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WSP 317 — Why English Sounds Like It Does: A One-Day Study of the Colorful World of English Accents

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Sunday
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 1 day
Date(s): Dec 3
Time: 10:00 am—4:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Nov 26
Unit: 0
Tuition: $225
Instructor(s): Asya Pereltsvaig
Status: Open
On-campus course
10:00 am—4:00 pm
Dec 3
1 day
Drop By
Nov 26
0 Unit
Asya Pereltsvaig
English, like all other languages, changes over time and varies according to place and social setting. The way a person sounds—such as with the “southern drawl” or dropping their “r’s”—immediately conjures up a sense of the place where they come from. But the way we speak is influenced by many factors: not only our geographical roots, but also our social and educational background, our working environment, our friends, our own sense of identity, and even our political views all affect how we sound. In this one-day workshop, we will examine English dialects and accents around the country and around the world, and how they changed over time. We will wonder what Shakespeare really sounded like, and how we can know that. We will observe how English speakers can manipulate the way they speak to emphasize their identity. We will hear Bostonians and New Yorkers, posh and working-class Londoners, Scots and Irishmen, Canadians and Australians—and then come back to Northern California and look at its changing linguistic landscape. Students will develop a better appreciation of the variety of accents and dialects in English, the people who speak them, and how we react to people speaking in different ways.

Grade restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade

Asya Pereltsvaig, Linguistics Scholar

Asya Pereltsvaig received a PhD in linguistics from McGill and has taught at Yale, Cornell, Stanford, and several European universities. Her areas of specialization include historical linguistics, Slavic languages, and the history of Yiddish. Her latest books are Languages of the World: An Introduction and The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics (co-authored with Martin W. Lewis).

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.