43. Do I really sound like that?
Julie Matthias is in the middle of a regular shift at her hairdressing salon when she begins to feel really strange.
Julie is taken to hospital with the symptoms of a stroke, but doctors can find no evidence she has had one. Initially, Julie is unable to speak properly at all. But when her voice returns, friends start to notice something strange. Julie’s standard Southern British accent, typical for the Medway area of Kent where she lives, has disappeared. In its place is a new voice, a new accent, which leads strangers to think she's from another country entirely.
In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed wants to understand how our accents evolve, and what happens when they change.
Charting Julie’s journey to understand the condition she has developed, and why her accent has disappeared, Matthew uncovers the intricacies of our accents and how they form a part of our identity.
Delving into our obsession with accents, and the stereotypes we associate with them, Matthew discovers how our accents change throughout our lives, and how this can impact the way we are treated. As it turns out, the accent is not just in the voice of the speaker, but crucially, in the ear of the listener too.
With Jane Setter, Professor of Phonetics at the University of Reading; Nick Miller, Emeritus Professor of Motor Speech Disorders at Newcastle University; and Alex Baratta, Senior Lecturer in Language, Linguistics and Communication at the University of Manchester.
Presenter: Matthew Syed
Producer: Pippa Smith
Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey
Sound Design and Mix: Naomi Clarke
Theme music by Ioana Selaru
A Novel production for BBC Radio 4