Accents

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This page uses the International Phonetic alphabet to transcribe some of the sounds made on the podcast and in the films. For more info, see Wikipedia:Help:IPA

Used in the movies

Formal Voice

This is heard in both Padmé Amidala, and her daughter Leia Organa. When they are speaking in formal circumstances, (such as when addressing the Senate, or when on diplomatic missions), they will use an affected accent that is different from their speaking voice. The in-universe explanation cobbled together by the Hosts is that this is a formal accent. Amidala uses a stilted monotone deadpan as her formal accent, while Leia uses a haughty British voice for all her official functions.
The real-world reason for Leia's inconcistent accent was explained by Carrie Fisher in an interview with the Daily News. Essentially, Fisher was a young and inexperienced actress acting against veteran British actor Peter Cushing, and the dialog she was given was so awkward as to be almost unreadable. To quote Fisher, "Who could say those lines? ‘I thought I recognized your foul stench when I was brought aboard.’ What? Say that like an American and I'll pay you."
Harrison Ford put it another way: "George, you can type this [s-wing], but you can't say it!"

English vs. American accents

In Star Wars in particular, many actors were British (much of the filming was in England) and either had their voices dubbed with American accents, or were imitating an American accent. In later movies, all the Imperial officers use English accents, and many were allowed to use their own voices. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most important is that most of the dialog in the original film had to be re-recorded due to noise on the sets, and this was done later, mostly using the voices of Californian DJs.
In The Force Awakens, the character of Finn was played by English actor John Boyega using an American accent.

Long "a"? Short "a"? What about "e"?

Star Wars is famous for its inconsistent pronunciation of words and even character names. One of the main reasons for this is that many of the names are never said out loud in the movie, and only officially exist in written form. Even words that are spoken aloud are sometimes said differently depending on who's saying it and when.

  • Examples:
    • Han Solo's name: hɑn (pronounced with a long "a" sound that rhymes with "gone") and hæn (pronounced with a short "a" sound that rhymes with "plan").
      • Lando says it with a short "a", Leia usually says it with a long "a" (but not always).
      • Though to pronounce it the way Han himself does, use the long "a".
    • Han Solo's ship: fælkən (pronounced with an "a" sound like that in "Albert") and fɔːlkən (pronounced with an "a" sound like that in "wall").
      • To hear an audio montage of 8-DAY-GREEDO callers saying "Millennium Falcon" how they grew up saying it, check out SWM 53.
    • Jabba the Hutt: C-3PO says ʤæbʌ (like "JAB-buh"), whereas pretty much everybody else says ʤɔbʌ (like "JAH-Buh").
    • Leia Organa: Is it leɪʌ (pronounced lay-uh) or liʌ (pronounced lee-uh)?

Just as you can say To-MAY-to or To-MAH-to, these differences in pronunciation are (according to Star Wars canon) just due to regional accent variation and any perceived differences are meaningless.

Yoda

While not technically an accent (it's more an issue with syntax), Yoda's mode of speech is interesting nonetheless. He seems to be using an alternative and extremely rare sentence structure (Object-Subject-Verb) that is used in less than 1% of Earth languages. Standard English, by contrast normally uses Subject-Verb-Object. The peculiar thing about Yoda's speech it is that he only does this about half the time. This means he is doing something different, called "fronting" where you sometimes take the end of a sentence and put it at the front for emphasis of the important information1.

Inherited Accents

If all the Jedi grew up from infancy in the Jedi Temple, why don't they all have the same accent? This was discussed in The Phantom Menace 54. It would seem that accents are not acquired in the way they are on Earth, where you speak like the people that you were around when you learned to talk. The possibility is raised that it might be a genetic inheritance thing (which would explain why all the clones have New Zealand accents like Jango), but then Anakin would have a space-Swedish accent inherited from his mother Shmi. No satisfactory resolution to this conundrum has been forthcoming.

Racist Accents

Neimoidians

It's not hard to argue that the Nemoidians speak using an accent that is pretty offensive. But who specifically should be offended? Apparently, this will vary depending on what version of the films is being viewed.

  • In the English language version, Silas Carson (the actor playing Nute Gunray) imitated a Thai actor's reading of the lines [1].
  • In the German version, they were dubbed with French-sounding accents.
  • In the French, Spanish, Czech and Italian versions, the Neimoidians were given Russian accents.

Interestingly, in the English language version at least, other Nemoidians (such as Tey How) do not have the same accent as Nute Gunray.

See also: a collection of Nemoidian dialog from TPM.

Notable words and phrases in Nemoidian

Note - this list may be incomplete.
Word Pronounced like...
Senate Sehhhhnnate
...our blockade is perfectly legal. Ah blockhehd (or block-add) iz puhfectly legal
I object! I oba-ject!
What is going on down there? What is...going on down-there?
Droidekas DROI-dee-Kars
You assume too much. Yoo HASSoom too-masch.
Take him away. Tuck him uhway.
Decoy Dee-KOY

Watto

Here's a tricky one. People have compared Watto's accent to (at minimum) stereotypes of Arabs, Italians, and Jews, with no clear favorite2. The hooked nose, and business acumen fit the stereotype of a Shylock-type character, but is this more a reflection of racism on the part of George Lucas, or on the part of the viewing audience? This is discussed in greater detail in minute 45 of The Phantom Menace.
These issues aside, Watto is a pretty popular character among fans of the STAR WARS MINUTE.

The Gungans

Jar Jar Binks is one of the most controversial (and many would say "reviled") characters in Star Wars, not least of which because of his accent. Ahmed Best, who played and voiced Jar Jar, does a blatant impression of Jamaican patois for the voice of the Gungan. Other Gungans speak in slightly different accents (although they have similar cadence and vocabulary), so this would appear to be isolated to Jar Jar himself. Interestingly, an earlier draft of the script for Attack of the Clones had Jar Jar learning Diplodialect, so that he could speak normally and interact with other members of the Galactic government.

Used on the podcast

Alex Robinson as Alec Guinness

Alex's beloved Alec Guinness voice is a hallmark of the Original Trilogy minutes. Sadly, because of doing a Liverpudlian (yes, that is in fact the demonym used to describe something or someone from Liverpool, UK) accent for Alphabeatical, the impression has shifted somewhat.

Pete's accents

"Long Island lockjaw" / "Locust Valley lockjaw"

Pete is from Long Island, not far from Locust Valley, and so he grew up talking like Thurston Howell from "Gilligan's Island". It took years of finishing school for him to get rid of that accent.

"Every other accent in Star Wars"

Pete is the first to admit that he lacks Alex's accent prowess. Many of his "Star Wars character" accents kind of end up sounding the same.


References

  1. Harbeck, James. "Why so strangely Yoda speaks." The Week. November 13, 2014. Accessed January 04, 2017. http://theweek.com/articles/442256/why-strangely-yoda-speaks.
  2. Brode, Douglas, and Leah Deyneka, eds. Sex, politics, and religion in Star wars: an anthology. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012.

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