Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dialects and self-awareness

The other day I get in an almost fight with a Palestinian about my accent. He happens to be in my country for work and we met during a poker game with some mutual friends of ours. He asked about my accent and I said that it does not originate from my country of origin. He thought I was lying. More than that, I think he thought my refusal to own up to also being a foreigner was somehow a way to insult his own pronounced accent. When he started to get belligerent I figured I would just lie and gave him a fake backstory about a thickly accented grandmother that raised me with absentee parents, which seemed to satisfy him.

With that in mind, I found this Slate article to pretty entertaining, perhaps even a parable. It discusses the rise and spread of an American English dialect called the Northern Cities Shift, "NCS" and had this to say about the acquisition of regional dialects:

Children acquire language from face-to-face interaction with their parents and peers, and this learning is shaped profoundly by our desire to fit in. People wring their hands about the supposed disappearance of dialectic diversity for the same reason that such diversity is not, in fact, going anywhere: We cling to our specific identities and peer groups, and we defend our individual and regional idiosyncrasies when and where we can. Our dialects are often the weapon readiest to hand in that fight.

Did I not acquire my own regional dialect because I was not necessarily motivated by a desire to fit in, at least not as a very young child? Or because I never really identified with my peer group? The most unusual aspect of the NCS dialect spread, according to researchers, is how unaware the "shifters" are of their own speech patterns:


If news of this radical linguistic shift hasn’t made it to you yet, you are not alone. Even people who speak this way remain mostly unaware of it. Dennis Preston, a professor of perceptual linguistics at Oklahoma State University—he doesn’t merely study how people speak, he studies how people perceive both their own speech and the speech of others—discovered something peculiar about NCS speakers when he was teaching at Michigan State University. “They don’t perceive their dialect at all,” he says. “The awareness of the NCS in NCS territory is zero.” (Well, almost zero. The high point for NCS awareness may have come 20 years ago, when “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” was a popular recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live.)

According to Preston, most American dialect regions are oblivious to their quirks, but NCS speakers show a particularly striking lack of self-awareness. In one experiment, shifters were asked to write down a series of words, some affected by the NCS, some not, but all dictated by someone with an NCS accent. The expectation is obvious: Shifters should ace this test. But, amazingly, NCS speakers frequently did not understand their own speech. When they hear the word cat in isolation, for example, they seem to flip a mental coin to decide whether the speaker is talking about a common pet or a folding bed.

In a separate experiment, Nancy Niedzielski, an associate professor of linguistics at Rice University, told 50 NCS speakers that she was going to play a recording of a speaker from Michigan saying the word B-A-G, which she spelled out for them. She then asked the test subjects to identify whether the signal they heard sounded like byag (the NCS pronunciation), bag (the “standard” pronunciation), or baahg (a vaguely British pronunciation). Not one of the 50 subjects said that they heard the NCS pronunciation. “There’s just an incredible deafness to the local pronunciation,” Preston says—adding that the reason, in his opinion, is clear. “They believe that they are standard, normal, ordinary speakers, and when they’re confronted with evidence to the contrary, they reject it. They reject it in their daily lives, and they reject it even experimentally. They don’t even understand themselves.”

For me it's hard not to see parallels between these NCS speakers and your typical empath: oblivious to their own behavior, unable to see parallels in their behavior and those of others, unable to even understand the fact that they are failing to understand something that is relatively obvious to others. When people talk about sociopaths being able to see right through them I usually think, yes, but a lot of this stuff is obvious if you're not caught up in that particular flavor of self-deception.

But I'm glad that people think I speak with an accent to the point that they won't even believe the truth about me. It just makes it that much more easier to obfuscate. I guess people will just believe what they want to believe, right?

99 comments:

  1. I must have said byag-bag-bahg damn near 50 times, trying to get the context right for future reference. I've been trying not to put on airs of an accent but I've found I just dribble all over randomly all over words.

    I have a second-generation German accent. My r's come out like l's when I let my mask drop though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You dribble all over the place alright. Fruit Cake!

      Delete
    2. Your not a sociopath, you're a poser. Neurotypicals, mask drops...you are a cliched nerdo go back to wow

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  2. what happens when you beat the shit out of a bully? Narcissist? Sociopath?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. your knuckles bleed

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    2. Dis kills da babi

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    3. A bully stops being a bully.

      A narcissist moves on.

      A sociopath, because you only beat the shit out of them and did not put a bullet in their skull, burns your house down while your sound asleep.

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  3. It's an interesting question of whether the psychopath will adopt an accent quickly because of their awareness and desire to appear normal, or not adopt the accent because they are less empathetic and have less inclination to follow social rules.

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    1. Your mileage may vary. I've moved around a lot and I may sand off the sharp corners of my accent to fit in but my accent is my accent and changing it never crosses my mind. I've been in Colorado for almost 7 years and only recently has the notion of 'going native' ever crossed my mind.

      Now if I was to visit the UK, I would adopt the accent slowly. I like how the British sound and I see a lot of improvements in their sound.

