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Hear and Compare Accents of English from Around the World
March 5, 2008 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Sound Comparisons is a database of different accents in English from all over the world. It provides soundfiles and IPA transcriptions of 110 words in 110 separate dialects and Germanic languages closely related to English. Most dialects and languages are current but there are also reconstructions of older stages of English, Scots and Germanic. That makes for 12100 soundfiles that load directly into your browser. The site can be navigated either by dialect or individual word and there's also a handy Google map of all the different dialects and languages. If you've ever wondered what the difference was between a Somerset and a Norwich accent, New Zealand and Australian, Canadian and American or Indian and Glaswegian, Sound Comparisons is the site to go to.
posted by Kattullus (44 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
Right, right, right, right. This site kills. If I ever have to do 21 accents in 2 minutes, I'm heading this way.
posted by not_on_display at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


A fantastic resource, though the interface reminds me a bit of Operation.
posted by jedicus at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2008


Thank you so much for posting this!
posted by Evangeline at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2008


This is pretty awesome. Does anyone else get a little creeped out when listening to their own accent? Or is it because the North Carolina accent is just aurally offensive?
posted by zach4000 at 7:44 AM on March 5, 2008


Haha, I was just on this site over the weekend, trying to show my originally-from-the-east-coast boyfriend how he pronounces his low back vowels differently from us undistinctive Californians.

Unfortunately, from what I could find, the site does not allow you to do side-by-side sound comparisons of the same word across different regions. But other than that, it's pretty darn neat!
posted by iamkimiam at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2008


This is unbelievably cool and useful. Þúsund þakkir.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 7:59 AM on March 5, 2008


Nifty, and confirms what folks have been telling me for a while now - I've got the "international accent", that English speaking folks living away from their home countries for long periods of time develop. A little of this, little of that, all amalgamated together into something that is no longer from any one location. I'm a mess!
posted by Mutant at 7:59 AM on March 5, 2008


I would have loved to hear the backwoods of north New England, which I've heard is very similar to some farming communities in England and supposedly closer to the accent spoken hundreds of years ago.

In fact there are very few American sites, considering how big and diverse the country is. There are more Germanic sites than sites in the US!

And why just words? A lot of interesting sounds only become apparent when someone is saying a sentence ranther than just a word. There ought to be a few key sentences that someone from each region reads out loud.
posted by eye of newt at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2008


This is good, but like others said, it would have been nice to see some more regional Canadian accents.

My friends who grew up in southern Ontario all say 'melk' instead of 'milk'.

And 'aboot' was nowhere to be seen...
posted by sauril at 8:23 AM on March 5, 2008


I love this, even though it's light on Canadian accents. (No East Coast accents? Tragedy!)

iamkimiam, it's a bit awkward, but you can compare one word at a time across various accents. Click on the word you want to compare from the right hand index list and let the table load.
posted by maudlin at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2008


What fun. This is the kind of post that makes metafilter great.
posted by caddis at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2008



This is pretty awesome. Does anyone else get a little creeped out when listening to their own accent? Or is it because the North Carolina accent is just aurally offensive?


Oddly, I didn't really associate that accent with North Carolina. It sound sort of generic New South hard -R twang to me.

North Carolina is unique in that it has several completely different accents, many of which are sort of lovely. (I have particular affinity for that beautifully bizarre old Outer Banks speak, and that Eastern NC/ Eastern VA dialect which sounds a little like Mississippi crossed with Boston . . . the one in which North is pronounced knoweth and on is pronounced own). Most of the older North Carolinians (irregardless of race) I know sound more like what Sound Comparison has marked as North Carolina African American Vernacular, or else they sound Appalachian ("hit" instead of "it," "far" instead of "fire").

I used to hate southern accents, and hate my own accent (which, did not, actually sound all that much like the North Carolina accent sampled). And apparently I did such a good job losing it that most people assume I'm from the Midwest. These days, I feel somewhat differently . . . but now, me speaking with a southern accent feels about as phony as me faking a British accent.
posted by thivaia at 8:37 AM on March 5, 2008


Also, Sound Comparison completely missed Lowcountry SC/ GA.

Now those are some great freaking accents.
posted by thivaia at 8:45 AM on March 5, 2008


What is this aboot I keep hearing about?

