Thursday, 18 October 2012
Land of the long lost vowel.
What seems to have happened is that the short vowel sounds have taken a step to the right, so ‘a’ as in 'apple', as spoken by anyone else in the English speaking world, except perhaps S Africa, becomes ‘e’ as in 'berry'. Then ‘e’ becomes ‘i’ as in 'skittle' and ‘i’ disappears, to become a stop, as in ‘fsh-n-chps’. Now to complete the set, ‘u’ becomes a sort of tortured ‘a’. I am sure NZ-ers are happy with that, but I often have problems understanding our nearest neighbours, who are, I claim, our best friends on the planet. So what happened that pushed their accent so far from the middle?
It seems that we humans are not happy to share an accent with our 'just over the border' neighbours. It could simply be to express a separate identity but I suspect it is for security. We go to great lengths to create almost-impossible-to-mimic differences and there is a good reason based on ‘survival of the fittest’ theory. Of course, we use all sorts of 'in' language; jargon and such which serves the purpose of keeping outsiders guessing and if one does attempt to join in, we can throw a bit of jargon around and smile at each other as we make the outsider look a dill.
So, we start with the premise that NZ-ers as a whole are more closely related to each other genetically than they are to Australians, so if there ever was a war between these two highly competitive but staunchly friendly nations, we and they would be able to distinguish between friend and foe to protect our respective gene pools. So there you have it.
Now, to apply that hypothesis to the many and sometimes way-out accents one finds in Britain, including that spoken by the broadest of Scots, we can assume they have a bloody and conflict ridden history. I seem to remember reading something about the occasional barney in ‘1066 and all That’. But I could be wrong.