The Great Accent Shift – October 2013

My throat is really sore!
My throat is really sore!

39 days ago, I moved to England. One month ago, I started a long-term accent tracking project. This is the second instalment of the Great Accent Shift 2013.

There were some pretty hefty online criticisms of the first video, for selection biases and experimental design. While I recognise that there would be those issues if this were, say, my dissertation project (which would never happen)…this is mostly for fun. And for practice. I am hoping to go into the field of Phonetics in some form or another over the course of the next few years, and this project gives me the means to practice using some of the software I will need to be familiar with to succeed.

Today my voice is considerably lower than last month, and squeaky. I had to take class off today because I’m feeling really horrible. This may even make my accent more ‘authentic’ to how I speak when relaxed, because I’m less able to modulate my voice and frankly, I care less.

Here is the second installation:

Even as I spoke, I noticed a slight difference on some words and in the ways that I was speaking. The words in the list that I read are ones that are likely to show accent shift, because they are ones that vary across English accents. My accent in the US is known as Western General American, and a characteristic of that accent is that one says the words ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ with almost exactly the same sound. I ran the two recordings of the word ‘caught’ through Praat, a free software program that phoneticians use to analyse speech.

September
September
October
October

The lines on the blue parts are called ‘waveforms,’ and they give information about the pitch, loudness, duration, and quality of the sound recorded. This is a double recording, from the video onto Praat. Thus, not really acceptable for true scientific enquiry. Whatever. They look different to my (mostly untrained) eye. See those red dots? They track some aspects of the vowel in a sound, the formants. They look different to me! Maybe a small shift from the ‘caught’ of my Western General American accent? Next up, “Alabama.”

September
September
October
October

To my ear, the two readings sounded different. In the analysis in Praat, they look pretty similar. Like I said in the video, even if there is no change over a year at all, that is a result in itself. It’s likely that certain words will drift more than others, as is already happening. Another visible change was the rhotic (r) pronunciation in “February.”

September
September
October
October

Those waveforms look quite different! The reason is that in the October recording, I pronounced the ‘r’ in Feb-bru-ary, whereas in September I said my original Feb-bu-ary and skipped the r. I hadn’t really thought of this being a regional accent thing until my boyfriend came home and said the former without any prompting from me. A closer look at the r portion of the speech shows a visible difference in quality, even though my very limited phonetic training prevents me from putting it into technical terms.

September
September
October
October

Those blue lines are pitch, by the way. I’m still learning Praat.

So it appears that something may or may not be happening with the way I speak, 39 days into living in London. Next month I will add a natural conversation to the mix and try for better analysis! In the meantime, remember that this is just for fun, and that it’s not a real experiment.

"Real Experiment"
“Real Experiment”

Edit: I’m not using IPA symbols here because I’m still learning them, but by the end of the year I will. Also, I forgot to include that I dropped a ‘t’ in today’s recording when I said “It’s not a real experiment” at the beginning. It came out more like “It’s no(glottal stop) a” almost “notta” in an East London-ish accent. Behold. 

Dropping a t
Dropping a t

2 Comments

Add yours →

  1. I noticed that fast, laugh and have all seemed changed. Neat!

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