British accent!
It can be a lot of fun to imitate accents from faraway lands. For example, if you've ever pretended to be a crocodile hunter from Down Under, then you've probably tried speaking with an Australian accent.
But what if someone from a foreign country wanted to pretend to be YOU? That would be easy, right? After all, it's not like you have an accent. Or do you?
You bet you do! Everyone has an accent, because an accent is simply how you sound when you speak. You might not think you have an accent, because you don't sound British or Australian. However, just think about how your speech must sound to people from those countries.
When you're born, you have the ability to create any sounds you want. However, as you grow and learn to speak, you begin to be taught a certain language (or two or more if your family is bilingual) in certain ways by those you live with.
Over time, you learn to pronounce words in certain ways by mimicking others. Each language has its own unique set of sounds it focuses on. Your particular accent thus develops naturally over time, and you usually sound a lot like the people who taught you to speak.
If you live in the United States, you probably have what people generally refer to as an American accent. The general American accent reflects the way millions of people speak English across an extremely large geographical area.
If you live in certain areas of the United States, however, you may have a more unique accent as a result of where you live, such as New York, Boston, New Orleans, or the South. These regional variations are often a result of the influence of other languages from other cultures that helped settle these areas many years ago.
And speaking of that well-known British accent we're all so familiar with today, why doesn't the modern American accent sound similar to a British accent? After all, didn't the British colonize the U.S.?
Experts believe that British residents and the colonists who settled America all sounded the same back in the 18th century, and they probably all sounded more like modern Americans than modern Brits. The accent that we identify as British today was developed around the time of the American Revolution by people of low birth rank who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution. To distinguish themselves from other commoners, these people developed new ways of speaking to set themselves apart and demonstrate their new elevated status.