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你说话的口音反映出什么?

更新时间:2018-4-1 9:24:46 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

What does your accent say about you?
你说话的口音反映出什么?

On 14 November 1922 the BBC broadcast its first radio report to the nation. We can’t listen to it because it was not recorded, but we know this: the broadcast was read in flawless received pronunciation (RP), commonly known as the Queen’s English. It is considered to be the language of elites, power and royalty.

1922年11月14日,BBC首次对英国全国广播。我们现在听不到当时的播报了,因为当时没有录音。但是我们知道这一点:广播的口音是完美无瑕的标准英音(Received Pronunciation, RP),通常也被称作女王的英语(Queen's English),这是一种被认为是精英、当权者和皇家的语言。

For many years, the BBC would only allow RP accents to appear on its airwaves. That this accent became synonymous with the voice of a nation had clear connotations. RP was trusted, authoritarian and sincere. Fortunately, the BBC now allows all sorts of regional accents on its broadcasts – and even encourages it, aiming to both represent the diverse audience the BBC has and to draw new people in.

在那之后的许多年来,BBC的广播只允许使用标准英音。标准英音成为英国口音的同义语,带有明显的含义。它受到信赖,具有权威性,让人感到真诚。但时过境迁,现在BBC允许——甚至鼓励——在广播中使用各种地方口音,目的是代表BBC多元化的受众以及吸引新听众和用户。

While the BBC no longer broadcasts only in RP, it turns out that the bias that once existed for it is still ripe in society today. Our accents can provide a window into our social backgrounds – and our biases. Our partialities can be so strong that they even affect our perception of who is, or is not, trustworthy.

虽然BBC不再仅限使用标准英音了,但是在当今社会,有关标准英音的偏见仍然十分严重。口音可以反映一个人的社会背景和人的偏见。人的偏见非常严重,以至于会影响到我们判断一个人是否值得信任。

Humans are very quick to judge a person based on accents, and are often unaware we do so. “Accent can trigger social categorisation in a prompt, automatic, and occasionally unconscious manner,” says Ze Wang of the University of Central Florida. We often can identify a person’s accent as soon they say hello.

人常常会在无意间根据口音快速判断对方是否可信。"口音会通过一种快速、自动的——有时还是无意识的——方式触发社交归类,"美国中佛罗里达大学(University of Central Florida)的王泽(Ze Wang)说。对方一打招呼,我们常常就能辨别他的口音。

Our trust for certain accent starts extremely young. There is evidence to show that affinity for language even starts before birth. We know for instance that babies prefer the language they heard most while in the womb. In one study, researchers repeatedly played a made-up word while women were pregnant. When the babies were born, brain scans showed that only babies who had heard this word responded to it.

我们从很小的时候就对某些口音产生信任。有证据表明对语言的亲近感在出生前就开始了。比如,据我们所知,婴儿会更喜欢当时在子宫里听到最频繁的语言。在一个研究中,研究人员把一个生造的词语反复播放给孕妇听。当婴儿出生时,脑部扫描显示,只有听过这个词语的婴儿才会对它作出反应。

By the time babies are several months old, they can differentiate between languages and dialects. Early on, babies start to have an affinity for others who speak their native language. In one 2007 Harvard University experiment, babies watched two people speak on a screen, one in a familiar tongue and one that was foreign. One on-screen speaker then offered the babies a toy – which magically popped up from behind the screen at the same time. The babies preferred the toy given by the person who spoke their native language and accent.

婴儿几个月大时就能分辨不同的语言和方言。婴儿很早就会对说母语的人比较亲近。2007年,哈佛大学的一个实验让婴儿观看屏幕上两个人说话,其中一个说的是熟悉的语言,另一个说的是外语。然后,其中一个人给婴儿一个玩具——礼物像魔法一样从屏幕后面冒出来。婴儿会更喜欢母语口音的人给的礼物。

“Right away in the first year of life babies are starting to show this social preference – moving towards someone who speaks in a way that’s familiar to them,” says the study’s lead researcher Katherine Kinzler, now at Cornell University.

"婴儿未满一岁就会开始表现出社交偏好——他们会接近说话方式相近的人,"该研究的负责人、康奈尔大学(Cornell University)的凯瑟琳·金茨勒(Katherine Kinzler)说。

To Kinzler, accents are under-studied. They tie us to our identity in a similar way that our gender and race does. For some children, accent can be a more powerful indicator of group identity than race, she has found. When five-year-olds were shown pictures of either black or white children, they preferred those who were the same race. At this age, they don’t have the motivation to control prejudice in the way adults do, says Kinzler.

