Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

George Mason University Speech Accent Archive 191

Posted by michael
from the y'all-come-back-now,-hear? dept.
JT Olds writes "Apparently George Mason University is running a project to document differences in speech and accents from different backgrounds and the like. They have a paragraph that 306 sample readers have read and recorded, and all of these sound files are categorized by background, gender, age, and other things. They say that this is primarily for teaching and learning, and is especially useful for any linguists out there, but I just thought it was cool. The sound bytes are released under the Creative Commons license. Of course, the Google cache of the main frame is here. As a side note, I did get the link to this from Penny Arcade's Jerry Holkins."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

George Mason University Speech Accent Archive

Comments Filter:
  • What??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by pytsun (765818) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:09AM (#8694740)
    No cockney support? Insensitive clods...
  • by dotwaffle (610149) <slashdot.walster@org> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:10AM (#8694742) Homepage
    It's nice they named a University after him, after all, he did save Jack Bauer's life by swapping seats on the plane with the nuke...
  • by after (669640) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:12AM (#8694748) Journal
    We were just talking about how the British English language was the true "natural" English language, all other derived languages that were English with an accent. For example, If I (a person who lives in America and speaks US English; no born American (thank goodness)) were to go to England and converse with an Englishman; who would have the accent, me or him? The obvious answer, as a lot of Americans fail to realize, is me.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Have you even been to the UK? There are a LOT of different accents there :)
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:30AM (#8694783)
      Yes but why is British english considered the true english? because England is the most important country in the world, or because english originates from there?

      If you think it's the former, then since Britain isn't the great empire she once was, and is only just a regular country these days, then you could consider US english as being the "root" english language.

      If you think it's the latter, then one could also consider than english, which is a normand anglo-saxon tongue, originated either from Saxony (in Germany) or Normandy (in France) and therefore is itself an accented version of these languages.

      What I'm saying is, every language is the derivate of something else, it all depends on your point of view. And what's more, within the UK and the US, there are great variations of accents, so I'm not sure it means anything to say "british english is true english".

      Perhaps if someone could come up with a "reasonable average" of the lingo, then that would be the true english...
    • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:32AM (#8694786)
      I believe the correct answer is both. Everyone has an accent. An accent is the part of speech which is neither specific to an individual or to the language. It varies by region, background, or time period. If you were to go back to the Old English days (there is no "single" English language as it has evolved over time) it is unlikely that anyone would understand you. The same for the Brits.

      Maybe the question you meant was which is closer to "correct". If you consider correct to be closer to the root of the evolutionary language tree then the Brittish are probably closer since the Americans' language changed more quickly since the split.
      • Maybe the question you meant was which is closer to "correct". If you consider correct to be closer to the root of the evolutionary language tree then the Brittish are probably closer since the Americans' language changed more quickly since the split.

        Is that an assumption on your part? I thought it was the language in the satellite countries that changed the least. And the language in the original country that changed and evolved the most.

        • Re:Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tverbeek (457094)
          I thought it was the language in the satellite countries that changed the least. And the language in the original country that changed and evolved the most.

          One thing that has pushed the evolution of American English (more so than British) is the ongoing influx of non-native speakers adopting it. Britain has had immigrants of its own since the American colonies were created, to be sure, but particularly since that nasty split with the British, American English has been spoken more by former Africans, Germa

        • Re:Actually... (Score:3, Interesting)

          I thought it was the language in the satellite countries that changed the least.

          I've heard this before too. One key example that comes to mind is Icelandic. Both modern Norwegian and Icelandic are largely decended from Old Norse, which of course was spoken in what is now Norway. A long time ago, some people from there went off to settle in Iceland. Interestingly, the language as spoken in modern Iceland is much more similar to Old Norse than Norwegian is to it. I think the usual explanation given is

          • You might be thinking of that acto some linguists, the "southern hill accent" or "southern drawl" of the Kentucky/Tennesee/Virginia region is more akin to a typical Shakespearean era accent than any other living English accent.

      • by real gumby (11516) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:19PM (#8696515)
        In English there isn't an official accent (BBC "Received English" notwithstanding). Other languages have different conventions.