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    2. You are a fruit fucking cake.

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    3. You mean adopting one on purpose? Because when it is by accident (listening to accented videos too long, being in a country, etc) it's not to fit in. Actually, I feel fine and a bit more stressed if I try to speak their language + their accent. I'd feel fine speaking my language in front of friends I brought to a country too, for example.

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    4. ...it's not to fit in.

      Then why?

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    5. It's something left over from the same reason we sound like our parents when trying to learn a language, that's supposedly the way its spoken and how you communicate when youre a baby. It seems like jumping to conclusions to say its some kind of secret unconscious fitting in survival tactic, especially when doing it (copying patters from *stutterers,* or from videos when there are English speaking around you) makes you stand out and *not* fit in.

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    6. I almost always get influenced by an accent. i end up with a subtle version of theirs, just enough for them to ask where I'm from. Then they don't believe me and they think I am trying to get away with something shady. But It's not something I do on purpose. I must be mirroring for some unconscious desire. They say the borderline lacked mirroring. Does that make every person a potential parental figure? That's messed up. But it makes sense on a few levels. For me, anyway.

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  4. People really do open up much faster when you shift into their speech pattern. I find it funny to shift back and forth subtly from northern dialect to southern dialect in the course of conversation. Really keeps people on their toes :)

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    Replies
    1. Go on. This is interesting. How do you perceive their opening up when you shift into their speech patterns? Does anyone ever call you on it?

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  5. ME wrote about the flexible self. I suppose the dialects/accents are a reflection of that. One of my SW sociopath friends said that he was a shape shifter. He could go anywhere and in any group of people and fit in.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a person who is on me in a very covert way. She hides from behind bushes and throws darts and when I react, acts like I made it up.

    I told a person in higher authority, so he would know and I would be able to tell him when she did it. The Mal narc is very, very jealous. They hate anyone who gets any approval or who out shines them. They are eaten up with jealousy.

    They have to save face, at all costs but they are genius in undermining the person of whom they are jealous--pure genius.

    I will pray for her to have everything I want. That is what the Bible tells you to do. Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.

    Inside me, I could literally kill her, though.

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    Replies
    1. I recently had a mal narc as an immediate superior, my little boss as I liked to call him. He hated the fact that those that I was in charge of liked me so much and would do whatever I wanted them to do. They would not listen to him for anything unless it came from me. Even though technically he was their Big boss, it was me their loyalty was to. I believe this was because one, they see through his BS and know he is an arrogant egotistical bastard who uses his position of authority to prop himself up. Often he has been caught taking credit for their work (and mine).

      Two, because I am such a "nice guy" they loved doing things for me; I gave them all the credit of course, which only made me look better in the eyes of MY Big boss (who is my little boss's boss; make sense?) and further infuriated the "mal narc little boss". My mal narc little boss proclaimed me a cult of personality, a cancer to the business, and feverishly tried to defame me with the Big boss. Finally he got personal on a day that my patience was wearing thin and I snapped. I now have to go find employment else where or face assault charges... oh, the life.

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    2. YES this one says I have a cult of personality, too. I am well liked because I am a considerate person with a good sense of humor. This person is as dull as they come.

      I did lose it, a bit, and made myself look a little bad but I took her down, too ~
      However, it is futile to even tangle with them, as they are more covert that you could ever be. They can only take you down.
      It is a no win situation.
      I am going to force myself to pray for her. That does help but is a friggin discipline ~

      Delete
  7. Guys, i need to ask you something. I am really worried cause i have started doing something that seems odd. Ever since i was about 16 i started being a real asshole with mostly everybody. I am older now and still do it. All the time. I hate pretty much everybody and i can't pinpoint the exact reason. I just know i do. What are your opinions ?

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  8. Wow, definitely written like a true sociopath. Of course it is everyone else's fault and the rest of the world is simply not as smart as you are.

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  9. First, anything BIG happen around 15/16?

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  10. it ok i will wait

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  11. he lost his virginity to a donkey

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  12. and now he's a beast in bed

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  13. the blogger seems to suggest his accent is permanent so this may not apply to him, but as a sociopath I find my accent is very fluid. It's one of the ways I am quite impressionable to others...I may adopt an accept of someone I admire almost without knowing it. I assumed it was one of those traits of the condition..sort of not really being anyone...or much more blurred...some call it flexible, others empty, others shallow...I don't know the word...but I know what is being meant. I don't like shallow though.

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  14. I fuckin love you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you sat it back just one more time this week?

      Delete
    2. I know you want me baby, I think I want you too
      They call me Superman, I'm here to rescue you

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    3. I want to grow together, let's let our love unfurl
      I know what you want to hear baby

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    4. bet u dont call me toma

      Delete
    5. You know I cant resist you baby. I love you and only you.

