The importance of dialects

I’ve just finished listening to Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

I haven’t read any really enjoyable books recently so I’m so glad I ended the year with the audiobook of this one. I didn’t particularly enjoy My Fair Lady, the musical based on this play, so I didn’t have high expectations. However, I really enjoyed Pygmalion and thought it was a different entity to the musical (although I couldn’t help occasionally imagining the characters breaking into song when they said a line that some of the songs are based on!).

Great characters, nicely depicted setting and a good, humorous story. Plus it uses concepts from sociolinguistics and as a linguistics graduate I couldn’t help enjoying it! I’d certainly try to see it if there is ever a production of it at a local theatre.

I’m fascinated by accents and having lived in various places over the UK I’ve been interested to know how other people perceive my accent. I’m from South West England and although I have some identifying features, when I went to university in Scotland most people described my accent as ‘posh’. A friend later told me that when she initially met me she assumed I would be ‘stuck up’. At university, with a mix of accents from everywhere I blended in fine. However on a work placement as an Online Exhibition Assistant I felt very out of place among my Scottish work colleagues and longed to be able to tone down my ‘posh’ accent. While I’m thankful for my pretty standard accent most of the time, it would be nice to have the homeliness of non-RP accent sometimes, but maybe not quite as much of one as Eliza Dolittle’s!

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