Monday, November 05, 2007


Breaking news

separated by a common language explores differences between British and American English. A recent comment there makes a point that is often overlooked in such contexts:
This isn't the first time that it's seemed likely that the dividing waters are those of the Tweed and Esk rather than the Atlantic.
BrE and AmE are convenient labels but don't always correctly map the linguistic fault-lines. The variation within what is referred to compositely as BrE is often greater than any translatlantic divide.

This is certainly the case in relation to pronunciation. The expression "British accent" is bandied about, but except when used to refer to one particular accent, more properly known as received pronunciation (RP), it isn't very meaningful. Consider this clip about British actors learning to speak like Americans where "British accent" is applied to a range of accents at least as different from one another as they are from the American.

The presenter alone seems to have at least two "British accents". She starts off sounding Scottish but when asked to read a text aloud, despite having been explicitly requested to speak naturally, she switches to something markedly different, something much closer to RP.

Staying with the Scottish theme, "rising British tennis star Andy Murray" (9 Google hits), also known as "rising Scottish tennis star Andy Murray" (3 hits), was recently involved in a minor road accident in Paris. Speaking in British English he told journalists:

The guy that was driving our car did nothing wrong. He just broke, then somebody hit right into the back of the car

according to the Daily Telegraph, TimesOnline, Scotsman and Independent.

This morphs into

He just braked etc.
in the version reported by the BBC, Daily Express, Daily Record, Daily Mail, and the player's own website.

So, in this case at least, Tweed and Esk do not appear to mark an isogloss .

Well said.
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