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A Plum in your Mouth: Why the Way We Talk Speaks Volumes About Us - Andrew Taylor

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Genre: Humour / Author: Andrew Taylor / Hardcover / 272 Pages / Book is published 2006-11-06 by HarperCollins Entertainment

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      02.03.2012 16:22
      Very helpful



      An enjoyable analysis of the way English is spoken

      A plum in your mouth attempts to look at the variance in the English language and tries to show how the regional variations happen and why they happened. The author Andrew Taylor goes through all the famous English accents and tries to describe why a Welshman sounds so different from a Scottish person and why a man from Yorkshire speaks differently to a Cornishman. The book is split into strict regional variations and attempts to suggest why Geordies never drop their H's and the rounded a's versus flat a's. There are many variations which tells an English speaker where's he from and how his accent may have developed, so the slight variation between say a Sheffield speaker and a Barnsley speaker might be slight for everyone else but as I live between two such speakers and can clearly tell the difference between two people who grew up within 5 miles of each other than that tells you that the words we speak, the vowels we emphasise and the one's we don't are in-built from learning to talk.

      The book tries and succeeds in convincing us that the spoken language and the variations are a joy rather than something to unfairly give a social or ethical dimension so the book begins with a discussion between Estuary English and Received Pronunciation both London and the south based but completely different in their word and vowel structure. The temptation to make one better than the other is never been explained than the first example where a judge pronounces Hounslow, Harnslew and the man in the dock pronounces it Ounslow.

      The rest of the book follows in a similar manner, it discusses the spread of the regional accent, the split between the north and south using the rounded a as a guide and why that split may have happened. Then we progress through the famous regional dialects, the reason for them and how the way the words are shaped in the mouth betray certain historical influences. The description of the regional and colonial accents are the strongest parts of the book, the book does drift in the third quarter where the book debates how the language has changed and how words betray that change. The book also rather repetitively gives us examples of drift in the language such as the loss of the letter d in Wednesday but the retaining of the letter in similar circumstances. This does get repetitive and the use of the terms rhotic R, flat and rounded a does get a bit dry at times.

      The book does end with an uplifting message, the author cites evidence of an expansion of the spread of regional variation the loss of the strictness of the RP or BBC English and how even the Queen's speech has changed over the last 60 years of doing radio and television speeches. Overall, this was an interesting read it could perhaps have done with a bit of editing in the middle and more on the colonial accents but it is written in a light jovial manner and tries not to annoy the reader, it does lead the reader to pronounce certain words to see whether they have a rounded a, rhotic R or dropped H.


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