"Neutral" accents in second languages

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Pāṇini
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"Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Pāṇini » 18 Feb 2019 19:39

Comrades, I've come to notice that I more or less lack particular regionalisms in any of the languages which I speak.

I spent the first decade of my childhood in Puerto Rico, and I grew up speaking English and Spanish in more or less equal measure. I've resided in South Florida since then, and my English has developed into something approaching an informal sort of General American common to the area. The Miamian cadence doesn't quite reach as far north, but the Southeastern drawl doesn't either. Although I will drop a casual y'all into my speech here and there, it remains pretty neutral.

The area where I live is very much a majority Latino community, but the Spanish speakers I'm around come from Colombia and Venezuela. For that reason, the noticeably Puerto Rican traits in my Spanish (which were few, to begin with) were toned down quite a bit. We Puerto Ricans have a penchant for "dragging our Rs," with coda < r > being articulated /r ~ ɻ ~ l/ and onset < r/rr > being articulated /r ~ x ~ χ/ (at least on the southern coast, between Yauco and Ponce). Now, my onset < r/rr > is pretty solidly articulated as /r/ (although a fricative realization had never felt very natural to me). My coda < r > now leans more towards /r/ as well, although I will drop some /ɻ/ and /l/ here and there. What hasn't worn out, however, is my aspiration of final < s >, which combined with a more South American style cadence, makes me sound almost Venezuelan. The uneasy mix of a more neutral Latin-American Spanish (although pretty solidly north of the equator)

I've acquired some skill in Brazilian Portuguese in the last year and a bit. Although now I have a pretty convincing near-native accent, it did not come easy, and it still has a sort of placelessness to it. I pronounce my onset < r/rr > in Portuguese as /h/, drop my coda < r > once in a while, palatalize < t d > to /t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/ in front of /i/, and articulate my coda < s > as /s/, which places my consonants pretty much in the city of São Paulo (my friend who practiced with was from there). My vowels, however, lean a bit towards a carioca accent, in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro. All of the above leads to a very understandable, neutral, if strange, accent in Brazilian Portuguese.

My question to you: If you speak multiple languages, have you acquired any regional dialectal features, or lost any which you "should" have?

Native Languages:
English, Spanish
Acquired Languages:
Portuguese
Half-learnt Languages:
Italian, Latin
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/aɪ kænʔ r̼̊ ʌnəɹstʲænd r̼̊ jəɹ æksɪnt r̼̊/

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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Salmoneus » 18 Feb 2019 21:09

Everyone has dialectical features in every language. Although occasionally they may be partially sociolectical, as opposed to strictly geographical.

If you speak General American, then that's a regionalism - it shows you're from the US (so you certainly wouldn't sound non-regional to me!), and specifically it shows you're either from south Florida, or you're from a narrow band stretching across the midwest. The next question would then be whether you rhyme 'on' with 'Don' or with 'Dawn' - midwestern and northern south florida general american do the former, but southern south florida general american does the latter.

Pāṇini
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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Pāṇini » 19 Feb 2019 03:57

Slipped my mind for a moment that English was a pluricentric language! [O.O]

I’ve always operated under the impression that General American didn’t exist as a native dialect, existing mostly on TV or in the speech of L2+ learners. I’ve spoken like this for as long as I can remember (I exhibit the cot-caught merger, although my grandparents who speak with a hefty New York accent do not). Mea culpa.

I realize that I probably misphrased the question I posed: when I referred to dialectal features, I meant pronunciations and vocabulary

not associated with the prestige variety of a given language variant; for example, an English L2 speaker picking up Northern England vowel realization even if their speech otherwise resembles RP, and without living in the North of England. The reverse also interests me: if somebody who resides in the north of England who speaks L2 English speaks RP when it would make sense to acquire less prestigious, local variants.

Native Languages:
English, Spanish
Acquired Languages:
Portuguese
Half-learnt Languages:
Italian, Latin
Wish List
Quechua, Hindi

/aɪ kænʔ r̼̊ ʌnəɹstʲænd r̼̊ jəɹ æksɪnt r̼̊/

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sangi39
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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by sangi39 » 19 Feb 2019 04:23

Pāṇini wrote:
18 Feb 2019 19:39

My question to you: If you speak multiple languages, have you acquired any regional dialectal features, or lost any which you "should" have?
More of a follow up question but do you mean:

a) that we've picked up features from our second languages and started applying them to our first language
b) that we've applied features of our first language to our second language
c) that we've lost features of our first language that don't apply in our second language
d) that we've not applied features of our first language that should apply in our second language

or (options e through to h, I guess) applied a through d in the context of bilingualism in a "I was raised speaking two languages" context?



