In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

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In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby nooj » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:54 am

Let's say you meet a stranger, who you assume (but may not necessarily be) a native of the country. You have a twenty minute conversation with them within which they don't mention any clues that will let you know their origin. Judging solely by the way the speak, can you say where they are from and if so, within what accuracy? Could you pinpoint their town, city, province etc? If it is the case, could you guess that they've moved around a lot/lived in multiple places just by the way they speak?
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby tarvos » Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:13 pm

In Dutch it's fairly easy to hear where people are from, yes. I couldn't pinpoint a particular village, but I could definitely give you an idea of the province.
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby Kraut » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:04 pm

A couple of years ago I did a test (could be this one ) and answered 20 questions
They got as close as the neighbouring town, which is 2o km away.
Der Spiegel, together with the Schweizer Tages-Anzeiger, has put a language atlas online and can determine the exact location of the speaker based on 20 questions. You do not believe it? Then give it a try. Simply choose the words you use in conversation with your friends and you will be amazed:


https://www.unsertirol24.com/2015/04/26 ... du-kommst/
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby jmar257 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:16 pm

I could broadly guess region, maybe state depending on some things. I think a lot of people of my generation would have the same thing I do, where speaking with strangers we just have a general American accent but with people from our region we unconsciously switch to a dialect/accent. If you heard me speaking with close family you'd be able to tell I was Southern, to someone at work you probably wouldn't be able to place me unless I used certain vocabulary/pronunciation (for the latter: think pen/pin merger or pronouncing niche as "nitch"). The most recognizable facet of Southern American English (usage of y'all) has been adopted by enough people not from/in the South that I think it wouldn't be of help.

I've met people who were surprised I was from the South and asked why I had no accent, as well as others who immediately knew I was Southern and claimed I did have an accent.
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby Doitsujin » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:56 pm

Kraut wrote:A couple of years ago I did a test (could be this one ) and answered 20 questions
They got as close as the neighbouring town, which is 2o km away.

I just did the Sprachatlas test and it was only 50kms off.

As for myself, I could probably only tell speakers of the major German dialect groups apart.
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby tarvos » Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:35 pm

I also did that test and it told me I was from Kleve. That was a true Sherlock Holmes moment, because I'm not German - I'm Dutch, hehehe... and my dad is from the other side of the border. Couldn't get closer if they tried.
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby Nogon » Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:08 pm

Doitsujin wrote:
Kraut wrote:A couple of years ago I did a test (could be this one ) and answered 20 questions
They got as close as the neighbouring town, which is 2o km away.

I just did the Sprachatlas test and it was only 50kms off.

As for myself, I could probably only tell speakers of the major German dialect groups apart.


The test's result was far off for me. The 4 most probable answers were several 100 km off; only the fifth answer nailed at least the province (Bundesland).

I'm not good at identifying dialects, although I of course can tell apart someone from Hamurg from someone from Munich.

People, who are good at German dialects, often are surprised when I tell them, which area I come from. They usually put me in my mother's native area. I have no idea, how they identify it - I don't have the main characteristics from that area either, but there must be hints, as several people guessed that.
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby tungemål » Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:16 pm

Interesting topic.

In Norway it is possible to pinpoint exactly which village/town the speaker comes from. However most people would not be able to do it with every dialect - then you'd have to be an expert - but everyone would recognise what part of the country the speaker is from. Certain dialects I know well, because I know people from those places, and then I'd recognise it.

People who have moved a lot - like me - is harder to pinpoint because the dialect could be watered down and more neutral.

With regard to Germany and the Netherlands, where people tend to speak a standard language and not their dialect - would you still be able to recognise the region based on the accent that people have?
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby tungemål » Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:35 pm

And by the way:
nooj wrote:...who you assume (but may not necessarily be) a native of the country...


If a person is not a native, I think you'd notice. I have come to believe that it would be nearly impossible to fool a native when speaking a foreign language. Even people who are amazingly good at accents, like some of the famous people in the polyglot community, can't do it consistently. I once heard a radio program where a Swedish woman who had lived in Oslo for many years participated. She had a perfect Oslo accent and I assumed she was Norwegian, untill after 10 minutes or so she slipped up on one word, just one word that had a certain Swedish sound to it. That made me suspicious and sure enough, I found out that she was originally a Swede.

Ok, another interesting topic would be: Can you recognise from what country a non-native speaker of your language comes from?
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Re: In your language how easy is it to know where a person is from based on how they speak?

Postby Iversen » Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:34 pm

Long ago somebody from Britain thought I was from Wales, and a native Austrian started to interview me in the belief that I was from Kärnten - but imitating accents in foreign languages has never been my prime concern, and I have not become better at it with time. As for guessing where other people come from - well, I rarely ask, but Anglophone diphtongs in languages that don't have them is a sure give-away, and the Norwegian or Swedish tonal intonations can often also be heard when people speak other languages (actually any other language). But of course some individuals may be so good at adopting foreign pronunciation patterns that they pass under the radar and never get caught.

As for Danish dialects: they are not what they were a few generations ago, but there are still differences in the way of speaking in different parts of the country - especially among the older generations, but some youngsters are also proud of being from somewhere. However unless you ask, you may never discover if you have misdiagnosed somebody. And without constant feedback and some hardcore knowledge you can't develop any semblance of a foolproof instinct.

PS: the German test placed me near Frankfurt a.M., but marked four other places more slightly more to the South around Mainz-Mannheim - it clearly didn't have a clue as to what to do with a Danish imposter, and then it placed me somewhere in the middle. My only feeble consolation is that it didn't spread the five guesses all over the German speaking part of Europe...
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