Dialects and accents are potent tools writers use to infuse life into characters in a story. As a writer, you may use dialects and accents in dialogues to portray a character’s origin, societal status, cultural background, educational level, and even professional affiliations. However, it is essential to use these writing tools appropriately to avoid bruising your reader’s ego, which may come off as offensive.
In our daily conversations with people, we can easily use the way a person speaks or pronounces certain words to ascertain the tribe and race he belongs to. For instance, in the Nigerian setting, when a writer wants to depict a character from any of the major ethnic groups in the country, he carefully considers the dialects and accents to attach to the character based on the selected ethnic group. This makes it easier for the reader to connect to the story by staring up primordial sentiments about the characters as he reads on.
Before we move further, let’s establish what accents and dialects are.
WHAT IS AN ACCENT?
An accent is a distinctive or unique way of pronouncing a word that is associated with, or that can be traced to a particular country, region, tribe or social class. It is what signposts someone’s race, ethnicity, and sometimes educational background without necessarily making inquiries from the person. For example, an accent is what makes you decipher that Suleiman is from Northern Nigeria and that Wayne is British from their first sentences.
WHAT IS A DIALECT?
A Dialect is a language peculiar to people from a particular geographical location. It is the lingua franca of a particular region, tribe, race, or nationality, or simply put, it is how people speak their mother tongue. Dialect is distinguished by features like pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary from various regional or geographical groups, which constitutes a single language. For instance, the Ibibio language (a language spoken by the Ibibio ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State, South-South, Nigeria) has some slight differences in pronunciation of words from the Annang language (a language spoken by the Annang ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State, South-South, Nigeria). However, indigenes of the two tribes understand each other vividly.
Having established what accents and dialects are, let’s go back to the meat of this article, which is five ways accents and dialects help a fiction story.
There are many ways accents and dialects help a fiction story. But in this article, we will be highlighting the five most efficient ways accents and dialects aid a fiction story.
HOW ACCENTS AND DIALECTS HELP A FICTION STORY:
- They serve as visual stimuli in a fiction story: accent serves as visual stimuli to a reader. The core of a good book is its ability to stir emotions and create a connection between the reader and the author. By attaching accents and dialects to the characterisation of a story, a reader is able to cast a mental picture of the story’s setting. It also helps the reader appreciate the relatable content of a book in relation to its setting. For instance, a writer who is telling a story about the bustling life of Lagos – the commercial nerve of Nigeria, will do a shabby job if he does not infuse British English, Nigerian pidgin, and Yoruba language with its intonation in the characters’ dialogues and monologues. These are the typical makeups of the interactions on the streets of Lagos.
- They create stereotypes of the characters in a story: accents and dialects help reinforce a myth or perception of an idea or image associated with a particular group of people. A writer uses accents and dialects to cast a certain kind of prejudice about a particular group of people in a story based on the message he is passing across in his work. Accents and dialects create a contrast between the different classes of people prevalent in a certain society based on their demographic and psychological attributes, and these have proven to be very useful in satires or parodies.
- They give life to characters in a story: the use of accents and dialects in a story helps infuse life into the characters. It props up emotions and the relevant sentiments that are dominant in our daily interface as humans. These help stirs empathy as well as apathy in the reader’s mind towards a character’s dispositions. It elicits the author’s intended reaction from the reader.
- Accents and dialects help bring linguistic discrepancies to the fore: the fundamental value of a literary text is its ability to introduce new ideas, concepts, paradigms, and dogmas to its reader. Through books, we are able to unravel new knowledge and information. When a writer rightly apportions accents and dialects to the characters in a book, it gives the reader insights into the linguistic variations between certain groups of persons and the languages obtainable in different geographical locations.
- Accents and dialects increase the readership of a book: attaching accents and dialects to the characters in a story is a subtle way of surging the readership of a book. People often gravitate towards things that portray their features and peculiarity; as such, they decide what materials they consume based on their hues and affiliations. For instance, A book whose story and characters’ dialects and accents depict the African lifestyle in the United States will attract a large pull of African-American readers, yielding more sales for the author and enhancing his popularity.
Conclusively, to become an author whose publication does not gather dust on someone’s shelf, it is pertinent to employ all the elements and devices that will entice your reader when he flips through the pages of your book. One veritable way of doing this is to attach accents and dialects to the characters in your book.