At least in my case, I'm effectively monolingual (I only speak English to any degree of proficiency), but I occasionally display final consonant devoicing (especially for words in isolation), and a slight tendency towards preaspiration of voiceless plosives after short vowels when during emphasis. But that, I'd say, is multiple languages bleeding into "slow speech". Otherwise, I'd honestly have to record myself. A recent NYT quiz on UK accents that, I think, came out recently, gave this:

Image

as the "strongest" source for my accent. Given that my brother (who's only 17 months younger than me and apart from 3 years when I lived 70 miles away we've never really lived apart), got this result:

Image

There's definitely something going on with the way I speak [:P]
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But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Reyzadren » 21 Feb 2019 04:48

^same with sangi39. Not sure which question you are asking.

I am bilingual, so my "2nd language" is that other natlang that I also natively speak. For that natlang, I have a "capital" accent, which is the most "neutral" and widely used accent on TV, radio, social media and etc, though it isn't the "prescribed" one by grammarians. Of course, I did not acquire or lose any feature of that accent, because well, self-explanatory.
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Pāṇini
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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Pāṇini » 21 Feb 2019 12:40

sangi39 wrote:
19 Feb 2019 04:23
Pāṇini wrote:
18 Feb 2019 19:39

My question to you: If you speak multiple languages, have you acquired any regional dialectal features, or lost any which you "should" have?
More of a follow-up question but do you mean:

a) that we've picked up features from our second languages and started applying them to our first language
b) that we've applied features of our first language to our second language
c) that we've lost features of our first language that don't apply in our second language
d) that we've not applied features of our first language that should apply in our second language
Sorry for the confusion. Most major languages have a sort of "prestige variety" associated with them (I hope I'm using that right) which is not necessarily the prescribed form, but as sangi39 said, it's the more "neutral" and widely used accent on various media. Generally, when people learn a second language, they adopt this somewhat neutral form, eg. Hochdeutsch or Metropolitan French, because it's what most sources of information about that language will generally describe, as opposed to regional (although spoken by L1 speakers) dialects like Bavarian German or Arlesienne French. My question, or rather questions, would be: if you speak multiple languages, have you adopted regional forms that stand out in your L2+, even if you don't live in the area that uses them? And if you do live in or have ties to an area where certain regional vocabulary and pronunciations prevail, has the "neutral" variety sort of leveled out those features?

EDIT: Clarity

Native Languages:
English, Spanish
Acquired Languages:
Portuguese
Half-learnt Languages:
Italian, Latin
Wish List
Quechua, Hindi

/aɪ kænʔ r̼̊ ʌnəɹstʲænd r̼̊ jəɹ æksɪnt r̼̊/

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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Lao Kou » 21 Feb 2019 15:06

Pāṇini wrote:
21 Feb 2019 12:40

Sorry for the confusion. Most major languages have a sort of "prestige variety" associated with them (I hope I'm using that right) which is not necessarily the prescribed form, but as sangi39 said, it's the more "neutral" and widely used accent on various media. Generally, when people learn a second language, they adopt this somewhat neutral form, eg. Hochdeutsch or Metropolitan French, because it's what most sources of information about that language will generally describe, as opposed to regional (although spoken by L1 speakers) dialects like Bavarian German or Arlesienne French. My question, or rather questions, would be: if you speak multiple languages, have you adopted regional forms that stand out in your L2+, even if you don't live in the area that uses them? And if you do live in or have ties to an area where certain regional vocabulary and pronunciations prevail, has the "neutral" variety sort of leveled out those features?
I would consider Mandarin my L3 and have lived here for years. I studied it in uni and, I guess, would have considered my pronunciation as standard as one could get as a foreigner learner. Then I moved to Nanchang (南昌 nan2chang1), provincial capital of Jiangxi province (江西 jiang1xi1). The retroflexes took a dive, which is common enough in the south, and many of my Chinese co-workers in the US didn't have them anyway, so no biggie. When I went back to the US in the 2000s, I taught some Mandarin, and my pronunciation with the retroflexes got very standard very quickly. Back here, I wouldn't say I use them consistently, but they're easy enough to retrieve (though I sometimes conflate them, which makes finding them in the dictionary a little diificult).

The one that has persisted throughout since Nanchang is [f] for [h], I still often say "fuo" for "huo" (fire) (火), "feng" for "hong" (红) (red), or "fa" for "hua" (花) (flower). Also, "fong" for "feng" (风)(wind) -- I wasn't even aware I did this until it was pointed out to me. Suzhou speakers don't seem to find this one particularly jarring.