To say aboot, you have to purse your lips. To say about, you have to have your mouth open during the vowel.

Try it -- open your mouth and try to say oo. How is it that Canadians are credited with saying aboot when our mouths are nowhere near that?
posted by A-Train at 8:51 AM on March 5, 2008


This sounds (no pun, etc) so awesome and the map feature makes it 10x cooler...but the site won't resolve for me. :(
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on March 5, 2008


I have two theories on that.

1) Because Americans' ears are strictly decorative. (Me? KID! Love!) We Canadians have tight, pert diphthongs, while Americans diphthongs tend to be more languid and sprawling. So our "about" really does sound more closed than their "about". However, the difference can be exaggerated. From the canonical page on Canadian raising:

To American ears, the Canadian pronunciation of about often sounds like aboot, but this is only an illusion. Because the more familiar pronunciation of /aw/ is articulated with the tongue in a low position, and because it raises to a mid position in Canadian English when the vowel precedes the voiceless obstruents listed above, speakers of other varieties of English will immediately detect the vowel raising, but will sometimes think that the vowel has raised farther than it actually does, all the way to /u/, which is a high vowel--hence the mishearing (and not-quite-right imitation) of this pronunciation as aboot.

2) Because this is the cross-border equivalent of leaving the toilet seat up and the bickering that usually ensues. Talking about politics can get too depressing, but we can make fun of each others' accents in a ritualized way with little threat of bloodshed and tears.
posted by maudlin at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2008


Of related interest, there's Collect Britain's English Accents and Dialects, an annotated archive of samples from within England.
posted by raygirvan at 9:09 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


How is it that Canadians are credited with saying aboot when our mouths are nowhere near that?

I think I'm finally understanding this. When I listened to the Canadian and standard American pronunciations of "mouth" vs. "moon," I realized that they're both pronounced with a much more closed mouth by the Canadian speaker than the Amercian. True, our lips are pursed on "moon," and not on "mouth," so we can hear the difference. But Americans are making their best approximation of what the Canadian "ou" sound is, which is "oot" and "aboot." I had always assumed they were saying that we pronounced "bout" and "boot" the same way, which to us seems ridiculous because they sound quite different. But they're not: they're focusing on "bout" and coming up with their closest approximation of it, which is the closed-mouthedness of "boot."

There. I'm glad I've cleared that up for everybody.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:16 AM on March 5, 2008


We Canadians have tight, pert

Just stop right there! And yes, we certainly do.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2008


Because the more familiar pronunciation of /aw/ is articulated with the tongue in a low position, and because it raises to a mid position in Canadian English when the vowel precedes the voiceless obstruents listed above

Yeah, that's exactly what I said. But I said it in a more charming, retard-like fashion.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:19 AM on March 5, 2008


Thanks for this; excellent find, indeed. May I also suggest the Speech Accent Archive as an engaging place to while away hours in a similar fashion.
posted by dickyvibe at 9:22 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah I was hoping this would be more comprehensive. The people here in the Philadelphia area say something close to "spooewn" instead of spoon, and it is infinitely grating. I want the world to know.
posted by deafmute at 9:25 AM on March 5, 2008


When I'm teaching phonology (phonetics, really) to undergraduates the hardest part to describe is always the vowels. It's easy to say what's going on when you make the [m] sound or the [t] sound, but the difference in vowel sounds relies on relative distances of articulators, tongue height, etc. So I go to the dollar store and bring in bags of flat lollipops and have the students rest one on their tongue, hold the stick, and pronounce a string of vowel sounds from high to low. It's a good way to really get a feel (literally!) for tongue height and what happens when you pronounce diphthongs. Try it at home with a spoon and see what really happens when you say "about" or "house" (on preview: or "spooewn") or whatever.
posted by tractorfeed at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Brilliant post, cheers Katullus

the difference... between... Indian and Glaswegian

The combination of the two is one of my favourite accents: Glasgasian. (I swear this is a term people use for that accent, but looking for a link just now, the only hit on Google is me mentioning that it's one of my favourite accents in a previous thread on MetaFilter!)

