Hello, friends. I’ve had a copy of David Crystal’s The Stories of English for a long time now, but never managed to get around to reading it. That’s about to change.
Today, I came across a fascinating article about what English accents used to sound like. In it, linguist Gretchen McCulloch explains that there was a major shift in English pronunciation during the late eighteenth century. Because North American colonies were founded before that transition, Canadians and Americans now speak with accents that are derived from the old pronunciation.
The most obvious example, according to McCulloch, is our pronunciation of Rs (in words like car, yard, and farm). Basically, the English used to do it; the emigrants who first settled here did it; and so we still do it. In contrast, Australia was used as a penal colony after the linguistic shift, and that’s why Australians today don’t pronounce their Rs.
Anyway, embedded in McCulloch’s short article is this terrific video featuring linguistics expert David Crystal and his actor son, Ben Crystal. In it, they demonstrate what Shakespeare sounded like in “Original Pronunciation”, or OP.
If you don’t want the fluff about the rebuilt Globe Theatre in London, skip ahead to 3:00. But don’t miss the Crystals’ compare-and-contrast readings of Shakespeare! It’s startling, inspiring stuff.