One marvel of language is the accent. Accents reflect the influence of regions and local populations on individuals. Picturesque expressions are conveyed by rich inflections and tones. Indeed, accents are part of the poetry and spice of life.
An accent also serves as a sign of identity. It communicates the joy of being who one is. The world would be much poorer without the Southern drawl, the Midwest twang, the aggressive New York accent or the Irish brogue. They all enrich the experience of speaking English. Even the foreign accent has its charm since it allows the speaker to keep an original culture while interacting with another.
Celebrating a World of Accents
In a healthy society, there should be a world of accents. If language is an expression of culture, the more cultured a nation is, the greater the number of accents. People should see accents as sources of local pride and strong personalities.
Of course, enjoying accents takes effort since words and intonations can be hard to understand for the unaccustomed ear. However, the reward is a lively conversation that avoids the tedium of monotone dialogue.
With every syllable pronounced, accents proudly proclaim the existence of an anti-egalitarian world where differences are expressed, loved and celebrated.
The War on Accents
This unapologetic proclamation of inequality is why the modern world hates accents. It wages war on them. Accents complicate life by refusing to be standardized. Social justice warriors are disturbed by the accent’s affirmation that inequality is good. To a woke world, the best thing to do is to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator so that all might be equally bland and blandly equal.
In this age of standardization, the corporate world also enters into the war by reducing English to the bare bones. Artificial Intelligence devices are full of standardized, expressionless speech that transmits information or responds to commands. The COVID era made matters worse with constant Zoom conferences prompting people to seek ways to get everyone on the same dull audio page.
The Quest of Standard American English
An example of just how far this trend can go is the product of a software startup in Palo Alto, Calif. The firm, Sanas.ai Inc., uses machine-learning algorithms that can modify speech patterns to more uniform accents. The company has just raised $5.5 million to develop a program that will change the most difficult accents into standard American English in real-time. The Wall Street Journal reports this service will be helpful for those who want to switch to a “standard American English, which lacks any distinctly regional characteristics.”
While, in theory, the program might imitate other accents, the developers see great market potential in call centers, education and video games where the American standard would be most helpful. The three international students who started Sanas all had early communication difficulties at Stanford University and thus developed the software with standardized English in mind.
The Destruction of Language
However, reducing English into standardized forms is a way to destroy the language. It turns speech into a mere tool devoid of all art or poetry. Under such circumstances, language is no longer a canal of living human interaction but a cold machine for exchanging information.
In addition, the destruction of accents leads to the denial of identity. By adopting standardized speech, people claim to be something they are not. They are no longer proud members of a community that speaks alike but part of the anonymous masses that drone in a tongue “that lacks any distinctly regional characteristics.”
This destruction is made worse when done through an electronic device or program. The person no longer needs to change a manner of speaking but allows the machine to serve as an oral avatar. The machine mediates reality for the person by presenting a false picture of what is happening. Such mediation reinforces the postmodern idea that individuals create their ever-evolving realities and identities.
The Purpose of Language
The purpose of language is to communicate Truth. It can then facilitate the practice of Good. However, language must also make Truth delightful with the help of poetic Beauty. Thus, accents are adornments that help a person better engage in the service of an Almighty God.
Therefore, let accents live and flourish. Standardizing speech to the lowest common denominator only serves to impoverish, falsify and make the world yet uglier.
Photo Credit: © Sergey Ryzhov – stock.adobe.com