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  1. #21
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    I think more people would find RP less marked than Cockney, but I wouldn't call a relatively unmarked accent neutral.

    Why not? I still don't understand why "neutrality" can't be used here. I think there's a correlation between markedness and neutrality (how I understand the word).

    Accents are capable of causing emotion and thought. If an accent doesn't do that to me, I call it neutral because it doesn't change my state. That's how I use the word "neutral" generally. A neutral element in a group works like 0 under addition - it doesn't change anything. In chemistry, a neutral substance doesn't react - doesn't change anything.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 01-Nov-2010 at 14:45.

  2. #22
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Why not?
    [/COLOR]
    Because it's not!

    Actually, I am not happy with Ray's description of any accent as 'relatively unmarked'. As there is no neutral accent, then all accents must be marked. The difference between the Northern Englishman's /bʊt/
    and my /bʌt/ is not that his is marked and mine not (or vice versa). They are both marked.

    Until my early 20s, I always considered Southern British RP to be unmarked (no relatively about it) - it was what my grammar school teachers used, and I heard it on the BBC every day. I took it to be classless and regionless. As I learnt more about that language, I realised it was neither of these things, It was just a dialect, albeit one enjoying high prestige.

    My friends from the north considered my accent to be heavily marked - for coldness, hypocrsisy, snobbishnes, elitism etc. Some of them seemed to genuinely believe that I put this accent on. They could not imagine how it was possible for someone to speak in that grotesque way naturally.

  3. #23
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Because it's not!
    So it's not meaningless but untrue? I distinguish between these things and am not sure which we are talking about.

    I know different accents can be perceived differently in different areas. I never said they couldn't. All I'm trying to say that it's not nonsensical to talk about neutrality of the way someone speaks. This neutrality depends on the person speaking and the person listening. I don't deny that. I'm also not trying to say that some accents are worse and some are better.

    There are two "neutralities" I was talking about. One was about being more or less neutral to a particular person. I think the meaning of this is acceptable to everybody. When an accent "strikes" me more, it's less neutral to me. When it's "strikes" me less, it's more neutral to me. It's like beauty - depends on the situation and person. But it's not meaningless.

    The other neutrality wouldn't depend on the person. And here I have problems with definition. But, as you said, some accents can have more prestige than others. I wouldn't say that I mean the same by "prestige" and "neutrality" but it's a similar situation. The prestige is a fact. You don't have to like it, but it exists. And if I were to define prestige of an accent I would be in as much trouble as now.

    There is no standard accent of English, true. I wouldn't say there's one "neutral" accent of English either (although if we defined a neutral accent in a certain way, we could be surprised to see that one actually exists). But I think the notion of neutrality of accents is not nonsensical. I tried to explain what I mean by it as well as I could.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 01-Nov-2010 at 16:47.

  4. #24
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post

    All I'm trying to say that it's not nonsensical to talk about neutrality of the way someone speaks. This neutrality depends on the person speaking and the person listening. I think I would probably agree with you there.


    The other neutrality wouldn't depend on the person.
    Here I have to disagree.

    And here I have problems with definition.
    That is because I think that you are trying to conflate your idea of neutrality with the idea that I (and, I think, Ray) are discussing.


    ... if we defined a neutral accent in a certain way, we could be surprised to see that one actually exists
    There's the rub
    .We would have to define a neutral accent 'in a certain way'. If we re-define our terms, then we change the whole discussion. I believe I understand what you mean, and I have a certain sympathy with your view. However, I so firmly believe that there is no neutral accent in English (to use neutral accent with the meaning that most linguists appear to use it), that I cannot answer your points in a way that would satisfy you - or me!
    A pity, because this has been an interesting discussion.
    5jj

  5. #25
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post

    All I'm trying to say that it's not nonsensical to talk about neutrality of the way someone speaks. This neutrality depends on the person speaking and the person listening. I think I would probably agree with you there.


    The other neutrality wouldn't depend on the person.
    Here I have to disagree.

    And here I have problems with definition.
    That is because I think that you are trying to conflate your idea of neutrality with the idea that I (and, I think, Ray) are discussing.


    ... if we defined a neutral accent in a certain way, we could be surprised to see that one actually exists
    There's the rub
    .We would have to define a neutral accent 'in a certain way'. If we re-define our terms, then we change the whole discussion. I believe I understand what you mean, and I have a certain sympathy with your view. However, I so firmly believe that there is no neutral accent in English (to use neutral accent with the meaning that most linguists appear to use it), that I cannot answer your points in a way that would satisfy you - or me!
    A pity, because this has been an interesting discussion.
    5jj

  6. #26
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I think I would probably agree with you there.

    Good.


    That is because I think that you are trying to conflate your idea of neutrality with the idea that I (and, I think, Ray) are discussing.
    What is this idea?


