Friday, January 30, 2009

Question of the Day: 39.

Why do people have accents?

I know what most people would say: kids get accents through learning to talk by listening to their parents. I'm skeptical that "listening to parents" is how babies learn to talk; I talk all the time and all Mr F and Mr Bunches say so far is sha na na. Which in turn makes me think of that song Get a Job, by Sha Na Na, in which they say Sha na na na, sha na na na na -- and now you're humming that song, aren't you? -- and then I sing that song, and Mr Bunches will say sha na na back to me, so maybe, in some kind of Moebius-strip way, they are learning to talk from me.

But that's not the point. The point is, where did the accent start? Why would living in different regions of the world result in pronouncing words differently? Why is it a car if I live in Wisconsin and a "cah" if I live in Boston and however it is people in Ireland say "car?"

Oh, and the reason that some of these questions don't have answers? It's because there are people who answer questions the way this guy does: asked why people have accents, "Dr." Orville Jenkins says, and I quote, "Accents exist because people speak." (That "A" is from the original.)

Presumably, "Dr." Orville would say that people breath oxygen because they have lungs or people stand upright because they have legs. Or people say they are doctors because it's the Internet and nobody can prove them wrong.

"Dr." Orville's site is the first link you get when you google "Why do people have accents," and is the first reason I have for fearing for the future of human intelligence.

Question of the Day 38 here.

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