      Delete
    6. ok call me toma then <3

      Delete
    7. hahaha funny you can call me keshawn but call my cellular phone tomorrow baby <3 <3 <3

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    8. Fair enough i got u

      Delete
  15. My feeling about Tom, if he is still here( which he probably is ~)
    You have not been honest with yourself( and hence us) since you came on. Your wife was a last ditch effort to save face, which had the opposite effect as it made you look like a man who would throw his wife under the bus to make himself look good.
    I think you should try to get gut level honest, here, as who else is going to let you do so?
    You have been married too long to throw it out in the hopes of finding better( both of you) because it won't work.
    You will run a long race to find yourself back at the start.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious why people go all out to preserve the sanctity of marriage no matter what.
      OK, they were married for a long time, so what? People stay together for a lot of reasons, doesn't mean they are happy, are in love, or need to be together.
      Sometimes it's better to end a loveless marriage and give both parties a chance to be happy with somebody else. That's how bitterness and resentment breed. Modelling unhappy marriages to their children will not do them any good either.
      Why not try, rather than keep beating a dead horse?

      And before you start, no I am not Tom, Mrs T or any of their personas.

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    2. Because unless you change radically, you marry the same person.

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    3. From what I had gathered, I would think Tom doesn't need to be married period! He's all out for himself. Mrs T needs to get the hell away from that guy and find someone she can cultivate a real relationship with.

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    4. What if you realize the mistakes you made in your first marriage and know what led you to be so unhappy that the love died? If you tried everything to address those issues to no avail. The love is dead, the passion is gone. All that's left are the children and a piece of paper tying you together. What if you want more out of life and your spouse is holding you back? Should you still stay with them?

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    5. IF you really have changed such that you don't pick the same woman again( under a different guise), then that would be one thing, but people are the last to know themselves. Look at Hollywood, just for a public example.

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    6. Hollywood is full of narcissists. Huge, insatiable egos. They can't get their head out of their asses long enough to care about anyone else.
      About picking the same person under a different guise, we can't help who we love can we?

      Delete
    7. Well, if you are going to love 10 Dolly Partons, just stick to the one.

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    8. All i need is a JET

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    9. Where's the fun in that? No two people are the same. No two relationships are the same. Isn't it worth it to take a chance as long as you learn from the previous mistakes?

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    10. Waaa-hhyyyy, are we still talking about the loser better known as gungy?

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    11. Not Gungy, not Mrs T, not any of their alter egos. They are not the only ones on here.

      Delete
    12. mhmmmmm Mrs. T

      Delete
  16. I always assumed that people have accents their parents have because that's the way they learned to speak... FROM their parents. Why would they speak in some other way while learning? They're learning word pronunciation just like the words themselves from their family.

    I myself pick up accents (temporarily) if I'm simply listening to videos of people with accents, (even with people with my accent around me) etc... same with stuttering actually. I don't think I believe it's about fitting in, the most obvious explanation suffices just fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. -Wicked Lovely, too lazy to sign in.

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    2. "-Wicked Lovely, too lazy to sign in."

      You had to tell us, that maybe the most egotistical post to date.

      Around here that is saying something.

      Delete
    3. How is any more egotistical than signing in and using my username? I said "oh, better put that so that they know who wrote it". It has nothing to do with ego... your comment is pretty much random to me. I was being polite, and I dont want to be accused of hiding under anonymity if my character comes out in writing. Saying who you are is egotistical, let alone the most egotistical post to date? Give me a break.

      Delete
    4. You are just fucking annoying. You could breathe and it would be annoying

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    5. I would like for you to sign your name, too, instead of just being anonymous? Take that cloak off, m'am :p

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    6. Fuck you, you silly little bipolar bitch!

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    7. Ah... one of the people who think I'm bipolar. You are great at diagnosing

      /sarcasm

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    8. Don't let yourself be so hard on yourself.

      Delete
  17. Paranoid 38%
    Schizoid 70%
    Schizotypal 42%
    Antisocial 78%
    Borderline 18%
    Histrionic 46%
    Narcissistic 90%
    Avoidant 10%
    Dependent 26%
    Obsessive-Compulsive 10%

    who am I?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. Really fucked up?

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    2. guess again fuckers

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    3. definitely not medusa ukan or monica

      ellicit extremity plunkett selena one of those four twisted weirdos

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    4. But they seem so nice

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    5. the most twisted people always seem to be the nicest too

      TWITTER QUOTE

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    6. So which one is it!?

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    7. Cute, because those are the cutest stats I've ever seen.

      Delete
    8. Mhmmm.

      (Wicked Lovely)

      Delete
  18. What has happened? This place is soooooo boring..

    ReplyDelete
  19. No one wants to come to this site, anymore....

    ReplyDelete
  20. I heard a rumor... at band camp... that if you post on this blog you will be murdered...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And your first?

      Delete
    2. One time... at band camp... I stuck a flute in my...

      Delete
  21. what makes a person weak? I hear people talking about the *weak* all the time on here. definite it, please.

    ReplyDelete
  22. weak is when you give your power away and you suffer from doing so. Some people will choose freely to give their power away. They are in the strong category.

    ReplyDelete

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