Writing With An Accent

It used to be common practice for authors to write in “dialect”, to try to reproduce a particular accent or manner of speech. Too often, however, writing with an accent was a way to describe a character or person as “less than” -- less intelligent, having less money, or just not being white. Fortunately this practice has largely disappeared, although authors writing about their own cultures or people may attempt to find ways to reproduce very specific kinds of accents to help their reader become immersed in their culture.

What is the case, however, when we write about real people, people from our own lives? Neither of my parents were American, and they both had accents. Those accents were very much a part of my childhood and a part of who my parents were.  If I would write a piece where I quoted one of them, I might wish I could somehow reproduce their accent on the page, so that my descendants might “hear” what their ancestor sounded like. I’ve often wondered what my own accent sounds like to others -- can they hear a hint of my parents’ voices in mine? People’s accents, to me, add to the amazing tapestry of humanity, but I would only want them portrayed in a respectful manner.

The article below discusses the creation of a new accent, something I find fascinating in a time where I imagine that accents are disappearing, with the ubiquity of a “standard” American accent in movies and television.  It makes me happy to imagine that new accents are still being formed. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/new-accent-liberal-kansas


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