        For example, German. There is an official "High German" (Hochdeutch) that is learned in school and is considered "correct." Other dialects, of which there are many of course, are considered "nonstandard." This is more than just a Texan being proud of speaking Texan, they are really considered different. Someone who speaks Hochdeutch natively (there are a small number) are considered by others to have "no accent."

        Remember: this is a language that standardises its spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation and comma usage by international treaty. Making one accent official is comparatively speaking, trivial.

        As a native english speaker myself, I find this all all a bit berserk. But other people, other ways.
    • Of course, what area of england do you want to be the "original"? You want a london accent? Posh southerner? Northern English? Glaswegian?

      The accents across england, imo, are extremely varied -- as much as the differneces between american and australian for example. Of course, this is coming from an american who only spent 4 months over there but take it as you will.
      • Glaswegian?

        Err, last time I checked Glasgow was in Scotland, not England. I suspect that you may be about to learn the phrase "Stitch that, Jimmy!" from our Scottish brethren who are less understanding...
        • by shepd (155729)
          >Err, last time I checked Glasgow was in Scotland, not England.

          True, but you'd ever been to Cumbria [jpb.co.uk], you'd understand why an American would easily get confused.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:08AM (#8694872)


      > We were just talking about how the British English language was the true "natural" English language, all other derived languages that were English with an accent. For example, If I (a person who lives in America and speaks US English; no born American (thank goodness)) were to go to England and converse with an Englishman; who would have the accent, me or him? The obvious answer, as a lot of Americans fail to realize, is me.

      Maybe not. It's a curious but well-known phenomenon in dialectology that peripherial/frontier dialects tend to be conservative while innovations accumulate more rapidly in the core areas. IIRC, scholars study the isolated communities on the islands along the US Atlantic coast to see what Shakespeare's actors would have sounded like.

      • from last i heard (royal shakespeare company interview i believe), they would have sounded like irish pirates or some such... i heard a couple of the company doing a dialogue like that, and it was really strange...
      • Well, you could argue that accent change is a kind of meme propagation, and new memes propagate much faster in (densely-populated) core areas than in (sparsely-populated) peripheral/frontier areas. Rather like the extreme vagaries of fashion being primarily urban rather than rural.

        No idea whether that's the real explanation, but the phenomenon you describe doesn't sound all that curious.

        Incidentally, the Shakespeare's Globe theatre here in London is doing a couple of "original pronunciation" performance

      • by orthogonal (588627) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:09AM (#8695094) Journal
        Maybe not. It's a curious but well-known phenomenon in dialectology that peripheral/frontier dialects tend to be conservative [i.e., less changing] while innovations accumulate more rapidly in the core areas

        Also true in genetics, where's it's called Founder's Effect.

        It's not that difficult to understand. Assume that in one year 1 person in X comes up with a language innovation -- a new word, a new way of pronouncing a word, an idiom, whatever. Or sate in another (but equivalent) way: assume that a language innovation happens on average every X person-years. Also assume that the innovation spreads with some frequency to persons who hear it.

        Then then more people interacting in a place, the more innovation you'll have. More people will be present in core areas, fewer in peripheral or frontier areas.

        And every time someone leaves an area for a previously unsettled area, that person will take with him his knowledge of the language as it currently exists in that area, like a snapshot -- but once settled in the new area, the smaller settling population will generate less innovation, causing language change to slow in the newly settled area.

        In genetics, Founder's Effect of course refers to genes (and alleles): if a small group branches off from a larger group to settle a new area, all alleles/traits present in the larger group may not be represented in the settlers, or represented in the same frequency. What was a rare trait, (e.g., blue eyes) in the larger group might not be so rare in the smaller group.

        Indeed, physical separation of groups of animals of the same species, as by geographical barriers, is though to be one of the main causes of speciation, where one species splits into two.

        Interestingly, there are a number of parallels between genetic distribution over space and language transmission over space. Of course, we should remember that we get our genes exclusively from our parents, but our language from peers as well as parents.
      • IIRC, scholars study the isolated communities on the islands along the US Atlantic coast to see what Shakespeare's actors would have sounded like.

        As a child in the South in the Forties, I was taught that we were speaking essentially pure Elizabethan English and every other form was a corruption. My linguist uncle, OTOH, says that the true story is that children of colonial farmers, isolated from other white children by the sparsity of the population, were each given a slave child to play with...with the o

        • > As a child in the South in the Forties, I was taught that we were speaking essentially pure Elizabethan English and every other form was a corruption. My linguist uncle, OTOH, says that the true story is that children of colonial farmers, isolated from other white children by the sparsity of the population, were each given a slave child to play with...with the obvious linguistic outcome.

