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Robert Easton has been working in Hollywood and all over the world for over 42 years “strengthening dialects” and “curing accents”. Ever wonder how Al Pacino got his Cuban on in “Scarface” or how Mel Gibson learned to “talk American”? He’s the man, and Babbel Blog caught up with him to talk to him about accents, regionalities, linguistic politics and … the Oscars. Listen here for just a smattering of the countless flawless accents and dialects Easton can reproduce, from Elizabethan to Punjabi to Sicilian to Philadelphian.
Babbel Blog: So they call you the “dialect doctor”. What’s the difference between an accent and a dialect?
Robert Easton: That’s a very interesting question. Some people use them almost interchangeably. If we’re going to be purists, which I tend to be, dialect tends to be a variety of a language which differs from the so-called standard language in three ways. One, obviously the pronunciation is different, but second of all, the vocabulary is different, and third of all the grammar is different.
I’ve always found it curious that the Americans have no centralized institution which establishes the end-all be-all of language. I mean, something along the lines of the German Rechtschreibungen, grammars that all of which incorporated a rather catastrophic spelling reform mandated by an official agreement between German-speaking countries in 1996. Or the Real Academia Española(the Royal Spanish Academy) which purports to maintain propriety, elegance, and purity in the Spanish language, and consistently has conferences all over Spain and Latin America deliberating which words are worthy of inclusion. The North American language, however, is a bit federated, you could say… if not Balkanized.
For the Brits, one of the closest things to language royalty – along with Oxford’s, of course – would be Collins’ Dictionary, which has recently gotten positively ruthless in cutting words it deems obsolete. The Times along with other linguistic luminaries have taken up the case to save “endangered” words from institutional oblivion, by using them in public, and so reviving them.