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SOUNDS ODD  by Elizabeth Holmes
Fun Facts on the Science of Sound

7. Why Accents Matter - No Kidding!

Biologists have long thought that humans, bats and dolphins are the only mammals capable of expressing accents. The reason for this conclusion is that the sounds most animals make are too primitive to allow for variations in expression.  

Enter the humble goat.    

Alan McElligott of Queen Mary, University of London, and his colleague, Elodie Briefer, recently turned the accent debate on its ear by studying goat vocalizations. 

Specifically, they studied four separate trips of kids. (Really. Baby goats are called "kids.”  When kids are in groups, they’re called "trips.”)   

The biologists studied 23 goats that broke off into groups of from five to seven individual members. At the end of five weeks, their bleats were recorded and analyzed.

Twenty-three acoustic parameters were analyzed, and the conclusion was that each of the four groups of goats had developed its own unique patois, or distinctive accent.   

KNOW YOU FROM SOMEWHERE?


"It probably helps with group cohesion,” says McElligott.
(Am I the only one who’s hearing echoes of the children’s movie Babe here? "Baah Ram Ewe! To your breed, to your fleece, to your clan be true!”)   
"People presumed [accents] didn’t exist in most mammals, but hopefully now, they’ll check it out in others,” says McElligott.  "It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s found in other ungulates and mammals.”  

For humans, accents also help us fit into our home group, and distinguish others by their speech. You’ll have a sense of belonging when you’re surrounded by your native accent, and a feeling of being different when you’re in constant contact with another’s.   

A FUN ACCENT TEST

If you’re American, check out this fun accent test, which I first saw in Marc Cashman’s January 2012 Cashman Commercials V-O Newsletter.  

When I took this test, I was shocked to discover that - despite living in California since I was two years old - I have a Midland accent! 

Both of my parents are from Illinois, and my older brother and sister lived in the Midwest for a decade before our family moved West. They taught me to speak, though, so guess what?  I have a Midland accent!   

BE PROUD OF ACCENT

Whatever your accent, use it with pride. Of course, you’ll also learn to set it aside when you need to perform voice over in a certain style.

Keep your native accent in reserve, though, for those character roles that require authenticity. Your homies will know the difference, and recognize and accept you as one of their own. 

What a trip!         

This article was adapted from Young Goats Can Develop Distinctive Accents, by Andy Coghlan,  New Scientist

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ABOUT ELIZABETH

Elizabeth Holmes is a writer, voice actor, and staff editor at VoiceOverXtra, based in Northern California. She is also editor of VoiceOverXtra's book division, including Voice Over Legal, by voice actor / attorney Robert Sciglimpaglia.

Email: Elizabeth@HolmesVoice.com

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