Spoken Accents for Theater

What makes an accent real, and what makes it phony? What is really a Southern accent in the United States and what is someone doing a vocal caricature. What is a true cockney accent and what mistakes do Americans typically make with English accents on stage?

I have no idea. But here is a variety of information on accents for you to investigate further. Listen particularly to rhythm, intensity and articulation.


Example of a Scottish Accent:

Listen to accents from all over the world to compare spoken word accents. What a great tool for studying speech. These recordings are real people, not stereotypes. A great reference for real world speech accents. On this website, each recording is someone from a different part of the world saying the following paragraph:

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.


Listen in to the diverse voices of the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man – from Shetland to Penzance. Eavesdrop on Rotarians in Pitlochry and Travellers in Belfast. Drop in on skateboarders in Milton Keynes. Overhear pigeon fanciers in Durham.

The clips are drawn from the Voices recordings – which capture 1,200 people in conversation. Some of the clips are people talking about language – slang, dialect, taboo words, accents. Other clips cover all sorts of subjects and simply offer a flavour of how we talk today.

“I think the US has always had a more of an emphasis on mobility which is why there hasn’t been a core of accent speakers to build a distict accent. Regional accents are changing in the UK now and in the south most of the old accents are dying out.”


Ever been baffled by the bard? Vexed by his verse? Or perplexed by his puns? London’s Globe theatre thinks it has the answer: perform Shakespeare’s plays in Shakespeare’s dialect.

The Globe, London (pic Donald Cooper)
The Globe will stage Troilus and Cressida for six weeks

In August the theatre will stage an “original production” of Troilus and Cressida, with the actors performing the lines as closely as possibly to the play’s first performance – in 1604.

By opening night, they will have rehearsed using phonetic scripts for two months and, hopefully, will render the play just as its author intended. They say their accents are somewhere between Australian, Cornish, Irish and Scottish, with a dash of Yorkshire – yet bizarrely, completely intelligible if you happen to come from North Carolina.

For example, the word “voice” is pronounced the same as “vice”, “reason” as “raisin”, “room” as “Rome”, “one” as “own” – breathing new life into Shakespeare’s rhyming and punning.

Why are the accents a particular place like they are?

Separate development accounts for some accent variation. But sometimes we need to talk about the first generation of speakers of a particular language brought up in a new place. The first children to grow up in a new place are very important. The children who grow up together are a ‘peer group’. They want to speak the same as each other to express their group identity. The accent they develop as they go through their childhood will become the basis for the accents of the new place. So where does their accent come from?

The first generation of children will draw on the accents of the adults around them, and will create something new. If people move to a new place in groups (as English speakers did to America, Australia and New Zealand) that group usually brings several different accents with them. The children will draw on the mixture of accents they hear and create their own accent out of what they hear. The modern accents of Australia are more similar to London accents of English than to any other accent from England — this is probably because the founder generation (in the eighteenth century) had a large component drawn from the poor of London, who were transported to Australia as convicts. The accents of New Zealand are similar to Australian accents because a large proportion of the early English-speaking settlers of New Zealand came from Australia.

The mix found in the speech of the settlers of a new place establishes the kind of accent that their children will develop.
I’ve always wondered about accents and why we (North Americans) don’t sound like our British or (Insert country of origin) ancestors? When people moved over here from Europe they would have sounded British or whatever to start with, but obviously today they don’t.There are many different accents within the British Isles, and it’s likely that they have changed over the last centuries. Remember also that not all the ancestors of North Americans came from Europe.

I’ve always wondered about accents and why we (North Americans) don’t sound like our British or (Insert country of origin) ancestors? When people moved over here from Europe they would have sounded British or whatever to start with, but obviously today they don’t. How long does this process of dialect/losing or gaining accent take? And why does it happen? I suppose it has to do with language evolving and regional influences. It’s odd but people from the South Shore of Nova Scotia sound to me like they could be from Maine…..very similar accent…I love accents.

A Scottish accent reading Robert Burns poem “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.