Thursday, January 20, 2005

Who I’m listening to in person
Robert MacNeil
The co-author of the book and presenter of the programme on American English I linked to yesterday. He’s aristocratically handsome with a voice like a deeper, more commanding version of Peter Jennings with even a trace of BBC — wonderful. They don’t make voices like that anymore. Anyway I learnt that a lot of the distinguishing features of extreme black dialect today weren’t heard from former slaves circa 1930 — somebody went round and recorded some speaking to save their voices for posterity. Rather they sounded much like their white Southern neighbours, says Mr MacNeil. It was heavy-duty segregation in the North that set this dialect on an ever-diverging course from the standard (Two-Beer White Guy notwithstanding, and he is thorougly analysed on the site linked in yesterday’s entry).

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