金茨勒认为,目前对口音的研究还不够。口音与人的身份的关系类似于性别和种族。她发现,对一些儿童来说,口音有可能是一种比种族更强的集体身份符号。当五岁的孩子看到黑人孩子或白人孩子的照片时,他们偏好与自己同样种族的人。这个年龄的孩子不像成年人一样会努力控制偏见,金茨勒说。

But when colour was pitted against accent, the children preferred those who shared their accent – even if they were of a different race.

但是,当把肤色和口音放在一起时,儿童会偏好口音相同的人——即便他们的种族不同。

This work reveals that in our early years, the accents we trust most are those which sound familiar. It makes sense that we trust somebody who speaks like us, says Kinzler; they are likely to know more information about your own community.

这个研究说明,人类在年幼时最信任熟悉的口音。金茨勒说,我们信任说话口音相近的人,这是理所应当的。这些人很可能更了解我们所在的群体。

In another study, she found that children trust native speakers better than they do foreign-accented speakers.

在另一个研究中,她发现与外国口音的人相比,儿童更加相信母语使用者。

As children grow up they become more attuned to the social status or stereotypes that have been glued on to various accents. RP English is said to sound posh and powerful, whereas people who speak Cockney English, the accent of working-class Londoners, often experience prejudice. The Birmingham accent fares even worse – which could be the result of TV shows which depicted its residents as “slow, lazy and thick”, researchers wrote. Indeed, one poll found the Birmingham accent least attractive but rated Irish as having the nicest twang.

随着儿童逐渐成长,他们会越来越熟悉各种口音连带的社会地位或刻板印象。人们认为标准英音听起来很优雅,有权势;而考克尼(Cockney)英语口音——伦敦劳工阶层的口音——常常受到歧视。伯明翰口音的遭遇更差——这有可能是电视节目用"迟缓、懒惰、拥挤"形容当地居民的结果,研究者写道。的确,有调查发现伯明翰口音最不受欢迎,但是爱尔兰口音的鼻音被认为是最好听的。

When it comes to trusting accents, there seem to be two things at play. First, an accent represents part of your identity. But as you get older this might clash with an accent you aspire to sound more like, say one that is deemed more prestigious, or less stuck-up. One 2013 poll of more than 4,000 people found RP and Devon accents the most trustworthy, while the least trustworthy was deemed to be Liverpudlian (from Liverpool). The Cockney accent came a close second for untrustworthiness. These accents scored similarly when asked about intelligence.

提到口音带来的信任感,似乎有两大因素。首先,口音代表了你身份的一部分。但是随着人的年龄增长,这会与你理想中的口音发生冲突,比如你希望自己的口音变的更加高贵,或者不那么自大。2013年的一项4000人调查发现标准英音和德文郡(Devon)口音最受信任,而利物浦口音最不受信任,考克尼口音紧随其后。在智力与口音的关系方面,得分相似。

These are snapshot results, though. In real life, trust in accents can change over time depending on our social circles and daily relationships. A study by Ilaria Torre of Plymouth University found that trust in an accent can change depending on first impressions and judgements. In her study, participants heard either a standard southern English accent or a lesser-trusted Liverpudlian accent. If a person who spoke in the ‘trustworthy’’ accent then went onto behave fairly – by returning a generous monetary investment, for example – then this first impression of trustworthiness increased.

不过,这些都是一时的调查结果。在现实生活中,对口音的信任会随着时间的推移而发生变化,这取决于我们的社交圈和日常人际关系。普利茅斯大学(Plymouth University)的伊拉里亚·托尔(Ilaria Torre)的一项研究发现,对口音的信任感有可能根据第一印象和判断而改变。一部分被试者听的是标准的英国南部口音,另一部分是不太受信任的利物浦口音。如果受信任口音的使用者接着作出良好的行为——例如回馈一笔慷慨的投资——那么这种值得信赖的第一印象就会加深。

If, however, a person spoke with the ‘trusted’ accent and they went on to behave in an untrustworthy manner, they were deemed even less trustworthy than the person who had both an ‘untrustworthy’ accent and behaviour. The study participants “were punishing them, so to speak, for not living up to the participants’ expectations,” says Torre. The opposite happened, too: those who were judged as untrustworthy but acted nicely were able to undo negative preconceptions. In other words, the ‘untrustworthy’-sounding Liverpudlians (apologies, any readers from Liverpool) were redeemed when they behaved in a desirable way.

