Learning the Kennedy-Family Accent
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains sixty-one (61) minutes of systematic instruction in MP3 sound files. You’ll also get a printable PDF of the instruction manual. It contains summaries of the audio lessons and full transcripts of the drill words, phrases, and passages.
WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?
You’ll learn the speech pattern or idiolect typically associated with the Kennedy family, particularly President John F. Kennedy and his siblings. Here’s a brief summary of the training.
- Lesson 1 teaches you the resonance or voice placement of the Kennedy pattern. In other words, it shows you how to shape your mouth to create the sound focus of the speech pattern.
- Lesson 2 teaches the downward-lilting inflections on this accent’s stressed vowels and final stressed words. It also addresses the idiosyncratic family patterns of speech rhythm and of fading volume during these drop lilts.
- The 3rd Lesson teaches how the resonance and inflections you learned integrate with the pronunciation of this accent’s vowels—including those preceding the sound of the R.
- Lesson 4 deals with idiosyncrasies (particularly rhythm and pitch traits) of the Kennedy-family speech pattern.
- The Final Lesson puts it all together with several drill passages. Firstly, it reminds you about the voice placement and inflections. Further, it walks you through the pronunciation phrase by phrase before leading you into a normal speaking pace.
MORE ABOUT THE KENNEDY-ESQUE ACCENT
Some linguists would classify this speech pattern as an “idiolect” (rather than an accent or dialect) since it is most associated with a few specific people. It has many of the same features as the classic Boston accent. But the speech of JFK and his siblings was affected by their time spent in New York State. It also developed various idiosyncrasies of rhythm and stress that were reinforced within the family over the years. Among the differences from Boston speech are the pronunciations of two sounds. There’s a rounded vowel in THOUGHT, but there’s an unrounded vowel in LOT. This is the opposite of most Boston speakers, but similar to the pronunciation in NYC and Providence, Rhode Island.
KENNEDY SPEECH FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- Though not needed regularly in theatre, film, and TV, I’m amazed how often Kennedy siblings still show up in new scripts. I myself first taught this pattern in 1984 to Mike Farrell for his role in the PBS special titled JFK: A One-Man Show. Thirty-four years later, I taught a Boston accent to Vince Tycer, playing Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff, for the feature film Chappaquiddick.
- There have been many other important projects in which JFK and/or siblings appeared as characters. Among them are: The Missiles of October, Kennedy, and Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy.