My mother gave birth to me in Toronto, Canada. Therefore, being born in Toronto the ’typical’ Canadian accent was adopted straight away. Using words like ‘aye’ and ‘no problem’ in a discussion with friends was a habit, even from a very early age. These words were adopted by hearing them in my school, friends and my cousin, who speaks in a semi-Canadian accent. Another major aspect that majorly affected the way I speak was my mother and father. Being born by Lebanese roots, most people including my mother thought I would take up Arabic as my mother tongue, however it was English.
Having this difference from my mother and father affected my idiolect the day I was born and still affects me today. My mother speaks Arabic and English, but her main language is Arabic. Speaking English, from my perspective, was due to be born in a non-Arab country. Saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ to a teacher in school instead of ‘Salam’ was due to the majority of the country spoke English. Arabic became less useful living in Canada and English became necessary. One of the biggest factors that affected my idiolect was moving from Canada to Bahrain.
Bahrain in some ways was closer to my Lebanese roots and in others very different. Moving to Bahrain, my mother put me in a British curriculum school. Therefore most teachers, students and parents spoke in a British accent. This began to creep into my idiolect, after being surrounded by people speaking in a British accent; I adopted and exchanged words in my idiolect. Using words like ‘mate’ to refer to friend and using the very British ‘No worries’ instead of the Canadian ‘No problem’ when responding to somebody saying thank you when opening the door. My Canadian accent was weekend and a weak British accent was taken in.
Another factor that affected my accent was my peers. At the ages of eight, nine and ten, my friends and peers began to use and adopt slang. Words like ‘Hey bro’ to greet a friend in the morning and ‘dude’ instead of calling them by there name at break, were used regularly. The reason why, at the time, I used slang was to fit in, to feel part of a group and to be seen as ‘cool’. Of course at the time I didn’t realize but these few words would affect my idiolect majorly. These words began to be used unconsciously, I stopped using the to seem cool and I began to use it for another reason.
Words like ‘brosef’ when talking to my best friend in city centre and ‘chill’ when telling him to relax and calm down about being late going home. These words aloud me to make a brotherly bond with friends, it aloud it and me to seem close allowed me to judge a situation and affect it with using only a word or phrase. It allowed my friends to seem included and part of a group. However at the same time, I realized slang could only be used in situations that it seems appropriate, and once again this affected my idiolect in different situations. I realized that slang could only be used informally and when it is approved.
For example greeting Mr. Wilson, I would usually say ‘Good morning sir’ instead of the slang phrase ‘Hey bro’. This is because Mr. Wilson and I are on unfamiliar terms and (in the situation) Mr. Wilson is in a higher and more powerful position than I. Therefore I address in a formal and respectful way. ‘Good morning’ shows the formal greeting and ‘sir’ shows I want to respect him. Another factor that affected my idiolect was when I began to play drums. At the age of 10, I began to play the drum set and found a particular passion and interest for music.
This is when my semantic field on drums began, words like ‘Aux snare’ and ‘Splash’ entered my idiolect. The reason why I began to build a semantic field on drumming and music was due to the interest and need for it. It would be very difficult to buy a drum from a drum shop without a semantic field. Another use for a semantic field on drums was to allow me to be able to be taught drums, being able to understand the teacher easy and understand everything he said made it very easy to be taught and progress my skills in drumming.
An example of this is when I went to a drum shop and attempted to buy a drum. On entering I asked the shopkeeper, ‘Hi, I was wondering do you have an Aux snare 13. 5 inch and if you could find am Evans blackhead for it that would be great. ’ The shop keeper replied by saying ‘okay umm, well we got a normal 13. 5 not aux but if you use a key to really put crack on it it’ll sound the same and yah we got a Blackhead for it. ’ In this scenario it would be near to impossible to explain what I need and understand what he said.
The beautiful thing about having a semantic field on drums is I am able to use it worldwide because it is understood worldwide. Another moment that my idiolect changes is when I begin to change register. I use a higher register when speaking formally, especially when speaking to strangers. For example, when asking for directions in Awali, I used a much higher register then I was with my friend, who was in the car with me. ‘Excuse me sir, would u mind if you could point in the right direction to Riffa Views? Using excuse me showed I wanted to be polite, this is because I am the stranger and I are on unfamiliar terms. This is a very big contrast to the sentence I used before with my friend. ‘Dude, we’re lost, what bout we ask for directions, he seems cool’. This is showing my low register I used with my friend, I can use low register since it is not a formal event, and he knows me very well. Another aspect that affected my idiolect is when I began code switching. I code switch between mainly English and Arabic, this is due to my Lebanese roots, in Lebanon and to Lebanese it is natural and normal sentence.
I code switch a lot with my mother. For example when I was asking her if I could go to my friends. ‘Keefeek mama, feae rooh to Alex’s for the day? ’ My sentence began in Arabic and ended in English. Code switching allows me to have a bond with somebody. It makes the conversation more secretive and allows to people to have a bond between one another. Using code switching with my mom, I use the beginning in Arabic since it is a very cheerful way to greet her and allow her to feel more close to her Lebanese roots.
Ending it in English makes it feel more to the point and it shows that I was not looking for a conversation and only to ask her a question. In conclusion, my idiolect has been affected by eight main factors. Each one affecting my idiolect and molding it into what it is today. Each one affecting it in a different way and each one having a different impact, these points have shown that even if your idiolect is your own, factors out of your control have affected it and shaped it. Therefore your idiolect is determined more by other people then by yourself.