          I don't know about your uncle's explanation of the mechanism, but the suggested outcome is certainly correct. When

      • It wouldn't surprise me to find that accents varied more throughout the UK than in any other comparable area -- from the various Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents, to the distinctive accents around Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Cornwall, the Home Counties, the Estuary (which is where I am). It's a wonder we can still understand each other (most of the time!).

        As to the 'original' accent, I remember reading that the area whose accent has changed least since Chaucerian times is the north-east of England

    • by zsau (266209) <{slashdot} {at} {thecartographers.net}> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:27AM (#8694911) Homepage Journal
      Actually, that's not true. Obviously if you went to England, you'd have an accent. But there's a lot of different accents in England. Even in the city of London there's at least three native accents (Cockney, Estuary and Received). But that's not what I'm getting at.

      British English isn't the 'true "natural" English language'. In some ways, American English is more conservative than British English; American retains the flat a in words like 'fast' and 'pass' (so 'pass' and 'mass' rhyme), whereas in southern British English they've become the broad a. Most American dialects have retained the rhotic in almost all positions (and where it's been lost---words like 'ass' (from arse) and 'bust' (from burst)---the r is no longer written, left no trace, and the resultant word is generally distinct), but in almost all English English dialects I've heard (I'm Aussie), it's gone. Of course, British English is more conservative in other ways---it retains a three-way distinction between father/bother and cot/caught, for instance. (In everything here, Australian follows British. Sometimes Australian follows American. Sometimes Australian is original or shares changes with the other Southern Hemispherean Englishes.)

      British English is no truer an english then any english. Just because the name of the language is the same as the adjective for things that come from England (and the name of the people from there, too) doesn't mean the English have any particular claim to English any more. Especially because there's probably as much variation in English English as there is in World English.
      • Considering that English comes from England, I'd say that the English do indeed have a better claim to the name. If American settlers, who brought the language with them had kept the language the same (obviously an impossibility - not the way language works), then it might be reasonable to consider it just a dialect, but the way they are diverging I'd say "American English" is best (and presumably it'll eventually become a different language, unless global communications means that the time of new language
        • Don't tell me that English in England should be called "British English"... we don't refer to "French French" just because some Canadians speak it too.

          No, but we might call it "Southern French", "Parisian French", "Norman French", "Provencal French", etc. :)

          French is an unusual case in linguistics, however, as the people who live where it originated are (at least officially) trying very hard to keep it from evolving naturally.

        • Considering that English comes from England, I'd say that the English do indeed have a better claim to the name.

          There has never, ever been an English language. If you pick up untranslated copies of Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knights, two works composed more or less contemporaneously, you'll find that they're barely even the same language. Chaucer happens to be easier to read because he wrote in the London dialect, whereas Anonymous lived out in the boonies. Does that mean Chaucer has a
      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @11:27AM (#8695639)
        Interesting point. I always thought that American English was not per se "truer" but had fewer pronounced variations in a given area than British English.

        Of course that's not to say that American English doesn't have variations (Southern drawl, New England, Bronx, etc), but I think there's less variation in all of Texas than there is in the city of London.

        Part of this is that the US is younger and part of it is that the US grew up in a time of mass communication. Although variations have appeared, with recorded media, at least people know that they exist. Otherwise isolation from different regions would have made the phonetic variations more pronounced and widespread.

        Chinese has many dialects due to it's several thousand years of existence, and they don't sound anything alike. Chinese people can't talk to other Chinese person if they don't speak the same dialect. Whereas Spanish and Italians can converse with a bit of work because most of the phonetics and grammar are still the same.

        • Well, mass communication has an affect, but of course it doesn't stop changes. Australian English continues to diverge from American even though the majority of our television is American. Indeed, Australian English is beginning to show regional variations (in the last twenty years, for instance, younger people in Victoria have begun pronouncing a short e as a short a before l, so that 'celery' and 'salary' are homophones). Australian English has long been held as an interesting dialect because so few speec
      • Interesting about words like ass/arse. One hardly ever hears "arse" in the U.S.

