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The psychology of accents

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Have you ever been told you speak with an accent? Perhaps, to you, the person who asked that question was the one with the accent? Have you ever heard of "own-accent bias"? While you can't hear my accent as you read this, you are probably reading it in an accent familiar to you. This Braincraft video, along with this lesson, are intended to get you thinking about why and how accents exist within languages. 

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Let's consider the accent(s) that may or may not distinguish and endear Bostonians and New Yorkers. This Brainstuff podcast considers their origins. 

This website shows how there are 8 significant dialects of English being spoken in North America. Warning: Lots of information here: http://aschmann.net/AmEng/

Did you know that people with accents can experience bias based solely on the way in which they pronounce their words? In his 2016 TED Talk, Safwat Saleem shares why he keeps speaking up. In his talk, Saleem challenges the assumptions and biases that exist in people when they hear accents that are different than their own. 

An article in Scientific American - Why the Brain Doubts a Foreign Accent tries to explain that the reasons behind accent discrimination are not only a function of intolerance or racism, but that cognitive fluency compounds a speakers chances of being believed. (BTW this article mentions the Giraffe Question from the video.)

The title of this article says it all: Why So Many Movie Villains Have British Accents

Did you ever wonder why we can't really make out accents when we're listening to music? It is not always noticeable when music and lyrics are blaring at full blast. However, did you know that some artists ditch their accents intentionally while others don't
Let's talk. As I mentioned at the start of this lesson, you can't hear my accent or lack thereof while you read. Whether I have one or you do, the point is that language is only made better by its subtle and regional differences. There is nothing like a Buffalo, New York accent. As I live and teach in Canada, I am privileged to be near one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, Toronto. I love listening to the variety in all of the voices represented in our communities. And then there's the Rock, not the actor, but the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador where the accents and vocabulary can be difficult to understand at first. It is so unique, they even have their own Newfoundland English dictionary. Have fun. I hope you enjoyed this lesson! 
Avatar for Will Gourley
Lesson Creator
Markham, Ontario, Canada
It seems hard to fathom that there are still issues of accent bias and discrimination in our world. There is a richness and beauty in the inflections and dialects that identify our home tongue and region. Please feel free to share your thoughts or stories of accent bias. Did you experience it first hand? Have you ever witnessed it happening? What can be done to change the minds of people who are perpetuating such negative attitudes?
02/08/2018 • 
 4 Responses
 / 4 Updates
In this discussion share your favourite or most hated evil-doers with accents from movies and television. Explain why?
02/08/2018 • 
 1 Response
 / 1 Updates
At the end of the video the idea of a universal language was mentioned and some Emojis popped up on the screen. Do you think that language is evolving in that direction? Have you noticed how some languages are adopting English words into their lexicons?
02/08/2018 • 
 4 Responses
 / 4 Updates

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