The difference between American and British pronounciation

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Coolies!, Sep 10, 2007.

  1. Coolies! Yes! Wait a minute... no Registered Senior Member

    Well obviously it is because of accents that we all sound different but there are some words that Americans say in a different way that any1 from anywhere in Britain.
    For example
    Now I've notice Americans say- d-tail while Britains say D-tail, now this was obvious to my ears when I heard an American actor pretending to be English and yet he said d-tail.
    Also the word semi maybe its just my lazy accent compared to Americans but I say- sem-E while Americans say sem-I. Obviously I think I might be wrong but my accent is pretty distinct and I'm not changing it for no1.
    And the big 1 which makes me laugh so much is the word Aluminium.
    I know Americans say al-lum-in-um whereas Britians say Al-U-mini-yum, and thats a pretty big difference so we would each have to realise what the other was saying in the context of the sentence.
    Now I've been to America and I don't know how we sounded to them so I'm not saying British English is better than American English I'm just pointing out the difference.
    Its weird why there would even be a difference in the pronounciation of words we all share. i'm not a linguist so any ideas or anythin
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I'm not sure if I understand your transcription, but we say DE-tail, with the accent on the first syllable. The British say d'-TAIL, with the accent on the second syllable and the vowel almost totally elided out of the first one. I assume you're not a Briton or you would have spelled it right.

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    Depends on the syntactic stress borne by the prefix. We say SEM-ee or SEM-ih in compound words like semicolon. In hyphenated words like semi-sweet chocolate we say SEM-eye. We toss that hyphenated prefix around a lot, as in "I'm semi-retired." And our slang word for a semi-trailer is "semi," which we call a SEM-eye. That's a common word because truck ("lorry") driving is a gigantic business in America.
    We just have two different words. We call it aluminum and the Brits call it aluminium. There's an extra letter in there and the two words are pronounced differently. They're so similar as to be immediately recognizable so they cause no confusion between us. It's not like the way they talk about using a "spanner" to "earth" a circuit, whereas we "ground" it with a "wrench."
    We used to find instances of different words like that a little confusing, but we're so used to seeing British TV ("telly") and movies ("films") that we don't have much of a problem with it any more. I'm sure most Brits understand American English perfectly well for the same reason. The biggest difference is the pronunciation. Brits often put the accent on a different syllable, like la-BOR-a-t'ry instead of our LAB'-ra-tor-ee. But mainly it's in the vowels. The way they say "can" sounds like Genghis KHAN to us, and the way they say "talk" sounds like "toke." Almost all of their accented vowels are pronounced differently from ours.

    They also talk faster, by eliminating a lot of syllables that we pronounce. We get six syllables out of EX-tra-OR-di-NA-ry, they get two out of STRAWD-nree. No one speaks English as slowly as our Southerners.
    That's quite common when the speakers of one language become geographically dispersed. There was no electronic sound transmission until a little over a hundred years ago, so Brits and Americans had a long time to diverge without being able to hear each other's pronunciation. It's often the populations of linguistic outposts that are the most conservative. I've been told that some American dialects are very true to some of the English dialects of 300 years ago, and that it's the British pronunciation that has evolved. It's said that "standard Oxford English" was invented by the "upper class" to make themselves instantly distinguishable from the "lower class," and that no one actually ever spoke that way naturally before. I don't know if that's true, but I've never heard an Englishman talk like that unless he had a university education. I have heard a scholar say that if Elizabeth II could hear Elizabeth I speak, she would think she was a Cockney.

    The Dutch of Holland and the Dutch of South Africa have diverged so much that Afrikaans is now considered a separate language. Although that is to a certain extent a political issue, a linguist might quietly tell you that it's a dialect and that they can understand each other with a little effort.
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  5. leopold Valued Senior Member

    i must be backwards because i pronounce it with the long e sound.

    is the long i sound the official pronunciation?
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't think so. If you said SEM-ee sweet chocolate to me I wouldn't stop and think about it. However, the thing being hauled down the highway is definitely a SEM-eye.

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  8. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I asked my Dutch friend about this, and he said that when he encounters Afrikaaners, they typically try to converse in Dutch/Afrikaans for a few minutes, and then give up and switch to English (which is easier for both of them).
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    With the aluminum/aluminium thing, I hate to say it but the Americans are probably more correct.

    I think the original namer of the element called it "aluminum", but then the Europeans decided that the name didn't fit so well with the pattern of other element names, like sodium, magnesium, caesium, uranium etc.

    Of course, one might argue that the original namer should have considered that in the first place, and the Europeans/Australians etc. are just correcting an error. But, on the other hand, the namer gets the naming rights, usually.

    I'm still going to call it "aluminium", regardless.

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  10. superstring01 Moderator

    Is Afrikaans that different? I had a friend from OFS who spoke English with a gorgeous accent (his hot body seemed to help), Afrikaans, German and a Zulu dialect. He was cool beans.

    What about Flemish and Dutch? Are they also that different?

    Must be that when some people colonize they really drift from the mother tongue. Pennsylvania Dutch is incomprehensible to Germans.

  11. spuriousmonkey Banned Banned

    People within the Netherlands can speak dialects that make it impossible to understand each other. You don't need to cross a border for that.

    as I would write the following in phonetic dutch:
    'ik praot mistal een bietje tilburgs in plots of nederlaands, en as ge sloai mee jun, en ai en erpel vroagt dan ist nie alte zo de elk ut verstoat. of as ge vroagt om een potje te keibaanden stoa ik voak alleen doar.'

    And this is relatively an easy dialect in Dutch.

    Every town, village used to have his own dialect. Now with TV and other media the Dutch is coming more together as a whole. And of course you learn standard dutch at school.
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    As I understand it, Afrikaans has a simplified grammar. Other than that I suspect (with no real knowledge of either language) that the main difference is in phonetics. If you look at the same paragraph in Dutch and Afrikaans they look more similar than Czech and Slovak, or Danish and Norwegian. I imagine they can communicate in writing more easily than speech.
    That is a political issue. The Flemish want their tongue to be regarded as a distinct language because it provides support to their separatist movement. As another poster pointed out, dialects of Dutch within Holland vary greatly. Flemish easily falls within that spectrum. Speaking of spectrums, I've seen one linguist point out that at their fringes, there are extreme dialects of Dutch and German that resemble each other more closely than either of them resembles its national standard. To American eyes, written Dutch looks remarkably similar to German.
    Actually it is often the other way around. Expats often tend to be very conservative with their language. As I mentioned earlier, it's been suggested that the language of the American South is pretty close to some dialects of England 250 years ago. It's hard to imagine any Englishman speaking that slowly today!

    There was a huge migration of Bohemians (known as Czechs today) to America in the latter part of the 19th century--that's when my own ancestors arrived--and they formed a large community in the Midwest. They had Czech newspapers and a few decades later they started their own film industry. When the movies were exported to Czechslovakia, the people there laughed at them and said they spoke the stilted language of their forefathers. The younger people even had them dubbed into modern Czech to make them easier to understand.
    I've heard Amish German and it sounded like it was straight out of my old textbooks, much easier to understand than a language that's been affected by two world wars, fascism, communism, the Cold War, reunification, the EU, and internet-speak.

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  13. Neildo Gone Registered Senior Member

    Yeah, aluminum and Al Qaeda are my favorite ones to hear Brits say. Al Ki-EE-da, hehe.

    - N

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