'Standard' American Pronunciation Model
September 4, 2007 5:44 AM   Subscribe

What celebrities (living or dead) do you consider to speak with a "standard" American accent? I'm developing a pronunciation model for use in ESL teaching.

Multiple examples are fine. It doesn't matter if you are American or not. Thanks, everybody!
posted by strangeguitars to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Network newscasters.
posted by smackfu at 5:47 AM on September 4, 2007


Linguists have done a great deal of research in this area. Instead of trying to build your own models, and potentially screwing up your students, you should find or buy the pre-done research, and use that.

You may have to go to an actual library to find it, but you'd be silly to try to roll this yourself when very smart people with nothing better to do have thought about American accents extensively.
posted by Malor at 5:50 AM on September 4, 2007


PBS did a documentary on American accents a couple years ago called "Do You Speak American?". I think they agreed with smackfu that newscasters on the national news (including the morning shows) have the closest to a "standard" accent. The documentary's website isn't that great, but the series itself was really interesting.
posted by bluefly at 6:17 AM on September 4, 2007


allkindsoftime: please note the changes in the question.

Malor: unless I'm a lot less well-read on the subject than I think, the current trends in research on American accents for the past several decades have been toward discovering and defining differences in various local accents and usage throughout the country, kind of the opposite of what I'm looking for. Also the trends are not in any way geared toward ESL support.

If you are aware of a great deal of research in this area, please don't be shy about mentioning names!
posted by strangeguitars at 6:20 AM on September 4, 2007


Peter Jennings
posted by cellphone at 6:22 AM on September 4, 2007


Peter Jennings:

Canadian (!) Which goes to show the terribly complex blend of Canadian and American accents along the border. In my mind, some Americans sound "Canadian", while some Canadians sound "American".
posted by zardoz at 6:27 AM on September 4, 2007


Well, it seemed similar enough in format to me, but apparently the mod disagreed. Sorry.

Oh, and since you asked, your username: it comes from Habannan beneath the Stars, in Tolkien's Book of Lost Tales (1).

Hope that rectifies my snarkery. Good luck on your linguistic quest.

I still stand by my first answer in your deleted question.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:29 AM on September 4, 2007


*deleted question.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:30 AM on September 4, 2007


zardoz: "Peter Jennings:

Canadian (!) Which goes to show the terribly complex blend of Canadian and American accents along the border. In my mind, some Americans sound "Canadian", while some Canadians sound "American".
"

I disagree. Peter Jennings has learned to speak neutral American because it's part of the job. I can pick out American pronunciation a mile away and I grew up an hour from the border.
posted by loiseau at 6:33 AM on September 4, 2007


allkindsoftime: Yes, your snarkery is rectified. Nice!
posted by strangeguitars at 6:39 AM on September 4, 2007


Peter Jennings

Naw. Peter Jennings still goes oat of the hoase.

If you want someone to be a model they can listen to, I'd look to people who've done nature/science show narration:

Stacy Keach
Sigourney Weaver
Morgan Freeman, assuming a detectably black voice counts as standard
Candice Bergen
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:41 AM on September 4, 2007


male: George Clooney
female: Fran Drescher
posted by Flashman at 6:56 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Britney Spears, y'all!

But seriously, I understand wanting to teach ESL students to speak with a good neutral accent, but also understand that you need to expose them to hearing all the varieties of English accents (that includes British accents, Scottish accents, Australian accents, Southern accents, Boston accents, on and on).

The ESL schools where my friends teach here in Korea make it a priority to hire a wide variety of native English speakers from different Anglophone countries to give the students more exposure to the language and it's nuances.
posted by Brittanie at 7:01 AM on September 4, 2007


Tom Brokaw
posted by vacapinta at 7:06 AM on September 4, 2007


The number you have dialed is not in service in area code 4, 0, 2. Please check the number and dial again.
posted by gimonca at 7:12 AM on September 4, 2007


Robert Redford in The Natural. Wilford Brimley in The Natural. I just watched The Natural.
posted by poppo at 7:22 AM on September 4, 2007


A couple of thoughts:

1. THere really is no neutral accent. You can probably teach them to speak like a midwesterner but if they live in Boston that's going to be odd. You might have better luck teaching them the local pronunciations.

2. As foreigners they already have accents. You might have better luck with accent reduction.

3. Tom Cruise. Seriously. Or any "all american" actor.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:45 AM on September 4, 2007


female: Fran Drescher

!!??
posted by jpdoane at 8:28 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gerald Ford (sample)
posted by wackybrit at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2007


Most actors speak with what has become the standard upper-class American accent: one's native regional accent with the parts of the accent discernable by other native speakers (parents, teachers, etc.) dropped. For example, where I grew up the stuff that comes from cows is "malk"; my parents corrected me on that front, but did nothing about regional cadences, vowel shifts, and terminology.

The "standard American" accent that was used by newscasters for many years (less so these days) is favored because it's easy to listen to, but I think most other celebrities would be considered fake and unrelatable if they had such an accent. The vast majority of Americans don't come from a sparsely-populated section of the upper Midwest.
posted by backupjesus at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


female: Fran Drescher

!!??


Is that unforgivable?

Ok, maybe Jodie Foster.
posted by Flashman at 8:48 AM on September 4, 2007


There is nothing "standard" about Fran Drescher! I hardly consider a nasal-y Queens accent to be the American standard.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:52 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Re: Fran Drescher, I suspect it would be similar to suggesting that Eliza Doolittle represented the "standard" British Accent. Most Americans think of Fran Drescher as the woman with a thick accent and incredibly annoying voice.
posted by jpdoane at 9:12 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


As I stated the first time, if you're looking for a voice that is both "typical" and still distinctive enough to be enjoyable to listen to, I'd strongly recommend Charles Osgood of CBS Sunday Morning/CBS Radio.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2007


All of the "Friends" except Joey.

I also agree that Hugh Laurie does a great American accent on "House".
posted by triggerfinger at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2007


I am probably biased by my own native dialect (Pacific Northwest), but Western US accents have fewer vowel distinctions than some of the Eastern ones, and I suspect this would make things easier for ESL students.
posted by eritain at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2007


Network newscasters are pretty much the most neutral you'll get.

However, realize that they will also pick up slight twinges of whatever accent you may have, as you're the person that they'll be introduced english words from most often. (I had the same spanish teacher for 3 of my 4 years of high school spanish. I'm told by my college spanish teacher that I, on certain words and phrases, speak spanish like an andalusian. One guess where my spanish teacher was from)

Additionally, i'm with triggerfinger that hugh laurie (as House) is a very good example of a foreigner doing a fairly neutral american accent.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:13 AM on September 4, 2007


nthing the cast of Friends.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:36 PM on September 4, 2007


I'll have to check out House. It's hard to imagine Hugh Laurie sounding like that.

Everyone is saying network newscasters, but not mentioning which ones. Names?
posted by strangeguitars at 5:09 PM on September 4, 2007


I was going to mention House or Hugh Laurie as well. When I first saw the show, and not knowing who he was, I was really stumped as to whether he from from the East, Midwest or west. In other words, he's created a really good standard. That's a huge compliment to him and makes a good argument for his being a model.
posted by snsranch at 4:21 PM on September 20, 2007


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