What is the accent of Mother Gothel in the movie Tangled?

In an interview with the voice actor (see here), she has a pretty neutral American accent (GenAm + father-bother + caught/cot, from what I tell), but she switches to an almost mid-Atlantic pronunciation for the character. Is this a mid-Atlantic accent? I think I've heard this type of pronunciation among storytellers in movies: It gives them a fanciful, but not posh, sound.

Here's an example of just the (as of now) unidentified accent, song.

Update: In contrast to the mid-Atlantic accent, Mother Gothel uses [iɐ] and [eɐ ~ ɛɐ], not [ɪə] nor [ɛə].

  • That's a great question. You hear this accent a LOT in old Broadway and Disney films, most notably in "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." I would almost be inclined to say that it's just an archaic American accent from the 30's - 50's, but I have no substantial research to back up that statement. Another possibility is that it's a 'stage accent' that was used during those times. – Adam Hayes Mar 10 '16 at 13:07
  • @AdamHayes, that could be. Maybe its American theater standard or something similar. – White Hat Hacker Mar 10 '16 at 16:23
  • @AdamHayes The reason you 'hear it a lot in Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music' is because she sounds very much like Julie Andrews! There is a hint of American, but I would have said it was (90% Received Pronunciation) to me. – WS2 Mar 11 '16 at 22:02

It sounds like a standard stage singer's accent to me. One thing to remember is that opera and stage singers must enunciate words differently from "normal people" in order to both "project" and be understandable to the audience. The accent isn't necessarily in emulation of anything so much as a necessary modification of the voice to be heard and understood in a particular environment -- like a sailor yelling "Ahoy!" or a goatherd yodeling. (Of course, since this is a studio production the voice is not necessary, but it's the one that the actress and producers presumably wanted.)

(I don't pretend to understand this, but it gets into the gory details fairly rapidly. Basically, the singer attempts to "form" the voice to project specific frequencies in an enhanced fashion.)

  • I actually went to college for music (vocal performance), and I've never heard a singer modify the voice quite like this on spoken lines (they never made me do that, and I had a lead role with spoken parts). But it's very possible that that is what was done in this case. – Adam Hayes Mar 11 '16 at 20:18
  • I think this is something else. There's no doubt the singer made use of such techniques, but you're leaving out the phonology of the accent. Like Hayes says, she still speaks this way when not singing. – White Hat Hacker Mar 11 '16 at 21:42
  • 2
    @WhiteHatHacker - As you yourself pointed out, she has a pretty standard US accent in the interview. As to speaking in the movie the same way she sings, it would seem weird if she changed voices, and the stage voice likely adds a bit of "interest" for the moviegoer. Donna Murphy is, after all, first and foremost a stage singer/actress. As to "phonology", words like "flower" and "tower" (where the "accent" is quite noticeable) would be among the first to be modified for stage conditions -- the standard rhotic "er" sound, eg, limits the mouth opening too much. – Hot Licks Mar 11 '16 at 22:06

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