Copying accents--related to echolalia?



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Callista
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19 Jan 2013, 2:09 pm

I've noticed this about myself: When I listen to someone speaking English with an accent, especially for more than an hour or so (a book on tape, for example; a TV interview, that sort of thing), I tend to speak in that same accent for a while until it wears off.

I also tend to echo things I hear. I don't do it when I'm in company unless I forget myself, but the impulse is there. I think I just kind of spit out whatever happens to be in my auditory memory at the time. Sometimes I can keep it up for ages, saying out loud what I'm hearing, about a second delayed. And I don't just copy the words; I copy inflection, rhythm, emphasis. It's actually easier to copy everything than it is to copy just the words, and I don't have to think about the meaning for that to happen.

Right now, for example, I'm copying a British accent because I've been listening to a youtube video from someone in England. As I'm typing this, I'm thinking the words out loud to myself, and the pronunciations are the same as what I heard in the video.

The effect will wear off in a while, especially if I don't speak out loud. It goes back to the Midwest-US sort of accent, eventually.

I wonder if echolalia is related--whether we might not pick up somebody else's speech patterns, without echoing their exact words. It's like I'm copying a template.

Another thing I just noticed reading back over this post--my writing is slightly less American than it usually is: "When I'm in company", "For ages", "whether we might not"... I wonder if it's not just accents, but styles of language that we copy.

I've even been known to insert archaic words into my language, if I've been reading a book that's old enough to have them in it.

Interestingly, I didn't do this when I was little, when I had very pedantic speech with pre-cut sentences. I think I learned to imitate speech styles somewhere around my late teens or early twenties, but I didn't become proficient in it until some time later. Unfortunately, depending on which style I'm stuck on, it can result in some strange combinations, such as talking about graduate-level biology while using slang American expressions, when my pedantic-scholarly style would really be better suited for the environment.

Thoughts?


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LabPet
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19 Jan 2013, 2:58 pm

Your assessment is astutely correct. Callista, more than 2 years ago I relocated and now my accent is almost imperceptibly like those here. That is, my native "accent" practically does not exist. This language anomaly is incongruent with the experience of most ex-pats. Language/communication for those those of us on the spectrum is different from our NT counterparts. We do learn via mimicry. Like you, my speech can be formal and even pedantic.

Certainly the speech patterns, and accents, of typical children are far more plastic than those of typical adults whose speech patterns mostly do not change. But Aspies do not necessarily follow this rule. I guess my accent is fluidic, depending upon where I am. A few years ago I had a memorable chemistry professor who later became a supervisor, then mentor......and a friend. He was taught chemistry by one from Poland and, by extension, I was taught to pronounce certain things in that way. Still, to this day, I pronounce "acetyl," for example, as if I were German/Polish (and I am not that). I seemed to have adopted his speech patterns. I've noticed that for those who are influential to me, I may tend to inadvertently adopt their pattern! And I am a pattern thinker.

I do not know the our demographics, but I think most Wrong Planet members are from the USA or UK with plenty from Australia and Canada too. Callista, do you think you might pick-up on phrases, expression, spelling, etc. from us? And maybe vice-versa.


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19 Jan 2013, 3:23 pm

My accent is often affected by the way I hear other people talking. My normal accent isn't very stable though. My accent changes to some extent according to my mood and level of nervousness. Many people probably think that I'm not American and that English isn't my native language, because of the way I talk and the way I word things. I sometimes word things kind of strange because I have a hard time planning out how I'm going to say things. I hate doing presentations because I get nervous and can't pronounce things as clearly.



jetbuilder
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19 Jan 2013, 3:42 pm

I do this too. I have family in Arkansas and when I go to visit I'll slowly adopt a southern accent. It also happens when I listen to the Harry Potter audio books. The narrator has an English accent and after a while I'll have a slight English accent.


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Callista
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19 Jan 2013, 5:37 pm

LabPet wrote:
I do not know the our demographics, but I think most Wrong Planet members are from the USA or UK with plenty from Australia and Canada too. Callista, do you think you might pick-up on phrases, expression, spelling, etc. from us? And maybe vice-versa.
Yes, especially the more subtle expressions, things that are correct in all regions but simply more common in one or two.


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BanjoGirl
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19 Jan 2013, 7:28 pm

When I was 9 or 10 I met people from other regions during two weeks. They laughed at me saying that my accent and "weird words" were rustic and that I "didn't speak correctly".
I really disliked their annoying poshy accents, but I experimented a change in my pronunciation during two weeks :? Fortunately I recovered, their accent was very boring.

I can imitate a lot of accents, it's very funny. I like to speak Russian and Chinese, both languages have very enjoyable phonetics.


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Last edited by BanjoGirl on 19 Jan 2013, 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ianorlin
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19 Jan 2013, 7:37 pm

I start thinking of things and can pick up things like watching British ways of saying things when watching doctor who and top gear sometimes they are even what I think to myself after watching them.



jamgrrl
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19 Jan 2013, 8:58 pm

I've always been very good at hearing distinct accents and mimicking them. I've also had to resist copying people's foreign accents so they won't think I'm mocking them. I worked with a guy from South Africa, which was this cool mix of Dutch and English, and I had to work very, very hard to not talk like he did. Sometimes I would when I got home, though, just to get it out.

During a short visit to Canada as a teen, I came home with a Canadian accent I couldn't shake for two weeks. There are the obvious differences like the "ou" sound in about, but after a day I could hear the very subtle difference between the hard "i" sound and some other differences, and yeah. Couldn't stop using them.

