22 December 2023

Review: You're All Talk by Rob Drummond

You're All Talk by Rob Drummond book cover

* Copy courtesy of Scribe Publications *

I've always been fascinated by language, accents and linguistic diversity. I have an Australian accent and my favourite accents to listen to are the Kiwi and South African accents. All I need to do is Google 'Anna accent Downton Abbey' or 'Peaky Blinders accent' and I can easily lose half an hour or more in my day.

In You're All Talk - Why We Are What We Speak by Rob Drummond, the reader is introduced to the broad range of accents from a UK central perspective with various distinguishing features highlighted to demonstrate the language differences in accent and dialect. Drummond gives us a history lesson as to how the different accents developed and changed around the world, and how they continue to evolve and change today.

The author is a Professor of Sociolinguistics and academic linguist and he explains why accents shift between locations and within classes in the UK and the stigma associated with some accents while others are considered more refined or cultured. Linguistic criticism and judging people by their accents was covered, as well as the practice of expressing accents in writing; Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe comes to mind here.

Adopting accents to signify a shared group identity was fascinating and the author draws on the nature of gay talk (gay voice) and Valley Girl speech as two clear examples of this.
"Speech features become associated with specific groups through those groups repeatedly using them. Not because there is anything intrinsically feminine/middle-class/gay about them, but because that's the association that develops when particular people use them again and again. And when this association has been made, these features can be used by others to help create that identity for themselves." Page 79
I'm still pondering this many days later. The differences in vowel sounds across accents is touched on, and how the American accent evolved to pronounce the 'r' in words (which is called a 'rhotic' accent by the way) and it's not what you think! I loved learning about the glottal stop and worried when I read about accent reduction. The inclusion of foreign accent syndrome brought to mind an old 60 Minutes episode and sent me off hunting that down.

One of my favourite takeaways from You're All Talk was without a doubt learning about vocal fry:
"Creaky voice or 'vocal fry' is another speech feature that is often associated with young, especially American, women. Combined with uptalk, it provides the toolkit for what is often referred to as 'Valley Girl' speech, and is a feature that is often heavily stigmatised." Page 14
The author suggests listening to a video of Kim Kardashian talking and I quickly found a montage of her using vocal fry and that was it! Now I can't un-hear it and regularly notice it appearing in male and female speakers in the content I'm viewing.

Drummond touches on too many aspects of the way we speak and why to mention here. I haven't been able to share even half of my favourite snippets (there were 17!!), but if any of these topics interest you, you'll love this book.

You're All Talk by Rob Drummond is highly recommended for non fiction readers interested in language and communication and why we speak the way we do.

My Rating:

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