15 August 2008

Losing my R and Inhaling Molecules

So I have been conducting this social experiment lately. And the reactions that I am getting are rather varied.

Upon coming back from Europe, I decided to adopt a non-rhotic accent. This meant that I don't pronounce my "r" sounds whenever it is after a vowel, and not followed by another vowel. So, this means that the word "four" would be pronounced as FAW instead of the typical American pronunciation.

The reactions I get from my friends are rather funny. Some just note it, saying that it seemed that I forgot to take my syllable-final R with me from Europe. Another told me if I am speaking in a different accent, and when I told her yes, she said, "Wow, I can do phonetics now!"

But another one complained, saying I should put my R back, because it is not me.

In my defense, I do not come from a country where English is natively spoken. Yes, there is this thing called Philippine English, and people sometimes say that Filipinos also speak English natively, albeit using the Philippine English version. However, I would argue against that by saying that the majority of the population do not use it, only a sub-group of the population, namely the middle and the elite class. You do not see jeepney drivers talking to each other in English.

Anyway, based on that, I suppose I do not come from a country where English is natively spoken. English is still just a second language for me. And given that premise, I might as well pick any accent I want whenever I would speak in English. So, it wouldn't be surprising or unnatural to speak in a non-rhotic accent since I do not have a specific brand of English that I am expected to speak with. I do not come from the United States, therefore why would people expect me to speak in American English?

Now one of my friends insist that I put my R back. She tells me that it is not me, and speaking in a non-rhotic accent somehow changes my personality. But I tell her that if she met me the first time and I spoke a non-rhotic accent back then, then that would not be a problem. I argue that speaking in a different accent is arbitrary then. After all, if one is a good linguist, then one would expect that one can switch between different accents and still speak fine.

Anyway, I am having fun. So I suppose I won't go back to the rhotic version of this language yet. It is fun to play with people's heads, confusing them with regard to my origin, seeing a brown-skinned person is speaking in a different accent that does not sound too Asian, and doesn't sound American either.

On a separate note, it just fascinated me how some people's fragrances can linger in some locations. Like when I rode the elevator this morning. A lady got off, and I got in. It smelled inside like she rubbed all of her skin to all the walls of the elevator, because it really smelled that way. It was very strong. Not that I mind it, and it was a good thing that I don't have a fragrance allergy. But it felt like she did some incense ritual in the elevator before getting off.

Now maybe it is the same thing with regard to my fragrances. I usually wear a fragrance every day I get out of the house, and my everyday fragrance at the moment is Pi by Givenchy. I wonder whether it is simply the case that I am used to my scent, that I don't notice it, but then perhaps whenever I ride an elevator, the same thing happens. I should conduct an empirical study about this sometime whenever I have time in my hands.

(The Other Road, from my Letchworth Park Series)

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