“I like your accent.”
“Accent? I don’t have an accent.”
You don’t have an accent to your own ears, I can almost guarantee it. But to millions of other people out there, you definitely sound different from them and thus that comes across as an accent. Because no person’s speech can sound like every other person’s, then every human alive has an accent.
Accents differ not just by country, but also by region. Two native speakers will stress different parts of words, use their vowels more softly or annunciate more clearly. When a foreign speaker is added to the equation a whole new level is added as they bring with them letter pronunciations from their own language. Furthermore, that non-native speaker might be perfectly capable of hearing accents in his or her own language, but in the newly learned language they might not yet be able to discern the difference between two accents.
Accent becomes a part of a person’s identity. It is a marker that clearly indicates where they’re from to every new person they meet.
And so, I ask myself, do my characters in an entirely different universe have accents? Well of course they must. But do they have my accent because they are in my head? I assume every reader will read the dialogue with their own accent coloring my characters’ words, so can I really try to shape how their voices will sound? Can I try to describe their accents, such that they have distinctive voices to my readers? But of course, it being a world entirely apart from Earth, their accents shouldn’t be too akin to any accent I’m familiar with.
And so I work myself into a circle and finally decide to cut myself a break and go with something simple. Do their accents fall pleasantly upon the ears and do they all have the same accents as each other? The second part is easy to solve: that depends on geographical placement. But the first part….
What constitutes a pleasant accent? Is that something that has been deeply ingrained in us from cultural influences?