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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Regional Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0436  Thursday, 11 May 2006

From: 		Donald Bloom <
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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?

Cheers,
don

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