What makes an accent an accent?
After seeing this article on the BBC recently, I started to wonder what really makes an accent.
The gist of the story, is that an American woman, despite having never been to the UK developed a British accent after suffering from a stroke. The article goes on to mention, albeit briefly, that she hadn't actually picked up a different accent, her speech patterns had changed instead due to the brain injury (causing pitch and pronunciation of sylllable changes).
Which brings me onto what I was going to say: that what we think of as an accent, is perhaps a combination of different things. So there is the way words sound for one, but also the way sentences are constructed, as well as slang words specific to a particular region or sub-culture.
For example, imagine a typical (as I live there) teenage South Londoner, talking to their friends. They probably talk quickly, and use lots of slang words, and of course, have an unmistakable London accent.
Compare that to, for example, another person from the same area, but this time a doctor maybe. The doctor, speaking to people from a variety of backgrounds and accents most likley uses few slang words, and speaks slower with more emphasis on enunciation of syllables, though again has a London accent, but this one is very different from that of the teenager.
So, what am I trying to say?, well, perhaps what we think of as an accent isn't really that accurate, maybe it's not really the way words are pronounced but more about how sentences are structured, and what slang words are used that makes the way, say, a teenager speaks remarkably different from the way a doctor speaks. Though both originate from the same area in the same region, they arguably have different 'accents', certainly in the way they are percieved by others at least.