        Maybe related -- I've always tended to say "warsh" instead of "wash". My mom (Norwegian ancestry) says "wash", but my dad (Scot/Irish/English) said "warsh", and my mom swears I inherited it from him. (But my mom's sister also says "warsh", so the "surplus R gene" is clearly present in both families :) It doesn't seem to be environmental, as my sister says "wash" just like my mom, and we went to all the same schools. I do wonder
        • Yeah... 'ass' totally replaced 'arse' in the US. It's been borrowed into Australia, but 'arse' is commoner. A word I read online from Americans every now-and-again which is never used in Australia is 'cuss', meaning 'curse'. It has the same origin. ('Bust', OTOH, has spread throughout the world, or at least to Australia.) This sound change happened in America and England, so there are some English who say 'ass', but it mostly the later r-dropping (which changes the sound of the vowel) became standard.

          As to
          • Wash vs Warsh -- what I was getting at was that certain mouth structures may make a certain accent easier or more natural-feeling to pronounce. Now that I'm thinking about it -- among the people I know say one or the other, "warsh" seems to go with a narrower jawline. Might be that unwitting selection toward some particular physical trait influences which accents survive and develop, and which die out. Follows that a thoroughly mixed gene pool is less likely to have/develop/keep 'em. Of course, it'd be damn


            • I betcha it's just habit and coincidence and nothing to do with biology.

              I've seen films made in Australia where all sorts of accents were to be heard, from pretty close to generic American or "British light", to "you're from WHERE??" Well, Australia is a big country too :)

              No. Australia's accent variation has typically been whether you say 'carsel' or 'cassel' for 'castle', or 'grarf' or 'graff' for 'graph' (as well as country folk using broad accents, which are kinda close to Hollywood Australian). So
    • by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGrego[ ... t ['ryP' in gap]> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @08:02AM (#8694964) Homepage
      If I (a person who lives in America and speaks US English; no born American (thank goodness)) were to go to England and converse with an Englishman; who would have the accent, me or him? The obvious answer, as a lot of Americans fail to realize, is me.

      As someone who moved from the US to the UK [colingregorypalmer.net], let me tell you that the British people here don't consider the language I speak to be English. It's American, and I better not forget it. : )
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Just out of curiosity:

        When Dick van Dyke adopted a "cockney" accent in Mary Poppins, he was beloved by Americans but panned by the English. Yet most people didn't realize that Monty Python's Terry Gilliam wasn't English and that his accent wasn't natural, or if they did, they didn't hold it against him. For years, I thought Peter Jennings, who was based in London for ABC news for many years, was British because he spoke with an accent at that time.

        If you adopted an English accent,

        a) Would the British
        • I don't think its offensive to adopt or imitate an accent...as long as you do it WELL.
          If you adopt my accent well enough, then I won't see it as faking my accent, I'll see it as losing your accent, and the extent to which I see it as losing your accent depends on how well you adopt mine.
          However, if your attempt at adopting my accent is based on cliches and generalisations of what my accent sounds like, then it will sound wrong to me, and probably be offensive, as it will seem like you're making fun of it.
          I
    • But then again, there are many different British accents. And British English is a evolved version of Old English. So none of us are speaking true and natural English. Such is the nature of language and progress.
      • Well, almost by definition ALL variants of English have evolved from Old English, including American, Canadian, English, South African, Australian, etc. Old English certainly has no monopoly on "true and natural" English either. If anything, all native speakers of English speak "true and natural English".
    • Sure - there is no 'high/pure language' outthere. Everything else is linugistics aristocracy. The archive is an example of the great variety among L2 English speakers (those who didn't acquire the language 'naturally' before the age of about 13). However, the meta-data about the speakers collected seems somewhat insufficient, and if you would actually want to use the corpus scientifically, you would want a greater consistency among the samples: only people that haven't lived outside of their original regi
    • If I (a person who lives in America and speaks US English; no born American (thank goodness)) were to go to England and converse with an Englishman; who would have the accent, me or him? The obvious answer, as a lot of Americans fail to realize, is me.

