February 6, 2013

English accents, circa 1483

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I’m afraid the coverage of the discovery and identification of the remains of Richard III have done bad things to the newspapers. We’re starting to see articles like this posted:

King Richard III was ‘a brummie’
King Richard III would have spoken with a Birmingham accent, according to a language expert.

Dr Philip Shaw, from the University of Leicester’s School of English, used two letters penned by the last king of the Plantagenet line more than 500 years ago to try to piece together what the monarch would have sounded like.

He studied the king’s use of grammar and spelling in postscripts on the letters.

The university has now released a recording of Dr Shaw mimicking King Richard reading extracts from those letters.

Despite being the patriarch of the House of York, the king’s accent “could probably associate more or less with the West Midlands” than from Yorkshire or the North of England, said Dr Shaw.

Wow. This must have been a long, painstaking effort to pin down the linguistic “tics” that help indicate a person’s natural speaking habits. What were the key elements that indicated Good King Richard was a “Brummie”?

“… there is also at least one spelling he employs that may suggest a West Midlands accent.”

That’s it? One spelling variation that “suggests” he would pronounce that one word in a similar manner to the modern Birmingham style? Gah!

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