13

Is there an expression for the blanks in the following situation?

You have a friend who isn't from where you're from and speaks in an accent different from yours. At first you feel strange with it, but as you talk with him for months you get adapted. One day you happen to say something in his accent (or use an expression he often uses), and then say,

"Oh, your accent ____ me."

or

"Come on, since you always say, your words ____ me."

In my mother tongue, both blanks are filled by a word corresponding to "transferred to", but I'm assuming it would be awkward because it's a direct translation. I'd like to know if there's a verb or a phrase that fits the situation.

Thank you.

  • 1
    Are you looking for a technical term, or something used in everyday speech, like parroting? – TRomano Feb 22 at 16:57
  • 1
    Give all the info you can. What is the term for this (in a full sentence) in your native language? Is it a single word or an idiom? noun or verb? etc – Mitch Feb 22 at 17:12
  • 2
    I don't know what the asker's mother tongue is, but in German an accent is said to rub off ("abfärben") on someone else. Example from Google Books: "Sonja hat ein halbes Jahr lang engen Kontakt mit einer jungen englischen Austauschlehrerin, die in ihrem Elternhaus zur Miete wohnt, und der Akzent der Engländerin färbt auf sie ab." – njuffa Feb 22 at 17:26
  • The technical term for "unconsciously copying someone's accent or mode of speech while talking to them" is "accommodating". For example if someone is not a native speaker and you notice they are avoiding future tense or the subjunctive, then you might avoid them too subconsciously. It is not patronising it genuinely makes it easier for them to understand you. See @TaliesinMerlin excellent answer. Unfortunately it doesn't really work in your sentence since it's a technical term. – Ben Feb 23 at 10:50
  • I do this all the time, in pretty much any language, to the point that my entire pronunciation and vocabulary changes depending on whom I’m speaking to. I don’t think I’ve ever used a verb to describe it; I just say that I’m a bit of a chamaeleon. Of course, that would probably not work in your example where it’s a one-off, just a single word or feature that happens to rub off; it describes a more habitual and complete change. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 23 at 11:14
22

Try: "Your accent rubbed off on me."

rub off on (someone)

To have one's characteristics, mannerisms, or behavior be adopted by someone with whom one has spent a lot of time. Peter's been very unruly lately. I think that new kid is rubbing off on him. It seems like your boss's greed is rubbing off on you—is money all you care about now?

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/rub+off+on

This doesn't fit as well in the second sentence because, as the definition I quoted says, we tend to use this expression to talk about mannerisms, or behavior. Words wouldn't really rub off on someone. But a way of speaking can rub off on someone.

  • See also "picked up" for describing it from the other side. – The Nate Feb 24 at 23:09
13

I'm not sure how well it fits your sentences, since it's more technical than you probably want, but in psychology this is called mirroring. The linked wikipedia article describes it:

Mirroring is the behaviour in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another.

  • Yes. It especially works as a verb: "Your accent mirrors mine." – TaliesinMerlin Feb 22 at 18:06
  • ..and fits well with the "unconscious" aspect - "unconsciously mirroring" is a thing, even in non-technical speak. – topo morto Feb 22 at 21:08
  • @TaliesinMerlin That seems backwards to me in the scenario given – surely I’m the one mirroring your accent, rather than vice versa. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 23 at 11:10
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet Why not both? – TaliesinMerlin Feb 23 at 12:32
  • @TaliesinMerlin To me, in the sense relevant to this question, mirroring implies that there is an original and something else that actively emulates that original. If you mirror my accent, then my accent is the original and you emulate it. In the example given, the friend’s accent is the original and the asker (i.e., ‘I’) is unconsciously emulating it. Of course you could say that the two accents mirror each other, but that’s a more generic sense of ‘corresponding to’ than the more technical term as directly applicable to the question here. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 23 at 14:12
6

In communication, the behavior you're describing would be called convergence. The key action would involve converging in speech pattern or (more generally) accommodating another's speech pattern.

The concept is a large part of Communication Accommodation Theory, developed in the early 1970s by Howard Giles. It's a framework that predicts factors for people making their speech more similar to a conversational partner (convergence) as well as more different from that partner (divergence). This 2007 entry for CAT in Explaining Communication: Contemporary Theories and Exemplars provides an overview of the theory as a whole.

Within this theory, convergence is a subconscious strategy of adapting to the speech patterns of one's interlocutor. That can be motivated by several factors, including a desire to gain acceptance with the people we're talking to. In contrast, divergence can be a way of maintaining one's ties to a prior identity, like a politician maintaining or even exaggerating the speech patterns of the region they represent when they speak to colleagues with other accents and patterns.

Within this research, converge and accommodate are used as verbs to describe this behavior. For example:

Bourhis, Roth, and MacQueen (1988) found that physicians , nurses,as well as hospital patients considered it more appropriate for health professionals to converge to the patients’ everyday language than to maintain their medical jargon.

...

This has been observed in a number of settings also where, for example, a travel agent accommodated her pronunciation to the different socioeconomically based language styles of her Welsh clientele (N. Coupland, 1984) and, in Taiwan, where salespersons converged more to customers than vice versa (van den Berg, 1986).

So to take your example sentences, you could say:

Oh, your accent converged with mine.

Come on, your words accommodate mine.

0

I’d say:

I osmosed some of your accent.

Or

I’ve picked up some of your accent through osmosis

From Collins:

osmose (verb) to undergo or cause to undergo osmosis

And from American Heritage, osmosis means:

  1. A gradual, often unconscious process of assimilation or absorption: learned French by osmosis while residing in Paris for 15 years.

Osmosis is also a chemical/biological process, but many of the other examples involve language assimilation. Because of the scientific background, it’s probably a bit of a geeky way to say it. You could also say "I’ve absorbed/assimilated your accent".

  • haha i thought it was for mowing. – com.prehensible Feb 24 at 2:06
  • Never heard of this use, so i'll start using it now! – user45266 Feb 24 at 5:41

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