      I shared a flat with 5 UK citizens while at university in Scotland. We all had accents. There was a Glaswegian accent, a northern highlands accent, a Mancunian accent (i.e. Manchester), a Birmingham(?)-by-way-of-Australia accent, an East London accent, an

    • We were just talking about how the British English language was the true "natural" English language, all other derived languages that were English with an accent.

      The problem with this analysis is that American English started to diverge from the mother tongue at a point when British English didn't sound a thing like modern British English. In fact, there are linguists who think the Southern accent sounds closest to how people spoke in the Elizabethan era -- which means Shakespeare should properly be perfo
    • I've read that Canada is considered the best country to learn English in because it doesn't vary much across the country*, it sounds enough like American to avoid prejudice, and it is the easiest to understand by other English speakers. (Does anyone know if it's the case that a Texan and a Scot will understand a Ontarian better than each other?) I wonder if it also has something to do with not covering up other accents, for example Europeans who learned English from Brits have a hybrid accent (eg: actor Fre
    • (a person who lives in America and speaks US English; no born American (thank goodness))

      If you don't like Americans, what are you doing here, you insolent swine?

      -ccm

      (PS. Before you reply, you should know that I was born in England, and thank my lucky stars that I am now an American citizen.)

  • I think I just found a great tool for my role playing game ...
    • I like role playing, too. I'm German (and native German speaker), I've spent some time in the U.S. when I was around 16-17, now, at the age of 26, I've been living in Ireland. Most people will know that the Irish accents are pretty distinctive (non-linguistics might say that every sentence sounds a bit like a complaint). I have found that most Americans that I talk to guess that I am Irish, or at least they say that I have an Irish accent. Most Irish people say that my accent is American. A couple of mont
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (drawocsuomynorieh)> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:18AM (#8694765) Journal
    Getting speakers of English as a foreign language to repeat a standard English phrase. It's highly unlikely that this produces accents in the sense of two speakers of the same language would recognise. I.e. would a Flemish Dutch speaker recognise the accent of a Dutch speaker from Amsterdam when mangled through an English phrase? Somehow, I don't think so.

    It might be useful for tracing people's origins when they are in an Anglosaxon country. But you might as well just ask them.

    What would be more useful, perhaps, is a study of the relative differences in accents between native speakers of the "same" language, and how these differences come about.
    • I don't know about local Dutch accents, but I can recognize various German accents even when the people are speaking English. I can also recognize most other European language speakers when they are speaking English, although it gets a little harder when the languages are similar and I don't speak them myself. But I guess as soon as you speak a language yourself and can recognize diffenernt dialects in that language, you will also be able to recognize them when the people speak a foreign language.
      If you eve
      • I can recognize various German accents even when the people are speaking English

        I can't recognize southern France accents through english. It's very well known that the "singing" rolling accents found in the south of France just isn't compatible with pronouncing english properly, so either someone from there will speak english so badly you won't get a word of it, or he'll speak english properly and his native french accent will be filtered out by his very act of speaking english.

        It's just harder to learn
        • Sure if they have been studying English for a long time and lived in an English speaking country, most people (especially if they were still relatively young when they learned the language) will adapt to the accent they hear every day. I have even met some Americans that lived in England for a long time who have a British accent.
          When I talked about recognizing the native language accent, I was talking about people who learned English in high school and haven't spent much time in an English speaking country.
        • I can't recognize southern France accents through english. It's very well known that the "singing" rolling accents found in the south of France just isn't compatible with pronouncing english properly, so either someone from there will speak english so badly you won't get a word of it, or he'll speak english properly and his native french accent will be filtered out by his very act of speaking english.

          "He had a minkey."

          (obligatory Clouseau quote)

      • I don't know about local Dutch accents, but I can recognize various German accents even when the people are speaking English

        I have to agree here with recognizing German accents in English--at least the more major variants. I'm a native English speaker, but I can instantly recognize if somebody is Swiss or Austrian or German based on the way they speak English. At a finer level though, it seems to get more difficult, especially since regional variation in English education tends to have a larger impact.

    • by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:58AM (#8694960) Homepage Journal

      Getting speakers of English as a foreign language to repeat a standard English phrase. It's highly unlikely that this produces accents in the sense of two speakers of the same language would recognise. I.e. would a Flemish Dutch speaker recognise the accent of a Dutch speaker from Amsterdam when mangled through an English phrase? Somehow, I don't think so.

