The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0436 Thursday, 11 May 2006
Date: Wednesday, 10 May 2006 12:02:51 -0500
Subject: Regional Accents
Some months ago, pursuant to a discussion of Shakespeare's comic
depiction of some accents, I asked a related question that got shuffled
aside in the ongoing discussion. I find, however, that I am still
interested in the question so I am putting again.
To what extent did the English aristocracy of Shakespeare's time display
regional accents associated with their titles? Is that where they were
always from? Is that what they would have learned from their parents (or
those who raised them)? Would they have learned some "correct"
pronunciation as commonly happened later?
Up through the time of the Conquest, of course, they would all speak
with their regional dialect. After that they would speak English (if
they knew any) with a Norman French accent. But by Chaucer's time, or a
bit before, they started speaking English as their first language-but
with what accent?
With the middle and lower classes, I presume, the question does not
arise. They learned English from their parents who were usually from the
same region. Shakespeare, for example, would have had a Warwickshire
accent. Ben Jonson a London one. Correct?
But what of the nobility? Was there a prestige accent that they would
have learned, especially if they wished to be important at court? Or not?
Does anybody have any knowledge of this matter? Or know of a good source
that I may be able to locate and consult?
And finally is there any connection to the plays? Has anyone noted any
regional accents beyond a few Welshmen and the Princess of France?
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