Tag Archives: music

Me like I

I noticed a strange phenomenon in the speech of a friend: Instead of “let my friend and me know” she would say “let my friend and I know”. So instead of the accusative case, she’d use the nominative case. I wondered why that was the case, where exactly she came from and whether this was a common phenomenon in her region.

My friend told me that she’d been taught English grammar by an old nun at a Catholic School in Connecticut who had insisted on the students using “I” instead of “me”. She said, after observing herself speak, she didn’t use “me” all that often, in conjunction with another noun she would almost always use the nominative case (as for the dative, she would use “(to) me” though).

Most data I could find (online) in terms of Connecticut-English was on accents and dialects. One website made me hope for an answer to my question whether this was the ‘norm’ for Connecticutians. However, the transcripts didn’t offer any utterances that could have suggested a (dominant) use of the nominative in the objective case.

Generally speaking, the use of the nominative in place of the accusative is either seen as very formal (more likely if then followed by a relative clause) or simply as ungrammatical (e.g. 1). It is more common to use the objective pronoun instead of the subjective one in various dialects (e.g. 2).

  1. Standard: They went to see Lucy and me.
    Nonstandard: They went to see Lucy and I.
  2. Standard: We are reading.
    Nonstandard: Us are reading.

I observed the latter one in a song the other day. Take “Me like the way that you hold my body” (thanks for not singing “me like I”).
Richard posted twice about ‘different’ constructions in songs (here and here respectively). Maybe some pop stars are trying to get a more friendly or whatsoever image by integrating dialectal speech in their music? Remembering that I kind of started learning English by listening to English songs, i.e. trying to understand the lyrics, I’m glad that back then not too many such songs existed, or at least that I didn’t come across them (no offence, but I think it might me more beneficial for foreigners to (at least first) learn ‘standard’ English 😉 )…

Sing away your accent

A couple of days ago when I was walking around with a friend I started to sing and she noticed that my accent had suddenly disappeared. Back home I listened to some French and German musicians singing in English, and indeed, you can hardly tell they’re not native speakers! So do people lose their accent when they sing?

Professor David Howard, who works on singing and human voice production at the University of York, explained:

The answer lies in the way people are trained to sing. We learn vowel sounds, particularly in singing, in a way that allows us to project them to a loud audience. That means that the front of the mouth needs to be more open than it is in speech so it’s a bit like a megaphone. The vowels take on a different sound in terms of their timbre which is really what accent is. Therefore the vowels are being placed in a position for singing which is not the same as speech

(Listen to the podcast on Loss of Accent when Singing or read it here)

However, when a friend made me listen to some music by a Japanese band I could hardly recognise that they were singing in English (at least at the beginning of that song). So it seems a general truth with some exceptions that when people sing, their accent diminishes, no matter what their native language is or what language they try to sing in. So next time I don’t want to be recognised as a foreigner, I’ll just sing!

WordHunt

If you know me, you’ve probably already been one of my subjects.
When I meet someone, usually one of my first questions is: “What are your favourite words (in any languages)?”

I’m a linguist. You’re probably one, too. So you should understand my fascination for words 🙂
When I hear a new word, what really matters to me is not its meaning but how it sounds. So a reason for me wanting to learn English, French, Spanish and Arabic was because I love how these languages sound. Sometimes when I’m talking to someone and the content seems rather uninteresting to me, I seem to ‘switch off’ my brain areas dealing with semantics and simply listen to the sounds. The same happens when I listen to music.  Some of my friends find that a little odd, they say they’re not able to ignore the semantic parts of the lyrics, i.e. focus on the phonological ones alone (read this Research Report “Singing in the brain – Independence of Lyrics and Tunes” by Besson, Faita, Peretz, Bonnel and Requin).

Anyway, to come back to my initial question; here are my favourite words:

  • German: Kugelschreiber (ballpoint pen), Schlibradoni (apparently a German swear word)
  • English: sophisticated, subsequent (I generally like s-words), malicious, mellifluous, superstitious
  • French: parapluie (umbrella), magnifique (magnificent)
  • Spanish: duda (doubt), susurro (whisper), pepino (cucumber), pequeño (small)
  • Arabic: as-sayaara (car)
  • Italian: zanzara (mosquito)

I’m always on the hunt for new words. What are your favourites? (leave a comment)