I got this mail from Nick about another personal peculiarity in English pronunciation in response to my recent post. Enjoy.

_______________________

I enjoyed your post about spotting Nigerian accents by the pronunciation of “man/men”

(http://www.ktravula.com/2011/08/spotting-nigerians/).

This doesn’t have anything to do with Nigerian English, but I know you like American English accents, so I thought I’d write.  I ran into something similar to the “man/men” issue when I moved from my home town of Portland, Oregon to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (you should visit both cities if you get a chance).  Having lived in Pittsburgh for ten
years I still find myself having to consciously use more of a “aa” sound, particularly with the word “bag”, which my wife tells me I pronounce too much like “beg”.  I do it pretty automatically now, but I actually find myself exaggerating it to prevent comments.  I think I sound like a sheep, going “baaaaaa-g”.  The vowel sounds more open and I hold my tongue farther back in my throat than I would naturally.

This might not be exactly the same as the “men/man” thing, but it seems similar.

This is just my experience and not evidence of a regional accent issue, but at least one of my friends reported something similar after moving from Portland to the east coast.  Other significant factors are that I may have picked up a bit of my mom’s New England accent, and also that Pittsburgh is home to a slight local accent and some cool local vocabulary like “yinz” instead of “y’all”.

Thanks for your always-interesting blog,

Sincerely,

Nick.

_____________________

Notes

This mail reminds me of one other distinct pronunciation difference in Nigerian and Ghanaian English. Growing up in the early to late eighties, I remember a common assumption that Ghanaian English sounded closer to the British standard than Nigerian English, and Nigerian parents paid more to send their children to private schools that had Ghanaian teachers rather than ones that didn’t. And though they paid so much for the “privilege” for us, we never understood much of the obsession beyond the fact that our teachers insisted on pronouncing “Church” as “cherch” (as it rhymes with “perch”), the as “the” (as rhyming with the “e” in “wet”, hamburger as “hamberger”, luck as “lack”, and but as “bat” rather than the Nigerian “bot” among very many others that I can list if I get the time. We students also didn’t gain much from the hubris that the teacher brought with them either. It however provided plenty moments of comic relief in classroom sessions when it didn’t come along with punishments for deviation. We had some good laughs as I am sure did Ghanaians who had listen to us speak English as well.  I have been to East African and I think that the English there – along with its own amusing peculiarities that knocked Nigerian and Ghanaian versions to a corner – comes the closest to British English pronunciation standard in all of the Englishes I’ve heard on the continent. But then, I’ve never been everywhere.

Thank you Nick.

Sincerely,

KT

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