What Is the Speech Accent Archive?
The Speech Accent Archive is the brainchild of Steven Weinberger, a linguist at George Mason University. Weinberger, his researchers, and scores of volunteers have created an online archive of different accents of English speakers.
Each volunteer reads the same elicitation paragraph, a four-sentence, 69-word text that “contains most of the consonants, vowels, and clusters of standard American English [SAE].” However, many of the accent volunteers are not native speakers of English, let alone SAE.
Why Is the Speech Accent Archive Important?
The Speech Accent Archive lets linguists, students, and accent enthusiasts compare the accents of speakers from different parts of the world. American listeners with even a decent ear for accents will appreciate how different the Wisconsin native sounds in comparison to the Texas resident.
In addition, listeners can hear familiar markers of:
- French accents (e.g., the omission of word-initial h, the transformation of th into z or s)
- Spanish accents (e.g., the prosthetic e before words that begin with s)
Other accents (Wolof, Cantonese) may be less familiar to American ears but are equally fascinating to analyze.
The Archive allows visitors to browse by native language, region of the world, and phonetic inventory.
Weinberger and his team deserve credit for making linguistic knowledge freely available to researchers, students, and the general public. The phonological samples and phonetic transcriptions on the Archive’s website are a great contribution to our understanding of language.
To hear accents from that part of the world, visit the Speech Accent Archive. (Note: Users need to have the QuickTime plug-in installed on their computers to play the speech samples.)
Weinberger, Steven. (2012). Speech Accent Archive. George Mason University. Retrieved from http://accent.gmu.edu
For another welcome contribution to language research, read about Google’s Endangered Languages Project.