Since the United States are the cradle of rock and pop music, it does not come as a surprise that artists all around the world sound American when singing, even though they employ a different accent when speaking. As early as 1983, Peter Trudgill was the first to investigate this from a linguistic point of view, stating: ”There can be no doubt that singers are modifying their linguistic behaviour for the purpose of singing. […] An interesting question, therefore, is: why do singers modify their pronunciation in this way?” (Trudgill 1983: 143). In his analysis of several British bands and artists popular in the 1960s and 1970s, Trudgill made use of five features (later called the ”USA-5 Model” by Simpson ) which make songs sound American: (1) t-voicing, (2) rhoticity, (3) the vowel in words like lot, body, etc. (i.e the LOT vowel) pronounced as [α:], (4) the vowel in words like I, my, life etc. (i.e. the PRICE vowel) pronounced as [a'], and (5) the vowel in words like past, half, dance etc. (i.e. the BATH vowel) pronounced as [æ]. In this seminar, we will examine under which conditions and to what extent the ”USA-5 Model” finds application or not, considering a variety of artists and genres throughout the history of popular music. We will discuss the reasons why artists take on an American accent when singing, if they do so consistently, if this happens consciously or subconsciously and what this can tell us about pop singers’ assumed identities and styles, about audience design or accommodation with the intended listeners, especially when artists do not follow American norms and employ local features of their native accents (cf. Gibson and Bell 2012).
Requirements: Active participation, presentation in class, written term paper.