Linguistic Accommodation

In May each year the number of people staying at our place each month (bednights in George Fox House terms) drops off. Most traveling YFs have gone back home, generally to their northern hemisphere summers.

Each year we get to meet new people, and get to know them pretty well. There’s something about inviting people into your home, feeding them, having them there when you get up in the morning and get back home from work at night. Depending on their inclinations they play games with the kids, read them stories, put new software on our computers, help in the garden or the kitchen, watch youtube and DVDs with us. They become part of the family for a few nights, or a week or two. Often they’ll go traveling round the South Island then come back for a few nights before they fly out. We miss them while they’re gone, and welcome them home when they’re back.

I like the notion from the early days of Quakers, when if a Friend was traveling in the Ministry, and requested to stay, you had to let them. I travel a lot for business, and I feel totally comfortable asking Friends if I can stay with them. I encourage traveling YFs that we meet at Summer Gathering and other places to stay with us when they’re in town. Somehow, on some universal scales it feels like this is ‘balancing the books’. I hope those that stay with us will feel more inclined to welcome other people into their homes sometime in the future.

The only thing that really makes me in any way glad when people leave, is my tendency towards ‘linguistic accommodation’. This is a term that explains the natural human capability of adapting one’s speech to those around them. It’s the way accents work. It’s the way that ‘speaking the lingo’ allows one to be accepted within a community. Mum came out from England when she was 11. She had hardly a trace of an English accent, except when she was on the phone with her mother, when it came out quite strongly. I notice my speech changing the more I’m around people with other accents. When Carrie and Matt were here, I found myself developing an American accent, and using more Americanisms. It was unconscious and unintentional, and I felt a bit self conscious about it once I noticed. I guess though, that if you open your homes and your hearts to people, you become a little more like them. Something of them rubs off on you, and to me that’s not such a bad thing. The more we’re willing to share of ourselves with each other, the greater chance we have for peace.

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5 Responses to “Linguistic Accommodation”

  1. richard evens Says:

    Hi Julian

    I agree with you about changing accents – I had a posh Geordie accent until age 13, by the time I was fifteen I had a west country – Sam Gamgee accent. After ten years in west Yorkshire – it is difficult for people to guess where I am from. My cousins say I still have a bit of a Northern accent.

    I cannot now impersonate a Geordie accent – because I know it sounds wrong – Anna Dunford can – very well. I can however when speaking with Geordies use a speech pattern I had for twelve years, which I can hear myself using – and know that I am using a learned speech pattern from my youth, rather than impersonating the people I am listening to.

    I hope that your mourning loved ones is going okay, and that Raymond E Feist in Prince of the Blood makes the comment that we live on as long as we are remembered.

    Best wishes

    Richard Evens

  2. Carrie Says:

    You still sounded like a Kiwi to me. I’m still saying ‘toilet’ instead of ‘bathroom’, referring to Matt as my partner, and saying ‘wee’ to describe small things.

    Matt and I tried to talk like Kiwis while we were in the car or otherwise alone. We both found it really difficult to mimic the accent. You will probably laugh at this, but whenever we tried it would come out as Irish, Australian, or English- we just couldn’t make ourselves sound like Kiwis. I’m not quite sure why. I think we should’ve started sooner.

    I think I might have at least learned to pronounce my name properly as “Carrie” and not “Kerry” or something in between.

    As far as hospitality is concerned, Matt and I can hardly wait to host F/friends from all over the world when we move to Chicago! We’re going flat hunting at the beginning of August and should be moved in my the middle of August.

    Peace,
    Carrie

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