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

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jmar257
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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 7:24 pm

tungemål wrote: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.
I've noticed some exceptions to this, although one could argue I just hadn't spent enough time around them (and would notice it eventually). I work with a German girl who as far as I know moved here at 18, and doesn't have a trace of an accent. The only thing I notice that gives away her not being native is using the infinitive where we would use -ing, such as "Would you mind to take a look at this?" Something minor enough that if I didn't already know she wasn't native I probably wouldn't notice in the middle of a conversation.
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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 Lawyer&Mom » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:58 pm

That German test is pretty impressive. As I non-native speaker who lived for a year in Gottingen, it placed Goslar as one of my top five choices. All the rest were Northern Germany. Considering I was completely unfamiliar with some of the words and had to pick at random, I’ll call that spot on.

As for American English... Well yes and no. Plenty of regional accents, some of which are very telling, but lots and lots of people from all over the country who have generic accents. Like I have family from Wisconsin who have very marked accents, and I have law school classmates who grew up in the same county and have no noticeable accent. Age and class differences etc.
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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 alaart » Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:46 pm

The German test got my neighboring city (20km) as first choice, and the city closest to my village as 3rd choice. It also featured a city more in the forest area, where I was born - but moved away from after the age of 4. - all part of the Palatine dialect.

So pretty damn cool.

The way the test works is that it uses certain vocabulary like the first and last slice of a piece of bread, which are different in every area, as well as some dialect clues. But the ability of a native speaker should even beat that as you will get pronunciation clues.

I speak high German and have lived outside of my area for 10 years, still a lot of people can identify my origin even if I don't speak the dialect. They have told me that a typical word for my region is "ayo" or "yo" with a kind of rising pronunciation for meaning "That's right". Also for example I pronounce the color "orange" like it would be pronounced in French, due to the proximity of the French boarder, but further north it is pronounced "O-ran-je"(?), actually I forgot the correct way to pronounce it.
I would say the ability to pinpoint other peoples dialect, it depends if I have met a speakers from that particular area before, but especially if it would be a good friend or someone close, and I would meet another person of that particular region, I would be able to tell.

As for other languages as a non native speakers:
I would probably be able to identify the general direction, say north or south, east or west in Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese.
Japanese is difficult, as people learn to speak the standard everywhere now, and I didn't meet many speakers from more dialect heavy places expect the Kansai area (which is easy to identify). But for a native speaker I think it should be easy. The first clue would be the endings じゃ、や or だ、combined with the pitch accent. From the colored maps in wikipedia one can already gain a very rough estimate, then from there come special vocabulary and onomatopoeia. I think if one would be deeper into the language it should become pretty easy to tell.

I think it is a thing that comes with experience, you meet someone and that person speaks a certain way, and you also get the information where they are from. The more native speakers you meet the more the dots connect.

For English however I would be lost, since my source of input would be from television rather than people, and we usually talk English with other non native speakers, right? Actually identifying a non-native English speakers accent would be much more simple than that of a native speaker here. My old roommate from east Germany told me that people could identify that he is a German from Saxony when he was in Great Britain, solely by the sound of his English.
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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 tangleweeds » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:48 am

Back when I was studying linguistics and addicted to NPR, thus getting to hear interviews from around the country with regions helpfully attached plus having opportunities to discuss them at school, I was really good at recognizing US regional accents. But US regional accents have become less and less distinct every decade, it seems to me, what with the constant need for people to move for jobs and/or educational opportunities. But my father actually bemoaned the same thing to me back in the 1970s, blaming it on the rise of network TV.

But just a couple of days ago, an Uber driver who studied accents for performing arts actually recognized mine (Upper Midwestern Rust Belt, Chicago/Detroit in particular) which is rare as it's become pretty dilute after 40 years on the West Coast. People out here hear the nasal midwestern buzz but can rarely place it, while people from back there say I've gotten a "California 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 tarvos » Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:04 am

tungemål wrote: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?


In Dutch yes. In German... Well I could pick out a Bavarian or a Swiss accent I suppose but I'm not a native German speaker. I assume others could
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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 golyplot » Tue Sep 29, 2020 1:37 pm

jmar257 wrote:I've met people who were surprised I was from the South and asked why I had no accent.


Ug, I get this all the time. I usually respond "In Atlanta, you're more likely to hear a Korean accent than a Southern accent."

tungemål wrote: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.


Perhaps it depends on the language. I've met a large number of foreigners in the US with English pretty much indistinguishable from native at least during casual conversation. (I've also of course met quite a few whose English is not as great to the point where it's sometimes hard to even understand.)

Anyway, I normally can't tell any difference in regional accents. As others have mentioned, I think regional accents in the US are generally not very distinct since people move around a lot (and also due to TV). But there are occasional cases where it's noticeable. For example, I once ran into a woman who talked exactly like Nadia in Russian Doll. Sure enough, she mentioned she was from NYC.
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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 DaveAgain » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:31 pm

jmar257 wrote:I've noticed some exceptions to this, although one could argue I just hadn't spent enough time around them (and would notice it eventually). I work with a German girl who as far as I know moved here at 18, and doesn't have a trace of an accent. The only thing I notice that gives away her not being native is using the infinitive where we would use -ing, such as "Would you mind to take a look at this?" Something minor enough that if I didn't already know she wasn't native I probably wouldn't notice in the middle of a conversation.
I've mistaken a German for a Brit before.

German prosody appears to have a lot of overlap with English prosody, although I'm sure there are regional variations, which perhaps makes it easier for the influence of their native language to pass unnoticed by English native speakers.

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 5&p=168082
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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 Lawyer&Mom » Wed Sep 30, 2020 5:36 am

tangleweeds wrote:But just a couple of days ago, an Uber driver who studied accents for performing arts actually recognized mine (Upper Midwestern Rust Belt, Chicago/Detroit in particular) which is rare as it's become pretty dilute after 40 years on the West Coast. People out here hear the nasal midwestern buzz but can rarely place it, while people from back there say I've gotten a "California Accent".


I love spotting an Upper Midwestern Rust Belt accent on the West Coast! Ideally someone will say the name of an upper Midwestern state (Wiscaaaansin, Minnesoohta) but in a pinch the number “two” is always a great tip off.
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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 Tristano » Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:39 pm

tarvos wrote: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.


How do I tell apart people from Zwolle from people from Utrecht?
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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 » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:44 pm

Tristano wrote:
tarvos wrote: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.


How do I tell apart people from Zwolle from people from Utrecht?


Utrecht city dialect is very specific (listen to the vowels). Zwolle has a tendency to sound more eastern Dutch with the tendency to drop the e instead of the n in verb endings (lop´n)
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