      Probably not, for the same reason kids don't understand you when you baby-talk them. With kids, they hear the word the way the adults say it, presumably correctly. Then they speak it in their "I'm still learning to talk" accent. So I might say "later", but my daughter will say "waiter". I understand her because I've been hearing her trying to talk, and she understands me because it's my speech she's trying to emulate. But if I say "waiter" when I mean "later", she'll be confused.

      Mind you, she knows that she's not perfectly emulating my speech, and she tries everyday to speak a little more clearly. This is the reason you don't baby-talk kids, and you don't imitate a foreign-speaker's accent when you talk to them. They won't learn the correct speech (assuming you're speaking it 'correctly', whatever that is), and most importantly for the foreign-speaker, they won't understand you. (It's less important that the kid understand you and more important that they hear the word correctly. Understanding will come with time, but breaking an accent you imposed on them will be very difficult, if not impossible) Also, mind you, it's perfectly ok to limit your vocabulary to theirs, if necessary, to get your message across. But in neither case will the person's vocabulary expand when you do that, so unless you're trying to say something of grave importance ("Your house is on fire! Call 9-1-1!"), you're better off going ahead and taking the time to teach the new vocabulary. :)

    • Would a Flemish Dutch speaker recognise the accent of a Dutch speaker from Amsterdam when mangled through an English phrase?

      Sure. Why not? I'm an American who's been living in Paris for several months, and I've noticed the following things:
      • As an anglophone, it is easier for me to understand other anglophones speaking French than a francophone speaking French.
      • As an American, I can tell the difference between an American, a Briton and a German speaking French.
      • As a Southerner, I can tell the difference be
      • weird... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tuxette (731067) *
        ...I'm an anglophone in Norway, it's easier for me to understand Norwegians speaking Norwegian than anglophones speaking Norwegian.

        I concur on your second point. I've never tried the third one, as I don't hang out with any of the American expats here, and even if I did they would want to speak English, not Norwegian.

    • would a Flemish Dutch speaker recognise the accent of a Dutch speaker from Amsterdam when mangled through an English phrase?

      I can answer the question in terms of Indian English. As an Indian who speaks English but not as a "mother" tongue, I've always been able to recognise the respective mother tongues of other Indians through English; that is, not that difficult to differentiate between English as spoken by a native Tamil speaker, and that spoken by, say, a native Hindi speaker (even if I don't neces

    • I think one could figure out which movies and tv shows get repeated over and over in a certain country just by listening to these samples. I don't think it would be very hard to find out someone is a big fan of Steve the Corcodile Hunter...

      For people living in non-english speaking countries, TV and music are probably the only sources of spoken english, so they tend to copy the accents.

    • Puts me in mind of a fascinating encounter a couple of years ago, when my wife and I were riding a train from Paris to Tours. A young woman in front of us heard us speaking English, turned around and asked where in the States we were from, and that started a long conversation.

      Her English was puzzling: grammatically flawless, French-accented, but with another accent mixed in that I just couldn't identify. It suddenly became forehead-slapping clear when we found she was on her way home from a year of teachi

  • Problems with study (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0x0d0a (568518) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:19AM (#8694766) Journal
    This is a really wonderful idea. However, I worry that it has a copule significant problems for researchers. First, for computer analysis work, a paragraph is likely too short to be useful. It can take a *lot* of audio data to make up for one-time variations. Second, cleanliness of the recording. Since anyone can submit a recording, not only will the recording environments and devices differ, but it is unlikely that any recordings will be made in the kind of studio-quality or lab-quality environment that would make these most useful for analysis work.

