May 19th, 2010

Llid Y Bledren Dymchwelyd

imitating varieties of your own language

I'm from the US and have become really fascinated with accents of English since starting university in the UK. It's not just hearing the differences between Brummies and Mancunians, but now noticing how I sound different from a Californian, or a Californian from a Michigander - things I never realized before.

So I do a degree in German, Spanish and French, and I'm generally good at pronouncing my foreign languages. But when it comes to imitating varieties of my own language - impossible. That's not to say my American accent hasn't been affected since living here, but I could not accurately reproduce any kind Welsh, English, Scottish or Irish English if my life depended on it. And that's all I hear 24/7; I have no American friends.

Accents often come up in conversation with friends, and the funny thing is, I can say not one of the people I know here can accurately do my accent either. I've spent entire evenings trying to get them just to say water like an American, and usually we just end up in stitches from a mutual failure to imitate each other's speech.

Which brings me to my point: how in the world do all the actors in all the films do it? With all the British actors pulling off flawless American, I thought maybe it was just something that this side of the pond was blessed with .. until I actually came here and found that the average attempt at American is just as painfully embarrassing  as an American's average attempt at anything British. Disregarding all the crappy English accents done by American actors and vice versa, does every actor just get accent coaching or what? I'd love to be able to do any kind of English or Welsh accent just for kicks, but without hundreds of dollar to spend for the kind of training actors get, how to you train your ear and mouth for different accents?
carry a towel


Hello dear linguaphiles.

There's a name Tamara. It's rather  common in Russia and pronounced something like Tam-uh-ruh.
If you could transliterate it for me and tell how it sounds in your native language, I'd be very grateful. I know that this name isn't rare in other languages. So maybe you can tell me some local variants. If it sounds and is spelled the same in your language,  please commen also.


sort of like speak and spell, but with extended IPA

So I'm currently working as a research assistant on a project that is like half engineering, half music, and a tiny tiny bit linguistics (that's why they hired me), and one of my tasks is to find a speech synthesis program for IPA that lets you create segmental speech, BUT, I also need to be able to include suprasegmental features (tone and stress especially) with it. Does anyone know of anything like that?

Either an independent application or a MATLAB toolbox would be awesome, thanks. I know it's sort of a long shot, but hey, science is a verb now.

Yiddish help needed

I don't know Hebrew and can't read Hebrew characters but I need to find out words commonly used for 'lettuce' and 'salad' in Yiddish. So if there is somebody who is into Yiddish and could latinise these two words for me I'll be very grateful. And if a reference to some reputable Yiddish dictionary could be provided on top of that you'll definitely make my day. TIA!
  • wosny

The changing meaning of words

In the eighteenth century the word rape meant to steal, or take without consent, as can be seen in the poem by Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, and only later did the sense of sexual violation become current. Today, my 13 year old son uses rape in a different way to mean scratched or ruined.
"I lent Guillaume my Modern Warfare game and when I got it back it was totally raped."
Is this a frequent modern usage, or is it only him?
You see I was wondering if his 'English but born in France' upbringing might mean that he was subconciously mixing it with the French word rapé meaning grated?

"Letter" in Japanese

I'm reading a book about language in Japanese and German chat-communication. The author is Japanese. Sometimes, when she explains how the communication works, she uses the word "letter". But the use is of this word looks a little bit strange to me. It's like the word "letter" in Japanese has a wider meaning as in German. Is that really so?