There should be a history of English dialects

There should be a history of English dialects

I’ve often watched old Hitchcock movies and the like where people speak in an accent or dialect known as Mid-Atlantic English. Think of how FDR or Katherine Hepburn spoke, with those long a R’s, hard A’s and ridiculous dipthongs… as well as regular thongs too!. That is Mid-Atlantic English. The weird thing is that nobody really speaks like that anymore. That dialects just sort of faded away. And the only way that we now know that it ever existed is because it was recorded in film and audio. To me this begs an obvious question… What sort of strange dialects have come and gone in the past without record? How many alterations of spoken English have occurred that we are not aware of, simply because they were never recorded. I’m pretty sure that there would never have been phonetic record taking of English dialects in the time before audio recordings. And if there was it had to have been only of general changes rather than isolated dialects. Currently I know that there is a vowel shift going on in North America… that’s right the way we speak is changing as we speak. You can hear more about that in the PBS documentary Do You Speak American.
But here is an interesting thought, what if we could somehow find a link between the way that English is written and the way that is is spoken and traverse the written word throughout history to find out the way that past English speakers spoke. Is this possible? It should be!

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