I actually start to think in the accent, which is why if I ever get a chance to live in a non-English-speaking country, I'd probably become fluent fairly quickly.



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19 Jan 2013, 9:17 pm

I can relate to this.

I'm Australian. I've never spoken like an Aussie. When I travel, people usually pick me as British, even though I don't really have a British accent either.

I will also pick up accents. In the US and Britain I had to concentrate on retaining my own accent so that people didn't think I was mocking them. When I went to New Zealand I was less careful. There's not a huge difference between the NZ accent and the Australian accent, and also no one there knew where I came from, so I let it happen for fun. By the end of my three-week trip I was mistaken for a local.



Livelock
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19 Jan 2013, 9:26 pm

This is part of how we speak, by learning to mimic those around us. If you are around people with an accent long enough you will start to take on that accent. I think this should happen to anyone Echolalia or not.



hojita
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20 Jan 2013, 12:39 am

This makes sense....and I totally relate!

One summer at camp, there was a British counselor and after hearing her speak for awhile, I was mortified to find I couldn't stop mimicking her accent. Thankfully the girls around me thought it was awesome, but I was embarrassed.

I don't spend too much time around people with accents now but I do find that I start to mimic their speech after a little while. On some level I appreciate it though; I'm able to mimic several accents at will. I've never been able to do an Australian accent on my own, but if I'm watching a movie or something with that accent in it, I can mimic it exactly. Always thought that was weird, but now it kind of makes sense.



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20 Jan 2013, 1:00 am

I sometimes repeat things I hear. I remember one poster here (I forget her name) pronounced Asperger in her youtube videos as "Aspehrjehrz" which I found myself repeating all the time, even when trying to use the word in a conversation.

I repeat all kinds of phrases going back years, too. Two phrases that I keep repeating are "It's about power" from the first episode of Buffy's final season and "I hate everyone and everything" which was the title of a blog post I read a few years ago. I do not hate everyone and everything, and I do not actually want to say these things.

I do pick up accents that I am around. I play a lot of online games with friends in Australia, and I pick up a bit of that. A lot of the phrasing has stuck with me over time, too, but I like it.

I remember reading a long book I had ordered that used UK spellings and how it changed how I wrote and spell for weeks afterward. I frequently used words like "armour," "colour" and the like. Considering that at the time I was also doing professional freelance writing, this leaked into my work and got some amusing comments from my editor.

I've found that reading rather idiosyncratic writing means I will probably imitate that writing style for a time afterward, too. This has worked for good as well as bad. The way I write after reading Hunter S. Thompson can be pretty entertaining, but it can get me into trouble too. I remember reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman before writing some fairy tale-type stuff, and it came out very Gaimanesque even though I was not consciously emulating him.

I used to imitate accents a lot more than I do now. When I was in my teens and 20s I did it frequently. Now, not so much.



BornThisWay
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20 Jan 2013, 1:04 am

Oh my Goodness!! !! You have no idea how exciting this thread is for me. I have just read online the reports of TEN other people who either do the same thing I do, or at least can relate to it. I always though it was just something I did because I had a traumatic childhood and I did it for 'cover'.

For years, I've known that I 'naturally' pick up the accent of whomever I am talking to. I also have had to apologize that I was not mocking someone, or explain that I was not an Israeli or whatever the aural flavor of the moment was. I have done this since my childhood and I am 61 years old. I CAN control it by actively NOT doing it...but if I'm not thinking about it, I automatically echo or mimic an accent.

I also have been complimented when speaking a foreign language that my pronunciation was 'excellent'...I guess that's the upside! My grammar and vocabulary was terrible, but I sounded just fine. :lol:

And Verdandi...the 'word usage' or writing style thing has happened to me as well....



Callista
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20 Jan 2013, 1:49 am

Livelock wrote:
This is part of how we speak, by learning to mimic those around us. If you are around people with an accent long enough you will start to take on that accent. I think this should happen to anyone Echolalia or not.
I wish we had a good sample of NTs to ask whether they do this, to what degree they have and keep a native accent. Can an NT from Boston speak in a Southern accent within days of arriving in Texas, and just doesn't because he prefers his native accent? Or is his native accent so natural to him that he would have to work hard to switch, instead of naturally echoing the accents of those around him?

You would think that it's the NTs who would have that sort of ability to imitate. Why autistics?

I wonder whether NTs can echo each others' speech, if they want to, the way an autistic person might? You know--copy it exactly the way they heard it? Or do they process the words they hear so immediately that by the time it gets into conscious awareness, it's already been transformed into symbols? To what degree are NTs aware of the information they have stored in their sensory memory? It's like they use high-level processing so instinctively that they become unable to see the details, because the details have been integrated into meaning before they were even aware of it.


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Fluke83
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20 Jan 2013, 2:33 am

Yes, I've always done this, with different Norwegian dialects when I was younger and now also with several English based accents.

When speaking English it's most natural for me to speak with what I suppose is a somewhat flat, or non region-specific American accent, a "TV accent" if you like, since that is my major auditory language influence, but if I spend a lot of time listening to British or aussie accents it sticks with me for a while afterwards.

Same thing with reading, if I maybe read a lot of Tolkien I tend to switch to that rather archaic style for a while, same with more contemporary stuff. Takes me while to shake it.

I should point out that I'm not diagnosed though, simply because I'm adult and female, and the psychologists I've spoken too right out said there just isn't people here who are qualified to diagnose adult high functioning females. The agreed that a lot of stuff points to Asperger's, though.



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