    I'm not a speech synth/recognition researcher, but I do know that generally, for speech research, much stricter constraints are placed on audio being acquired. The extreme variety of the site is nice, but I'm not sure that it outweighs the drawbacks.
    • by bziman (223162)
      As a linguistics student at George Mason University and having used this system, I know that the people who developed this project took great care to make sure that the "paragraph" represents all of the phonemes in the English language. It is therefore a good representation (maybe not perfect, but good). Furthermore, each speaker is made to repeat the phrase three times. And the audio is of sufficient quality for analysis -- at least for research in my graduate English phonetics class last year.
    • Why the hell is it that every time there is some cool semi-scientific article on /., all the nitpicky people come out to play? Can you appreciate anything without whining and complaining? "Excuse me sir, this gold bar is too shiny, a real gold bar should be semi dull!" I did not read anywhere on the link where it said "this is an extremely scientific study, and we are stuffy, serious scientists". It looks to me like they are saying "here are a bunch of people from different countries reading this paragraph
  • Hmmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ziggy_zero (462010) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:19AM (#8694767)
    When I found this site a few days ago (linked on Penny Arcade), one of the first things that came to mind was how useful it could be to an actor who has to learn how to do a certain accent. In some of the more common accents they even have a list of rules on how most speakers of that other language speak (e.g. many Japanese speakers reverse their R's and L's).
    • Japanese people don't REVERSE L and R, they just can't pronounce L at all. A lot of people (stupid people) imitating japanese accents reverse the l an r because they think it sounds japanese. It doesn't. It's justs stupid. BTW, they call it "Engrish" because they just can't say "English." Its just like how I cannot roll my R's no matter how hard I try. Thus, when I speak Spanish, I sound funny when saying words containing rr. If you want proof of this, just look on any Japanese Katakana or Hirigana chart.
      • by Senjutsu (614542) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:53AM (#8694841)
        Japanese people don't REVERSE L and R, they just can't pronounce L at all.

        This is not particularly correct. Japanese has neither an R nor an L; it has a sound that stands somewhere roughly between the two (whether or not it sounds more like an R or an L depends on the exact speaker, their particular regional accent, and to a certain extent, their gender). And while Japanese speakers of English do not always or even consistently reverse the two consonants, as a consequence of growing up in an environment where the two sounds were conflated, they often have trouble distinguishing the two and have trouble remembering which tongue positioning they should be using for a particular word. Hence it is not uncommon to hear a native Japanese speaker produce an R instead of an L, or vice-versa, in English.

        If you want proof of this, just look on any Japanese Katakana or Hirigana chart. These contain all the phonetic sounds in the Japanese language. notice there is no L.

        That proves nothing, as Katakana and Hiragana charts contain neither Rs nor Ls; they contain, by definition, Katakana and Hiragana. On an English translation (and the key word here is "translation", as in close approximation of the sounds in english) of the (ra ri ru re ro) portion of the charts they are often presented as R sounds (as this is what they tend to sound like, especially when produced by male speakers in the standard accent), but it is not truly an R (or L sound), as the tounge is at a different position with respect to the upper teeth, and it shares elements in common with the R, L (and to a certain extent D) sounds.
      • I can relate to your inability to pronounce a Spanish RR, because I have a hard time with it as well. But sometimes I pull it off effectively, and I've had classmates who routinely nail it. What it sometimes takes is speech therapy (the same kinds of techniques used to teach kids not to talk like Elmer Fudd or Sylvester the cat), but it's certainly not a matter of "can't".

        With Japanese speakers and the English L and R sounds, it can be a combination of not hearing the difference and not being able to pr

    • Re:Hmmmmm (Score:3, Informative)

      by mocm (141920)
      They don't reverse them, they only have one sound for l and r which lies between the two sounds. Naturally it is difficult for them to even distinguish the sounds and even more difficult to speak them.
      It is like the French U which English speakers never get right because they don't even realize the difference (rue is not pronounced like roo, it is like the German u (that should be \"u, but no Umlaut in /.).
    • (e.g. many Japanese speakers reverse their R's and L's).

      Not quite. They tend to use a (single) sound that we Engish speakers hear as an R when they want L and an L when they want R; we're hearing the differences, not the similarities. Same with some European dialects that sound like they're mixing up V and W: In fact, they're using one sound in between V and W for both.
  • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot AT monkelectric DOT com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:23AM (#8694773)
    Actors/voice actors have "dialect tapes" which they study to learn accents. I have a few and generally they start by giving vowel substitutions, common phrases and syntax, and then move on to insanely boring phrases you must repeat while trying to copy their accents and inflections.
    • I'm an actor, I've used the dialect tapes. I find them rather difficult to learn from, because it's hard for you to hear the subtle differences between what you're saying and what you're hearing.