    There's the rub
    .We would have to define a neutral accent 'in a certain way'. If we re-define our terms, then we change the whole discussion. I believe I understand what you mean, and I have a certain sympathy with your view. However, I so firmly believe that there is no neutral accent in English (to use neutral accent with the meaning that most linguists appear to use it), that I cannot answer your points in a way that would satisfy you - or me!
    From what Ray said, I understood that "neutral accent" doesn't mean anything. I think it means that linguists shouldn't use the phrase. Why would they use a meaningless expression? If linguists don't use it, then there's no re-defining going on here. Just defining. If, on the other hand, the expression has a fixed meaning and people use it, then what is the meaning?

  7. #27
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    From what Ray said, I understood that "neutral accent" doesn't mean anything. I think it means that linguists shouldn't use the phrase. Why would they use a meaningless expression? If linguists don't use it, then there's no re-defining going on here. Just defining. If, on the other hand, the expression has a fixed meaning and people use it, then what is the meaning?
    I haven't read enough on the subject to give a definitive answer. I suspect that linguists use the term to dismiss the existence of the thing referred to.

    I believe that in German an attempt was made at one time to have Bühnendeutsch (stage German, i.e. theatre German) accepted as a meeting-point dialect for German-speaking countries, in which there are a number of accents, none of which has gained particular prestige. Had this attempt succeeded, then we could have spoken of a neutral accent - but it would have been one that was perhaps the native dialect of not a single speaker.

  8. #28
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I haven't read enough on the subject to give a definitive answer. I suspect that linguists use the term to dismiss the existence of the thing referred to.
    Which means we're both talking about a term we can't define but we agree there should be a definition, right?
    I believe that in German an attempt was made at one time to have Bühnendeutsch (stage German, i.e. theatre German) accepted as a meeting-point dialect for German-speaking countries, in which there are a number of accents, none of which has gained particular prestige. Had this attempt succeeded, then we could have spoken of a neutral accent - but it would have been one that was perhaps the native dialect of not a single speaker.
    I was considering this kind of definition too. The neutral accent of a language could be obtained in this theoretical way (for example):
    1. Take a word of the language.
    2. List all existing pronunciations of the word.
    3. Find out which of them is the most frequently uttered one.
    4. This is how the word is pronounced in the neutral accent.
    5. Do that for every word in the language.

    It suffers numerous issues obviously. But it's not altogether bad. And it's another example of how a neutral accent could be defined. I don't like this definition though, because it quite far away from how I understand the term. Of course, a neutral accent of English according to this definition doesn't exist in the sense of being spoken by anyone.

  9. #29
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    I watched this report from BBC on the box some days ago, you may like to check it out: BBC News - 'Haitch' or 'aitch'? How do you pronounce 'H'?

    As far as I'm concerned, there's no neutral accent. Given that the pronounciation of words has been keeping shifting, it'd be tricky, impossible and/or fruitless to figure out the only accent/pronounciation which can be considered right. Let's raise the following, the root of the English language is from the current UK (they've spread it), though we can't declare that the neutral accent is there. Yet, some would give a yes to it while there's heaps of other factors which would tend to prove it wrong. How about people pointing out that one is more neutral as it's some kind of trend/modern, it sounds sexier, cooler, proper, easier, etc.

    I dare say if one can demonstrate what's the right neutral English accent in the world, then s/he will be easily able to demonstrate what's the wrong. Unless s/he is merely part of it but can't speak out why. Let's assume that the only possibility to find out the neutral accent is to neutralise the whole language; or it'll keep shifting.
    Last edited by philadelphia; 01-Nov-2010 at 20:04.

  10. #30
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    Re: what is neutral accent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Yes, it's meaningless. Your accent is the way your voice sounds when you speak.
    That's what I mean by obtuse. I always enjoy our debates, but to step further into this one, it is clear that neutral means "normatively standard" in terms of comprehension, with respect to other dialects / geolects.

    If you and I, and several other speakers, read a fairly lengthy passage from a well-known text, and we put them on Youtube with and without subtitles and asked people to rate the clarity of our pronunciation, diction, oration, and so on, we would not all receive the same results.

    You claim (it seems) this obviously predictable spread in results would be entirely subjective, entirely random, or entirely noise. Some sort of meaningless. I claim it would be partly subjective, and partly based on actual measurable criteria.

    My pronunciation of /eI/ as in day, for instance, might perhaps be considered "close" to 15 of 20 other dialects. Maybe your pronunciation might be considered "close" to 13 or 14 of the same 20 dialects. It's distance from /aI/ as in "die" might be considered "clearly distinct" by 900 of every 1000 viewers, in my case, whereas perhaps your pair might be considered "clearly distinct" by some other number.

    This is not a set of contrived or artificial questions. We could easily enumerate 100 or so criteria which would reflect common phonemes in English.

    So while I would agree that there is no accent that can be defined as "neutral" --- none at all --- this does not mean we cannot reach relative conclusions about which are more or less neutral.

    No one in the class needs to be exactly the average height for an average height to be calculated. Nor do we need to deduce from this that there is no such thing as height, or averages.

    I hope you see some sense it what I am saying.

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