Monday, July 2, 2018

Accents - rhoticity or rotisserie?

Your accent marks you either as belonging where you speak - or as an outsider. Rhoticity and rotisserie are words that almost sound alike (homophones).  But a rotisserie is an apparatus for roasting food (like the chicken shown above) on a spit. And rhoticity refers to an accent or dialect of English where an /r/ sound is retained before consonants and finally in a word at the end of an utterance. In a rhotic dialect you would say to ‘park the car in Harvard Yard,’ not to ‘pahk the cah in Hahvad Yahd.’ At ThoughtCo. on March 26, 2018 there is an article by Richard Nordquist giving a Definition and examples of rhotic and not-rhotic speech.

Folks in the Midwestern U.S. don’t think they have an accent, but of course they do. My parents both grew up there, so that became my accent. There was another article by Edward McClelland in the January 3, 2017 issue of Belt Magazine titled Introduction to How to Speak Midwestern. He shows a map and explains that there are three Midwestern dialect regions: Inland North, Midland, and North Central. Mr. McClelland said:

The steel mills and auto plants drew millions of Southern and Eastern European immigrants who adopted Inland North as their dialect model. Perhaps most importantly, the nation’s leading pronunciation expert was John S. Kenyon, a philologist at Ohio’s Hiram College, which is just east of Cleveland. Kenyon was the author of two books, American Pronunciation (1924) and A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English (1944), and was pronunciation editor of Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language. In these roles, Kenyon championed rhoticity, the pronunciation of r’s wherever they appear in words: he preferred ‘war’ to the Transatlantic ‘waugh.’ Kenyon also favored pronouncing ‘not’ like ‘naht,’ instead of ‘nawt.’ These were both features of the Inland North speech he heard in northeastern Ohio.

Dialect regions also have different idioms. After about five years of living in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Inland North), I was visiting my mother (Midland) and gave her some driving directions, that included the phrase ‘hang a right’ (meaning to make a right turn). She glared at me and asked why a change in direction had to be suspended in midair!

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