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In sociolinguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation.[1] An accent may be identified with the locality in which its speakers reside (a regional or geographical accent), the socioeconomic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class (a social accent), or influence from their first language (a foreign accent).[2]

Accents typically differ in quality of the voice, pronunciation and distinction of vowels and consonants, stress, and prosody.[3] Although grammar, semantics, vocabulary, and other language characteristics often vary concurrently with accent, the word "accent" may refer specifically to the differences in pronunciation, whereas the word "dialect" encompasses the broader set of linguistic differences. Often "accent" is a subset of "dialect".[1]

Speakers with certain accents often experience discrimination in housing and employment.[26][27] For example, speakers who have foreign or ethnic-minority accents are less likely to be called back by landlords and are more likely to be assigned by employers to lower status positions than those with standard accents.[28] In business settings, individuals with non-standard accents are more likely to be evaluated negatively.[29] Accent discrimination is also present in educational institutions. For example, non-native speaking graduate students, lecturers, and professors, across college campuses in the US have been targeted for being unintelligible because of accent.[30] Second language speakers have reported being discriminated against, or feeling marginalized for, when they attempted to find a job in higher ranking positions mainly because of their accents.[9] On average, however, students taught by non-native English speakers do not underperform when compared to those taught by native speakers of English.[31] Some English native-speaker students in Canada reported a preference for non-native speaker instructors as long as the instructor's speech is intelligible. This was due to the psychological impacts such circumstances has on the students requiring them to pay closer attention to the instructor to ensure they understand them.[9]

Studies hav

Studies have shown the perception of the accent, not the accent by itself, often results in negative evaluations of speakers. In a study conducted by Rubin (1992), students listened to a taped lecture recorded by a native English speaker with a standard accent. They were then shown an image of the "lecturer", sometimes Asian-looking, sometimes white. Participants in the study who saw the Asian picture believed that they had heard an accented lecturer and performed worse on a task that measured lecture comprehension. Negative evaluations may reflect the prejudices rather than real issues with understanding accents.[27][32]

In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on national origin, implying accents. However, employers may claim that a person's accent impairs his or her communication skills that are necessary to the effective business operation.[12] The courts often rely on the employer's claims or use judges’ subjective opinions when deciding whether the (potential) employee's accent would interfere with communication or performance, without any objective proof that accent was or might be a hindrance.[33]

Kentucky's highest court in the case of Clifford vs. Commonwealth held that a white police officer, who had not seen the black defendant allegedly involved in a drug transaction, could, nevertheless, identify him as a participant by saying that a voice on an audiotape "sounded black". The police officer based this "identification" on

Kentucky's highest court in the case of Clifford vs. Commonwealth held that a white police officer, who had not seen the black defendant allegedly involved in a drug transaction, could, nevertheless, identify him as a participant by saying that a voice on an audiotape "sounded black". The police officer based this "identification" on the fact that the defendant was the only African American man in the room at the time of the transaction and that an audio-tape contained the voice of a man the officer said "sounded black" selling crack cocaine to a European American informant planted by the police.[34]

Actors are often called upon to speak varieties of language other than their own. Similarly, an actor may portray a character of some nationality other than his or her own by adopting into the native language the phonological profile typical of the nationality to be portrayed in what is commonly called "speaking with an accent".

Accents may have stereotypical associations. For example, in Disney animated films mothers and fathers typically speak with white middle class American or English accents.[2

Accents may have stereotypical associations. For example, in Disney animated films mothers and fathers typically speak with white middle class American or English accents.[2] English accents in Disney animated films are frequently employed to serve one of two purposes, slapstick comedy or evil genius.[35][better source needed] Examples include Aladdin (the Sultan and Jafar, respectively) and The Lion King (Zazu and Scar, respectively), among others.