October 23, 2018, 04:22:45 AM

Author Topic: Describing accents...  (Read 18487 times)

Offline xiagan

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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2014, 09:01:00 PM »
Come to think of it - why isn't it spelt "fonetik"?  8)
There are probably quite a few Slavic or Scandinavic languages where it is spelled 'fonetik'. Saw a lot of words there written in a more phonetic way than you English speaking or we German speaking people do (German is quite phonetic, though).
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Offline Dan D Jones

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2014, 09:15:40 PM »
Some good answers here that cover what I'd have suggested, but I'd like to add that I don't think it's a good idea to phonetically spell out the words to show the accent. I've seen a few people do it and makes me cringe every time.

I think that depends on what you mean by "phonetically spell out" the words.  I'm writing a steam-punk story set in an alternate quasi-Victorian time-line.  In the first chapter, there's a cab driver.  He's a minor character, with only a few lines of dialogue, and after his brief scene he's never seen again.  Here are a couple of the lines containing his dialogue:

"Yes 'um," he said.  "Then this be the cab ye called fer.  Kin I stow yer baggage for ye?"

"There be no gittin' by that, ma'am" the cabby said.  "But I think there be jest enough room to turn'er 'round, and we kin take Bradshire Way."

I would not use those techniques for a major character, or even a minor character with more than a few speaking lines.  But I think they work well to help establish the overall setting in the opening chapter.  Among other things, his language and his obsequious behaviour show him to be of a servant class, which shows the stratification of the society.  This is significant to later plot developments, and I wanted to get it established early.

If you dislike such techniques, then by all means don't use them.  But I think they can be an effective tool if used correctly and sparingly.


Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2014, 11:14:37 PM »
If you dislike such techniques, then by all means don't use them.  But I think they can be an effective tool if used correctly and sparingly.

I read this as: Use accents sparingly.

Yes.
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Offline rkrugg

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2014, 02:07:54 AM »
It all comes down to communication, so if you can communicate the fact that the character has an accent, then you can move on with the story.  Louis L'Amour was a master of establishing a first-person character with a back-woods, rough-hewn voice, and then slowly dropping the rural accent, in such a subtle way that he could then tell the story without using any other accent devices, yet the voice of the character was firmly identified.

Additionally, you need to be able to clearly hear the voice or accent yourself before you can convey it to the reader.  For example, what do you mean by an African accent?  The phrase has no meaning, as there is no "African" language.  And even if there were, it may not be enough to simply identify the language... a strong English accent, without further detail, might indicate either an extremely upper-class character, such a royalty, or an extremely lower-class character, such as a back-alley street thug.

Offline Captain of the Guard

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2014, 01:58:46 PM »
I think that S M Striling has a good grasp accents and thick peasent dialects in his "General" series. But I agree with many here, a small change goes a long way in this aspect.
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Offline jefGoelz

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2014, 07:50:23 PM »
I've been beta reading a novel that has a drunk character.  drunk-speak is another thing you can go overboard with.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #21 on: October 03, 2018, 04:51:06 PM »
Accents are quite hard to pull off , I know I’ve been put off a book by a character’s accent.
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Online The Gem Cutter

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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #22 on: October 03, 2018, 06:58:28 PM »
Once established, the sound may or may not stick, but the accent shouldn't be terribly important - if it is, there's something wrong in my opinion.

There are a number of discrete techniques that, in total, allow one to convey an accent more or less effectively in written form. I think it's a mistake to try and replicate the sound of an accent any more than rarely. More effective and more fun to read is to replicate the 'feel' of the accent through idioms, diction, and usage.
For example, rarely, if ever, do Americans use "pillar to post", "bits and bobs", etc., so just by using them, I do two things. I weaken the reader's sense of an American accent and for those who know those expressions are used in G.B., I may suggest a generic English accent - they'll pick which of the 25+ English accents, of course. This is a little more subtle than using the dialect specific neon-flashing terms like "Crikey!" "Blimey!" etc., but works in the same way.

For my part, I'd rather get slapped in the face with a "Crikey! That's not a knife. THAT'S a knife!" than run over with "'At's not a knoife! 'At's a knoife!"


« Last Edit: October 03, 2018, 07:01:34 PM by The Gem Cutter »
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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #23 on: October 03, 2018, 07:22:45 PM »
We should start a topic that's broader - conveying specific voices. Accent is really a subset that is more trouble than it's worth.
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Offline Skip

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #24 on: October 04, 2018, 02:01:47 AM »
I like that reference at Macmillan. To say a character spoke in lilting tones, or with a drawl that broadened when she drank, or this character carefully enunciated every word, and so on. Using these sort of descriptors gets you off the hook of trying to identify or *shudder* write out an actual accent. It lets the reader carry the accent.

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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #25 on: October 07, 2018, 02:15:34 AM »
"Oi yer fookin wanker, thought yer got a hand on me, did yer? I'll bash yer head in I smear on me mom."

Pretty much what I've picked up on British accent from the internet.  ;D

Offline Eclipse

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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #27 on: October 07, 2018, 10:17:01 AM »
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

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Offline Peat

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #28 on: October 10, 2018, 12:16:25 PM »
"Oi yer fookin wanker, thought yer got a hand on me, did yer? I'll bash yer head in I smear on me mom."

Pretty much what I've picked up on British accent from the internet.  ;D

And a fall at the final hurdle! Mom is the American version.


Fwiw, I think Robert Jordan has the best usage of accent while writing in clear understandable English I've seen from any author in the genre.

But I don't mind authors going heavily overboard with written accent. I grew up reading Brian Jacques and after that, anything is readable.
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Describing accents...
« Reply #29 on: October 10, 2018, 01:20:43 PM »
I found reading Dracula interesting due to its historical significance, but it had several flaws and a major one was Stoker's take on accents and dialects. Van Helsing's broken English got really obnoxious after a while. And one chapter features a very old man speaking some dialect from circa 1820, and good God what a chore that was to read.
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