Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices

A British Library exhibition raises the question of how we ought to use our language

Telegraph: “They do say that the English spoken in the Appalachian mountains of America preserves the language that Shakespeare would have spoken. In the spotlit word-hoard of the Evolving English show, you can listen in on headphones to Doug Wallin (1919-2000), the renowned ballad-singer from Madison County in North Carolina, warbling Brother Green: “Oh Brother Green, please come to me / For I am shot and bleeding…” It’s like early Dylan.
Even better is an accompanying caption explaining that the stuff about the Appalachians and Shakespeare is all hooey. But, if you do want to hear what Shakespeare sounded like (and it wasn’t like Jasper Carrott), in another part of the cavernous exhibition space is a recording of the beginning of Richard III in as authentic a pronunciation as can be devised, with its the’s elided like a Yorkshireman’s, its r’s sounded like a West Countryman’s. There’s something in it for everyone.”


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