I notice that people used to speak not necessarily more clearly, or distinctly, but their voice had a certain 'choppiness' to it that you don't hear anymore... Unless the person doing the speaking is doing it purposefully to sound old-timey. (Think of the narrator in the movie UP by pixar)

Here is an example of the speech type I am talking about: President Eisenhower ~1964


Here, in a 1950s newsreel, the newsman is speaking this way


It doesn't seem to be limited to just the United States either:

Various Newsreels - 1950s Germany, England, USA 220857-04 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wW9CvJxuh8

I know that it can be attributed to 'times change', but I would just like to know why public speakers, and news anchors, etc have started using 'normal' sounding speech. It is somewhat of a shame this type of speech is slowly going away. The last place I currently hear speech of this type is during baseball games.

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    You contradict yourself when you say that people didn't used to speak more clearly, but now they speak using low, muddled speech. Also, when comparing presidential speeches to normal speech, it might be instructive to look at recent examples. Eisenhower's delivery reminds me a little of Obama's, for example, and doesn't sound markedly different. The newscaster, by contrast, is definitely using a distinct newscaster style, which I would argue is not what Eisenhower was doing at all. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 10 '15 at 15:57
  • You are right. I should have just given examples of newscasters because they seem to be the ones who have changed. – CarComp Jul 10 '15 at 16:00
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    I suspect that this is at least in part due to the fact that audio technology has changed, and also that news is now generally consumed in the more intimate setting of the living room instead of the cinema. The acoustics are very different. Also, modern-day newscaster speech is hardly "normal": the tone of voice is generally far more animated than in a conversation. – phoog Jul 10 '15 at 16:06
  • Eisenhower, in particular, had a career in the military, where the rapid, "chopped" style of his was the standard patois. (In the above recording he appears to be attempting to "pace" his speech, and, as a result, it sounds even more "chopped" between words.) The American newscaster is a particular person who seemed to narrate about 90% of all newsreels, and whose voice had a more musical "movie" tone, vs a "radio newscaster" tone. Plus newscaster accent has become more Midwestern over the years. The British guy has a typical (for the time) Oxford accent. – Hot Licks Jul 10 '15 at 16:43
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    I'm thinking that broadcast radio diction had a lot to do with the poor quality of transmitted audio. This is an area where the military invented an entire alphabet to transmit clearly. – stevesliva Jul 10 '15 at 21:04

I think what you're referring to is "diction" - and the reason it's more apparent in old movies (and such) is because it used to actually be part of a child's education (public and private schools) to learn how to speak properly.

Since the wealthier class was better educated,knowing how to express oneself gracefully was thought to be a way to bridge the gap (socially and in the workplace) between the classes.

Now that "education" is such a loose term, and there's so much "rich trash" running around, the way you speak says much less about your income and prospects.


It's a good observation. Once upon a time, before electronic amplification, speaking to a large number of people needed lots of volume. Speaking very loudly takes more air. When you use more air, you run out faster, so phrases must be shorter.

At least, that's my theory. Also, you need to use hyperarticulated vowels and consonants, to compensate for the loss of high frequencies caused by distance.

Now we'd call this belting something out, declaiming, or orating. Usually, nowadays, if a public speaker needs more volume, the audio engineer will just turn a knob for him, so declaiming has become more stylistic than functional.

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