Ah I was hoping this would be more comprehensive.
posted by deafmute at 9:25 AM on March 5 [+] [!] [quote]

Eponysterical.
posted by jack_mo at 9:41 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, we need a soundfile of Glasgasian now, please.
posted by maudlin at 9:47 AM on March 5, 2008


I've heard the term glaswasian, myself, and a Google search returns 7 results.
posted by Kattullus at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2008


Does anyone else get a little creeped out when listening to their own accent?

Yes, I must admit I do, all the more so as the fellow providing the South Wales voice is from my home town… although his accent strikes me as a little more (trad.) than (typ.) as they have designated it— there’d likely be less rhoticity in a younger speaker’s voice. I'm glad to see the sample words included both ear [jœ ̈ː] and year [jœ ̠ː], as, in that particular accent, they can be indistinguishable.
posted by misteraitch at 10:20 AM on March 5, 2008


Great! Love it! Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 10:44 AM on March 5, 2008


I second the request for a sound file of the wonderful Glasgasian.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:50 AM on March 5, 2008


maudlin: "OK, we need a soundfile of Glasgasian now, please."

The only Glasgasian speaker I know well enough to record is in London, I'm afraid. And sidling up to the kids who hang out at the end of my road and saying, 'Excuse me children, would you mind talking into this microphone so that some strangers on the interweb can hear your charming accents?' would not end well.

Kattullus: "I've heard the term glaswasian, myself, and a Google search returns 7 results."

Interesting, maybe I misheard. Glasgasian sounds better, but Glaswasian makes more sense...
posted by jack_mo at 11:19 AM on March 5, 2008


My friends who grew up in southern Ontario all say 'melk' instead of 'milk'.

My sister (she's from Southern Ontario, but then so am I) is the only person I've ever heard do that. It drives me up the wall.

One thing that's always baffled me is that weird "-een" instead of "-ing" thing. (It's got me so baffled, in fact, that I've often considered blowing my AskMe virginity on it.) It's a rather ubiquitous and cosmopolitan little idiosyncrasy found throughout North America, right alongside the more accurate pronunciation. I think I've got it pinned down to "mostly a Catholic thing" (Irish, Italian, and Spanish accents all seem to drop the G), but that's mostly a guess.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on March 5, 2008


(One more thing on North American regionalisms. "Tour" vs. "Tore": Get it right, East Coast!)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:40 AM on March 5, 2008


Here's another good resource - the International Dialects of English Archive, where you can listen to people speaking. Hours of fun!
posted by bettafish at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, after some convoluted Googling: there are Glasgasian accents in Fags, Mags & Bags, one episode of which can be downloaded from Speechification.
posted by jack_mo at 11:47 AM on March 5, 2008


I'll just assume that Glasgasian is something like Scotty's accent on Star Trek, about which Craig Ferguson once remarked, "That's not Scottish! That's Pakistani!"
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2008


Whee! Thank you, jack_mo! You're the melkman of human kindness. (Sorry, carsonb).

That is a pretty neat mashup of an accent. Will listen again!
posted by maudlin at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2008


My auntie is a lady of a certain age from small-town Ontario. She not only says "malk," but "porr-eedge" for "porridge."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2008


Ahhh! The "eedge"! My dad does that one.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2008


I`m from S. Ontario as well, and only just because of this post realized that I do, in fact, pronounce it "melk". It took me more than a few minutes to figure out how else it could be pronounced, until I tried something closer to m"ill"k. That was the best I could figure, and man was it weird sounding.
posted by aclevername at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2008


Oh, and in comparison, the "standard American" accent sounds like every word is a question, which I thought was apparently what Canadians do. Strange.
posted by aclevername at 2:22 PM on March 5, 2008


Great idea, poorly executed. The clips take like 8 years to load completely, and each mouseover link launches an MP3 in an external player. This could have been done much better with Flash.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:46 PM on March 5, 2008


Great post. Now we need some southern Ohioan pronouncing "greasy" with a Z. Or "root" almost like "rut."
posted by etaoin at 8:47 PM on March 5, 2008


cool
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:03 PM on March 5, 2008


This is excellent (although I'm at work so cannot really get into it yet).
What is this aboot I keep hearing about?
I hear that more as aboat. It was particularly noticeable among the guys on Ice Road Truckers (currently showing on UK TV).
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 12:24 AM on March 6, 2008


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