Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Language

I speak with a home counties slightly posh kind of British accent (I'm from Buckinghamshire, near Milton Keynes), with a few Americanisms thrown in. Despite my 14 years in the US I still sound completely English. My daughter, however has a full on American twang, which is hardly surprising given that her dad also sounds American, and that her teachers and classmates all speak with American accents too, despite the  diversity of ancestry in the class. What baffles me though, is my son's pronunciation. He has adopted the classic cockney English guttoral stop, most apparent in words like "buttons"," twenty" and "caterpillar", which come out as Buh' uns, twen'ey, and caa' er piller.  If he lived in Milton Keynes there is no doubt he would call it"Mil' uhn Keynes", as do many of its residents, now I come to think of it.

It is cute, he sounds very English wide boy,  rather like the little gecko who voices the Geico car insurance commercials over here, or like a toddler David Beckham. I just don't understand where he has picked up this linguistic tic. I can't imagine where he has ever heard anyone speaking with the accent. We don't watch East Enders, the only British TV the kids see is Charlie and Lola and Peppa Pig, neither of which, to my recollection, have characters who drop their 't's. I can only conclude that he has some how inherited an English accent, and that there must be a recessive "Cockney gene' lurking in our family DNA.

My little American girl, on the other hand, would never be suspected of having a drop of English blood based on her vowels. I was struck yet again by this when we were talking about spelling. She and I were sounding out some simple words the other day in the car, "PIG" Puh, i guh", CAT "Cuh aa tuh", and so on

"What about dog, mummy? I think I can do this one" she said and continued "Its 'Duh aaa guh. Daahg'."

I realized then that in American English "dog", pronounced "Daahg" does sound like it has an 'A' in the middle rather than an 'O'. So I'm confused. Do I now teach my daughter that O makes the "aa" sound?

Any help much appreciated, before I end up with a very confused preschooler!