然而,假如受信任口音的使用者接着作出失信于人的行为,他们给人的信任感甚至会低于口音和行为都不值得信赖的人。被试者会"惩罚他们未能达到自己的期望",托尔说。相反的情况也会发生,被认为不值得信赖的人,如果作出良好的行为,就能修正负面看法。换句话说,听起来"不值得信任"的利物浦居民(笔者向利物浦的读者道歉)只要行为良好就能挽回印象。

This reveals something Torre feels has been overlooked – our accent biases can be reduced by contact with individuals we initially think sound suspicious. “By interacting with speakers of many different accents we might realise our biases are unfounded and our trustworthy perception of that accent can change as well,” she says.

托尔认为这揭示了人们忽略的一件事——我们起初觉得对方听起来很可疑,但是只要接触多了,就能减轻口音的偏见。"通过与很多不同口音的人交往,我们可能会意识到自己的偏见是毫无根据的,我们对某个口音值得信任的看法也可能会改变,"她说。

The media plays a role too. Upmarket grocer Marks & Spencer frequently has a soothing, RP voice-over on its adverts, for example, while the more budget brand Iceland often featured former popstar Kerry Katona, who grew up in Warrington, a town between Manchester and Liverpool – until she was kicked off their adverts because of an alleged drug problem.

媒体也有作用。例如,高端超市马莎百货(Marks & Spencer)的广告常常采用让人感觉放松的标准英音旁白,而低价位的超市Iceland的广告则请明星凯瑞·卡托娜(Kerry Katona)。她在曼彻斯特和利物浦之间的小镇沃林顿(Warrington)长大——后来因吸毒指控,她的广告遭遇下架。

In the UK, some school teachers even have been asked to modify their accents to sound less regional. Of course, says the University of Manchester’s Alexander Baratta, while some people find regional accents to sound less educated, others think they sound more in-touch, sincere and friendly and that posh accents are more cold or arrogant. (This may be one reason why the Queen has been toning down her RP voice throughout the decades.) Some studies have found that people from Yorkshire seem to sound more honest than Londoners, for instance.

在英国,有人甚至要求学校老师改正自己的地方口音。曼彻斯特大学的亚历山大·巴拉塔(Alexander Baratta)说,虽然一些人觉得地方口音听起来受教育程度不高,但也有人觉得这样更平易近人,真诚、友好,而高雅的口音比较冷淡、高傲。(这可能也是最近几十年女王减轻标准英音的一个原因。)比如,一些研究发现约克郡(Yorkshire)的人听起来比伦敦人更诚实。

Accent biases are common against foreign accents too. A study led by Ze Wang showed that US participants trusted British accents more than Indian accents. “People often have negative bias toward non-standard accents, particularly those with disadvantaged and low-prestige minority groups,” she says. For instance, she found that those with Mexican or Greek accents were perceived as less intelligent or professional than those who speak standard US English.

对外国口音的偏见也很常见。王泽的一项研究表明,与印度口音相比,美国被试者更信任英国口音。"人们常常对不标准的口音有负面看法,尤其是弱势群体和地位较低的少数群体,"她说。例如,她发现有人觉得与标准的美式英语相比,墨西哥口音或希腊口音的智力和专业性较低。

Another study showed that our accents can even limit our professional opportunities. Regional German accents were seen as less desirable than standard German, despite the same being said. But in Switzerland people preferred their surgeon to have a regional accent than a “standard” German one, perhaps because Swiss German is the most commonly spoken dialect.

另一项研究表明,口音甚至会限制我们的职业机会。德国地方口音不如标准德语受欢迎,尽管说话的内容是一样的。不过,瑞士人更喜欢有地方口音的外科医生,因为瑞士口音的德语在瑞士的使用最为普遍。

When it comes to trusting accents, we depend both on what we know and on what society has conditioned us to aspire to. But if we all took a moment to stop and really listen to each other, we might learn to love the eclectic and varied accents that make up our multicultural world… rather than basing our trust on implicit biases that we acquire even before birth.

在信任哪种口音的问题上,我们依赖于自己所知以及社会对我们理想口音的影响。但是,如果我们都花时间聆听他人,我们可能会学会喜欢组成这个多元世界的各式各样的口音,而不是把信任建立在我们出生前就学会的隐性偏见之上。

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