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Mixing ItDiversity in World War Two Britain$
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Wendy Webster

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198735762

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198735762.001.0001

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Language, Speech, and Sound

Language, Speech, and Sound

(p.165) 5 Language, Speech, and Sound
Mixing It

Wendy Webster

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the place of speech and language in the experiences of people arriving in Britain, and in the formation of British attitudes to them. The presence of refugees, exiles, troops, and war-workers made Britain increasingly multilingual—their voices and accents changed British soundscapes. Changing soundscapes sometimes provoked hostility, with foreign speech heard as an alien sound labelled ‘jabber’. But the presence in Britain of people speaking a very wide range of languages was an asset to the war effort, particularly to wartime propaganda. Their work at the BBC was indispensable in the rapid expansion of services broadcasting to Europe and the world, giving BBC messages their global reach. English was widely regarded as occupying the apex of a hierarchy of languages, but the arrival of people from the English-speaking world with many different accents prompted debates about which kinds of English speech were more civilized than others.

Keywords:   foreign accent, British cinema, Emeric Pressburger, allies’ war, Chester Wilmot, BBC English, Oxford accent, Quentin Reynolds, Harry Watt, American English

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