Accents are just mouth fonts
Updated: Feb 13
This week has seen my name being mentioned in a few publications from Croatia and Germany to Ireland, and on home soil, here in the UK too.
It was to do with a new study by The Knowledge Academy which asked people to listen to a five-minute extract from a famous book narrated by native English speakers from Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, America and Great Britain. Based on the average duration volunteers listened for before switching off, it revealed the English accents that people find more attractive.
I believe regardless of how many people you poll, in the hundreds or in the thousands, the results of surveys on accents will always be subjective and therefore hard to quantify or generalise. Our reaction to accents says more about us than about the accents themselves. People are attracted to accents which sound familiar and it’s only natural that we tend to trust somebody who speaks like us. Subconsciously it tells us the person is from our own community.
When we hear someone for the first time, we make assumptions because it’s our survival instinct: we need to see who is our friend and who is our foe based on comparisons to ourselves or someone we know.
When people move to a new geographical area, some will naturally adopt a local accent to blend in to win over the trust of the community. When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, some speech experts said she started sounding more British, but once the Duchess of Sussex moved back to the US, I could certainly hear her low-pitched Californian accent again.
Our attitude to accents is just as biased in Russian, too, and it’s fairly easy to spot a Northerner from a Muscovite.
Or you could say accents are just mouth fonts.
The Sunday Mirror, 7th February 2021