Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Accents In The Literary World

I sometimes wish I didn't get hit by realisations at my age. It's not fair. I should be allowed to get on with life, using the few existing chunks of knowledge I already possess, not having to cope with fresh ones, figuring out what to do with them and where they apply.

But, the key to the quandary probably lies somewhere around my wholly appropriate use of the word "few" immediately prior to "existing chunks of knowledge".

And one such example cropped up the other day as I was reading a book, an American one no less. I read a lot, something you might be aware of, and I reckon I'm quite good at it, though I do struggle with the more meaningful stuff.

As I munched my way through this book I dwelled more and more on the thought I'd had. I contemplated the books I read, many of which are Sri Lankan, many British and many American. Yes, I thought, I was right, I wasn't imagining it.

Every character in every book I've ever read, and I include comics here too, from Tin Tin to Asterix to Bertie Wooster to even Pradeep Mathews, is the proud owner of a middle class and British accent. The only exceptions I can think of are rare ones like the Godfather, where of course Don Corleone sounds like Marlon Brando trying to do an Italian accent with wads of tissue stuck in his cheeks.

I have a vague feeling that I sometimes give villains a foreign accent, totally understandable I think. But, for the main, my literary world consists of British people, well, more specifically English, even Londoners.

I wonder if this is the same for everyone. When you read a book and imagine the voices of the characters do they assume your native accent? Do you change the accent in your head according to the character or are these people without dialect?

Have you ever even thought about this?


maya❤ said...

I can so relate, and agree that I do alter & think up suitable accents for the personas in a whaever literary work i am reading...

& this brings me to a recent observation when i asked a Lankan friend...what language he thinks in ? I mean for me, English has been the natural option since its what i spoke at home growing up etc, but he told me he did at times think in sinhalese notably when he was pissed or stressed about things. So having heard this i deliberately tried to think in sinhalese and found it quite a refreshing change to my mind actually :)

Jack Point said...

I think this is the influence of cinema.

Villains always have strange foreign accents, be they German, East European or some variant of the British.

Spooky organ music like this:

is compulsory for most Horror/Monster movies. Mad Scientists are an optional extra.

aufidius said...

I recently finished Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'The Gambler', Everytime he spoke in a drunken frenzy at the roulette table he spoke in a Kelaniya accent, a bit like one Mervyn Silva we all know.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Maya - As I'm still struggling with only the one language I don't have the option of choosing another one to think in! I'm impressed that you think up different accents when reading. Do you mean that the accents vary in your head, as you're reading?

JP - Johnny Foreigner is a bad guy. We all know that!

The Auf - Frankly that's just weird!

maya❤ said...

for real...! I'm currently reading 'Olivia joules...' by helen fielding, its hilarious and as i read on, i hear this british accent between the lines, likewise, if there's a french person characterized with a regional accent in the plot, then my mind articulates the words with a typical french flare. its quite natural and i don't try to think that way...but i do meet people from such diverse cutures to the point where most accents are pronounced in my mind quite easily.

David Blacker said...

No, I never thought Sherlock was saying "Ado Watson, machang, good time for a smoke, no?" each time he pulled out his pipe.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DB - Ha! That made me do a LOL.