      I teach juggling, too, and it's much the same way. Both really require an expert eye/ear to tell you what you're doing wrong. Some people are gifted and can pick it up without help, but most of what I hear from people using dialect tapes comes across as bad parody.
  • Quicktime!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by barcodez (580516)
    Great they are all encoded in a proprietary format :(.
    Anyone know how to get quicktime working in Firefox on Linux (Gentoo)?
    • Re:Quicktime!? (Score:3, Informative)

      by barcodez (580516)
      Just to answer my own question # emerge mplayerplug-in Looks like I saved myself the 1000 and half my deskspace :p
    • Re:Quicktime!? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No they are not ... :P

      They use standart quicktime files with imapcm audio ... mplayer could play them forever and anything gstreamer based should too . You don't even need any binary codecs for them..

      get mozplugger or that mplayer plugin for your browser
  • Accents (Score:3, Funny)

    by ozbird (127571) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:45AM (#8694822)
    They say that the first accent was a grave [wikipedia.org] mistake...
  • by NemesisStar (619232) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:11AM (#8694880)
    And while there I saw a chalkboard outside a cornerstore with a joke on it:

    A foreigner was at a sheep farm watching them shear the wool off the sheep. Knowing a better way he said "Here, let me show you how to shear your sheep"

    The Kiwi replied "I'm not shearing with anybody!"

    Never let it be said that Kiwi's don't know how to laugh at themselves! (and for this instance we'll forgive them their rediculous accents ;))
  • Bork bork bork... (Score:3, Informative)

    by hefa (133288) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:26AM (#8694909)
    This stuff is cool, IMHO. In case anyone's interested, here's the Swedish version of the concept: http://swedia.ling.umu.se/

    In SweDia you can listen to 100 Swedish dialects recorded 1998-2000. Hurty flurty schnipp schnipp!
  • Nintendo sues "George Mason University" for their "Speech Accent Archive", saying that the university is guilty of trademark infringment on nintendo's patented "Hellooo it's meeee Marrrrrioooo " and that they're trying to take advantage of the copyrighted italian accent in their work...
  • by TTL0 (546351) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @08:03AM (#8694965)
    The Collection won't be complete w/ out Father Guido Sarducci [earthlink.net] Or the Jive Guys [wavlist.com] from Airplane [imdb.com]
  • They missed quite a few accents.

    Bill Shatner
    Christopher Walken
    Dana Carvey's Ross Perot
    James Stewart

  • due to moving around the states... So, am I unique, or just a mutt?
  • by johnwbyrd (251699) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @11:46AM (#8695737) Homepage
    The IDEA archive [ukans.edu] has a far more complete collection of accents and voice samples. Excellent source material for geeks who work in film, TV or theater.
  • Surely this would make good reference material for voice recognition systems?
  • They need to sample the New Orleans (Nawlins) taxi radio chatter. It's like a peat bog crammed with living fossils of American history.
  • Listening to a dozen of so (Tagalog, Indonesian, French, German, Danish, Dutch, Russian, etc.), I'd say these aren't exactly representative of typical accented English of this native speakers. Most are of people who are pretty multilingual from an unusually early age.

    Still if you listen hard and know the accents already you can almost imagine what the real versions sound like. I hope they continue to gather a more realistic sampling.

  • I'll give them a sober one, which is a very strange blend of a deep South Texas accent, Nawlins ( New Orleans to all yall ), and a bit of Australian picked up off of one of my best friends and some co-workers who happen to be from there. Accent, syntax, etc. is a total muddle of the three ( shit, trying saying Zed for Z in the US, noone knows what the fsck you're talking about ).

    Of course, get me drunk and I'm a prime candidate for a remake of Hee-Haw. If you're not a Southerner, and I'm drunk, good lu
  • Pirates ? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ultranova (717540) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @05:58PM (#8697870)

    Does the study show if software pirates say "arr" more often than other people ?

  • I think accents are getting increasingly homologized as time passes and broad-audience sound-enabled media increases its hold on damned near everybody. Regional dialects and accens are disappearing as a result.

    My father grew up about twenty miles from where Strom Thurmond was born, and I about twenty miles from there. But after I've been in deep conversation with non-Southerners, you would never know I was from the South unless you caught a particular turn of phrase. My father has a gentle lowland draw

  • For some reason I have a very strong urge to go watch "A Streetcare Named Desire" right now, or failing that, "Oh Streetcar"

If this is timesharing, give me my share right now.

Working...