Tone-wise, there are some Taiwan/mainland differences. I think I've "fixed" my xing1qi1/xing1qi2 (星期) (week) difference depending on where I am.

The one that kills is fa3/fa4 (髮/发) for "hair" and (fa4/fa3 法/法)for "France". I'm not especially keen on "fixing" these as I don't ever want to have to fix them back.

And vocabulary, mainland la1ji1(垃圾) (trash) and Taiwan le4se4 (I can't find the characters for these -- I haven't seen them for a long time, but they were rather complex and I thought would trigger a memory, but no -- "土 " + "巤"? for the first one?) need adjusting or you'll get incomprehension and "what if your face froze like that?' expressions. There may be some more of these that I've forgotten.

Anyway, you won't see me presenting the news on CCTV. [B)]
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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by holbuzvala » 21 Jun 2019 17:54

I learned Russian as a second language, but I had tended to transform most of my <и>s into <ы>s (which, I am told, makes me sound Ukrainian). Then I lived in Siberia, so I ended up leniting /k/ to /x/ at the end of unaccented final syllables (cf: tvarók -> tvórax), and having my unaccented <о> NOT drift into being like <а>, unlike in ‘standard’ Russian (cf: malakó -> molokó).

So my accent now is a weird mix of apparently-Ukrainian and Siberian.

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Re: "Neutral" accents in second languages

Post by Ser » 20 Jul 2019 17:40

Lao Kou wrote:
21 Feb 2019 15:06
The one that has persisted throughout since Nanchang is [f] for [h], I still often say "fuo" for "huo" (fire) (火), "feng" for "hong" (红) (red), or "fa" for "hua" (花) (flower). Also, "fong" for "feng" (风)(wind) -- I wasn't even aware I did this until it was pointed out to me. Suzhou speakers don't seem to find this one particularly jarring.
"fong" for "feng" is the standard pronunciation in Taiwan (as you might know).
Tone-wise, there are some Taiwan/mainland differences. I think I've "fixed" my xing1qi1/xing1qi2 (星期) (week) difference depending on where I am.

The one that kills is fa3/fa4 (髮/发) for "hair" and (fa4/fa3 法/法)for "France". I'm not especially keen on "fixing" these as I don't ever want to have to fix them back.

And vocabulary, mainland la1ji1(垃圾) (trash) and Taiwan le4se4 (I can't find the characters for these -- I haven't seen them for a long time, but they were rather complex and I thought would trigger a memory, but no -- "土 " + "巤"? for the first one?) need adjusting or you'll get incomprehension and "what if your face froze like that?' expressions. There may be some more of these that I've forgotten.
These pronunciation differences are the worst. I've had a Taiwanese girlfriend for the past year and have been getting endlessly corrected for my Mainland pronunciations. 突然 'suddenly' is not tu1ran2 but tu2ran2 (in Taiwan tu1ran2 exists but is a very colloquial variant), 差 'wrong' (the adjectival verb) is not cha4 but cha1, 參與 'participate (formal)' is not can1yu4 but can1yu3, 熟悉 'be familiar with' is not shu2xi(1) but shou2xi1, 口吃 'stutter' is not kou3chi1 but kou3ji2, 括號 'parentheses/brackets' is not kuo4hao4 but kua4hao4 unless you're speaking formally (then kuo4hao4 is good), 普遍 'common, widespread' is pu3bian4 but can also often be pu3pian4 colloquially...

The fun thing about 法 is that it's fa4 in Taiwan only when it means "France". In the senses of "law; manner" it's fa3 as in China.

Regarding "trash", this is not a difference in vocabulary, just pronunciation: le4se4 is how you pronounce 垃圾 in Taiwan (which is written the same in traditional characters). I think you were vaguely remembering 邋遢 'sloppy, careless (person)' (also "filthy (person/place)" if the speaker's L1 is Cantonese), which, by the way, is la1ta(1) in China but la2ta4 (formally) or la1ta4 (colloquially) in Taiwan (that's another one I've gotten corrected for).

A classic vocab difference would be the Taiwanese use of 痛 tong4 as a verb, 'to hurt'. They do not use 疼 teng2, although I can't help but wonder whether there was historically some confusion between these two similar words so that the former took over the latter. A more drastic difference would be Taiwan's 航廈 hang2xia4 (note: 廈 is sha4 in China) for "airport terminal" instead of China's 航站樓/航站楼 hang2zhan4lou2. The Taiwanese also use a fair number of words from Japanese, such as "CM" xi1em1 for 'advertisement' (from コマーシャルメッセージ komaasharu messeji, literally "commercial message", one of those made-up English words the Japanese use).

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