Reading in one’s own accent

Here’s a strange thought: do we read in our own accents?

If you’re from Boston, or Atlanta, or Winnipeg, or Edinburgh do you mentally verbalize — as you read — in your own accent? That is, does your own mind’s voice speak to itself in the particular accent of your locality?

Got you thinking, right?

Of course, we can (probably) never know the answer. And the question is a bit of a tautology or more so, an impossible question. What happens in our Vegas mind, stays in our Vegas mind.

But to examine the question anyway: when we hear our own voice in a recording we do not notice our own accent. Actors no doubt can detect intentional accents of their own making. But average humans? Everyone else has an accent — not us.

So, I suspect we don’t read to ourselves in our native accent, or none that we can identify. But, perhaps, if we could tap into the biological wires that connect our reading mind  / speaking mind to our listening mind I bet we would recognize individual accents. It’s rather intriguing to think that someone from Mumbai is reading to themselves in a Mumbai accent.

It’s concepts like this that, from time to time, drop into my brain and make me wonder.


11 thoughts on “Reading in one’s own accent

  1. Hadn’t thought of this before! I actually read with different accents in mind. If it’s a news article, I ‘hear’ it as Lloyd Robertson, the Canadian news anchor I grew up listening to. But for fiction, the narrator takes on the accent of wherever the story is taking place (or at least what I imagine that accent sounding like). I’ve been able to travel a lot, grew up in Canada in a family of different accents (Scottish & Ukrainian), & watched a lot of movies/TV set in the US, so maybe that’s why. Very interesting post!

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    1. We have the NewsCaster accent. The non-accent. I grew up in northern Virginia (outside of D.C.) and the accent I have is identical to the Best Coast accent. So, yeah, accent? I don’t have one. Everybody does — fo’shore.
      I’m in Lake Oswego…

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  2. I travelled. A lot. As a synth “prophet.” I hear characters in their voices. I am not crazy. Elmore Leonard answered the same in an interview. My problem with reading most of the time is the stilted voices writers lay on their characters. Or the edited into homogeneity pablum out there. I. Hear in my own inflections, and my dialogue, which is why I lean on many sorts of timing and inflection modifiers such as phonetics and italics, to the the extent of partial word italics. The music of conversation lies flat on the page without breaking a few rules. I give you Huck Finn. I also balk at words that in normal informal conversation would be contracted. Check this out – “it is a tough call, Robert. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.” Now, that said nonchalantly reads stiff. But with emphasis, “It IS a tough call..” sorry, no italics, it works better for me. Otherwise “it’s” wins. Music has way more dynamic notation options than the written word. Don’t you find that odd? Boring ass academic writing, fine. You would think authors would have demanded fermatas and glissando, diminuendo, crescendo, and all the p to fff. If that all ran under a sentence like a musical phrase a LOT of bullshit tags would go away.
    “I think he hid it in this closet somewhere…”
    Would eliminate “she said, softly, whispering adverb hell er al.
    On point, yeah, we read in our own voices. And I hear the characters in theirs. But like the man said, dialect sparingly as needed. Tell me they’re Scottish, arrange the notes properly, I’ll hear it without hukt awn foniks.
    Funny thought. Beats football!

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    1. This was not so much about writing and reading in accents of characters. It was just about when we read anything or even talk to ourselves (out loud or in our minds) do we talk in an accent. It’s a stupid proposition, I’ll admit. But it came to mind.

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      1. Not stupid at all, but it comes to mind that reading in an accent or voice carries over to all aspects of reading. By extension thinking. I think in various accents, form replies. We are theatrical beings in our heads. I may be at some minor advantage having heard and or seen various aspects of my life recorded and spent a good deal of time forming spoken replies by running their tapes through my brain. Good ol boy? Redneck? Hip? Player? Marketer? Thinker? How we present ourselves or think of ourselves is all of what we are and the rhetorical stance and posture we assume for a given situation is our “accent.” I mean who reads anything but narrative with some theatrics?

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  3. I’m from the Northwest. Born in Western Washington, living in Western Oregon. Naturally I’m going to write in the voice I hear every day. I’m also going to read in my own accent but I do love the east and south accidents. I wish I could hear their voices when I read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would be cool. Thinking more on this, one DOES read in the accents of the CHARACTERs if they have accents in the story–right? But the narrator? That’s me (you, us) reading, and we don’t have accents do we. Not to ourselves. Anyway, I live in Northwestern Oregon too!


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