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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Accents English
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0106  Friday, 18 January 2002

[1]     From:   Kenneth Meaney <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 17:54:26 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 08:29:49 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 08:34:54 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[4]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:50:19 -0500
        Subj:   Accents English

[5]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 21:28:24 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[6]     From:   Mark Williams <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jan 2002 10:09:08 +1100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[7]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jan 2002 09:28:33 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

[8]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jan 2002 10:17:04 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Meaney <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 17:54:26 +0200
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

Sam Small writes,

>Graham Hall and Gabriel Egan refute my statement that Reith "invented"
>RP in the late 50s.  I remember seeing a black and white TV interview
>with the testy gentleman not long ago when he said with his own sonorous
>tone that he had instigated a change in the accent of newsreaders and
>presenters.  You argue with John Reith's spirit, I will not.  What you
>are misunderstanding is that Reith effectively redefined RP as the
>standard BBC broadcasting accent.  In short, what we know today as RP is
>his invention.

Reith was appointed General Manager of the British Broadcasting Company,
as it then was, in December 1922, two months after it had been
established.  Four years later, it became the British Broadcasting
Corporation in January 1926 and Reith became its first Director General.
He left the BBC in 1938, twenty years before Sam Small has him inventing
RP. It is true that the BBC _adopted_ RP as the standard accent for its
announcers and newsreaders, and I have no doubt that the social prestige
of RP at the time was an important factor, but so also was the
consideration that RP was an accent without any particular regional
association (within England). Its geographical distribution was wide (as
opposed to its class distribution), and so it would be likely to be
widely understood, even by those who did not speak it. It was, of
course, already the default actor's accent.

Sam Small also informs us that Shakespeare "certainly" spoke a "huge
range of Midland accents". That is truly impressive: most of us can only
manage one or two. And what does it mean to say that an accent goes
"wanting in the credibility stakes"?

We are all entitled to our linguistic prejudices, I suppose, but that's
all they are. Sam Small doesn't care for RP: I'm not keen on beetroot.

Ken Meaney
(non-RP speaker)
University of Joensuu, Finland

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 08:29:49 -0800
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

Does Sam Small try to believe two impossible things before breakfast
every morning?

>Reith effectively redefined RP as the
>standard BBC broadcasting accent.  In short, what we know today as RP is
>his invention.

Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 08:34:54 -0800
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

John V. Knapp,

Since Tony Harrison is alive, and his works under copyright, I doubt you
will find extensive quotations on the web.  Try consulting *Books in
Print.* Many of his books have been published by Faber and Faber and
Penguin.  He is one of only two living poets I read with much pleasure.

Happy hunting,
Mike Jensen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 13:50:19 -0500
Subject:        Accents English

As I understand it (via Gassner), accents and/or dialects were a part of
English drama from at least the Middle Ages; isn't Mak the sheep-rustler
in the Second Shepherd's Play a Londoner by accent?  I don't have the
book to hand, but I'm sure at least one or two characters in the Mystery
Cycles have distinct patterns of speech.  Which leads me to suspect that
Shakespeare would have been likely to follow in that tradition, with the
choice victims of caricature being any number of recognizable types
(welsh, proto-cockney?).

A tall tale:  an actor and good buddy of mine, David Harscheid, was part
of the 60's experiments with Shakespeare in England; once, he adopted
his native Kentuckian patois for a scene in R-II.  John Barton, as he
tells it, was in attendance.  When David and his buddies started
rhyming, Barton reportedly leapt out of his seat to have a look at the
script.  Which doesn't prove anything, necessarily, except that you'd be
amazed where a given piece of text might be a perfect
geographic/linguistic fit these days.

Andy White

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Jan 2002 21:28:24 -0000
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

David Evett writes,

> Barrie Rutter, the founding director of Northern Broadsides, could
> probably be accused of the kind of phonetic chauvinism with which
> Gabriel Egan taxes Sam Small: he's very proud of his dockside origins in
> 'Ull-and of his transit to featured actor at the RSC and National by way
> of membership in the cathedral choir and enrollment in the cathedral
> school.

No, I once asked him, and it's definitely just the latter. He's not
proud of his accent but is proud of his success in the face of prejudice
against it. (Is this distinction more difficult than I'm allowing?)

Of course, one might say (and he probably has said) "I'm proud of my
accent" when really meaning "I'm not ashamed of it", and we can all
allow that slight imprecision. Likewise, it would be absurd to really
mean "I'm proud to be a woman" or "I'm proud to be a man" as though one
had striven to achieve this genetic state. (The very few of us who have
so striven to achieve their sex, or indeed their accent, are of course
excepted.)

Gabriel Egan

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Williams <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jan 2002 10:09:08 +1100
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

A propos of David Lindley's reference to Middleton's "The Witch", I
produced that play with a student cast of actors at the University of
Melbourne about ten years ago.  The plot thickens and then resolves
itself with even more breathtaking speed than Shakespeare's comedies,
but off-stage we had a number of near misses and mild bad luck.  Does
anyone else have similar performance experience of The Witch?

I have always suspected that the unsettling sense of bad luck just
averted we experienced when producing The Witch arises out of its
relationship to the *Scottish Play* - indeed, could it be that the
Scottish play would not have such a reputation for bad luck if all the
elements of The Witch could be teased out of it?

Mark Williams

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jan 2002 09:28:33 +0800
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

Since John Knapp asked: half a dozen of Harrison's best poems are in the
Norton Eng. Lit., vol. 2.  Selected Poems -- which includes "Them &
[Uz]" -- is published by Penguin (available from Amazon US or UK); the
plays are published by Faber.

Harrison is widely regarded as about the best translator of classical
literature in English.  He did the text for Peter Hall's Oresteia back
in the '80s; he also did the adaptation for the National Theatre's
wonderful and recently revived production of The Mysteries.  He was
rumored, perhaps mischievously, to be up for Poet Laureate on the death
of Ted Hughes, but turned it down before it could be offered.

Arthur Lindley

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jan 2002 10:17:04 -0000
Subject: 13.0094 Re: Accents English
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0094 Re: Accents English

For those interested in English Renaissance music (and accent):

It is widely held that a "great vowel shift" occurred in later
seventeenth-century London, replacing a "broader" sound (more West
Country than Yorkshire, I would venture) with something we would
recognize as a "London" accent today. For good examples of what this
means for the performance of Renaissance songs, madrigals, etc., check
out the performances of the ensemble Red Byrd (especially of Orlando
Gibbons's work). These are easily accessible on CD: the budget-priced
label, Naxos, has a growing catalogue of early music which includes
several recordings of Red Byrd. They are 

 

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