Speech Accent Archive

In what may be the coolest tool for someone trying to get a quick handle on accents, the Speech Accent Archive ((Spotted by Jenn Nixon)) has scores of non-English speakers reading the same paragraph in English.

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

There are languages that I’ve never heard of. Mortlockese? Xasonga? Teochew?

Very cool stuff.

Edited to add: Alex Wilson pointed me to a similar project which has both English dialects and accents of other language speakers. One of the strangest things, for me, about the sample text they use is that my maiden name shows up in the middle of it.

The goose’s owner, Mary Harrison, kept calling, “Comma, Comma,” which Sarah thought was an odd choice for a name.

Astonishing the number of different ways one can say Mary Harrison. I shudder to think what would happen if they tried Kowal.

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7 Responses

  1. Brad

    That is one of the coolest sites I’ve ever seen. The one Alex pointed out, too. Thanks to you both. You know what I would really like is a primer of sorts that outlines the differences between different regions as they try to speak common thoughts in English. Like, when someone from Ireland says a though, like (forgive me this) “Me maw told me to run down the store, get her some fags”, it’s way different than how someone from Japan might say it. That would be a neat resource to have, because it would give you a real good primer for how to represent those languages in writing. We’ve all hit this, right? You’re of course writing in English, but you want to paint someone as coming from a different place. Or, they’re theoretically speaking some foreign language (even in some speculative world unrelated to ours), but you still want to paint it in some manner, perhaps similar to Russian (as is the case for me now) or Cherokee or whatever. Ever seen a resource like that?

  2. Jason Erik Lundberg

    Those are both outstanding resources. Thanks, guys!

    Incidentally, Teochew is a Chinese dialect, mostly spoken by Peranakans (descended from a mix of both Chinese and Malay) who live in and around the straits of Malaysia and Singapore.

  3. Zoid

    Glad some of those kids at KU are doing more than drinking and smoking. Not that I’m in Lawrence that much ta’ notice. To bad the only native American speakers are only sampled from Alaska. I’ve noticed the actor playing the new detective on L&O-SVU has light accent. It seamed more pronounced when he did the Tony Hillerman movies. I did find a downloadable audio book from the Kansas Library that gave some basic lessons for “cartoon voices.”

  4. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Brad: That sounds like a perfect thesis project for some bright young grad student.

    Jason: I had to look it up, but you sound like this is something that you just happen to know. How’d that come up in your life?

    Zoid: Really? I hadn’t noticed that. That does seem like a serious oversite.

    I was poking at Tennessee and being annoyed that Eastern TN wasn’t represented but Middle and Western were.