Gloriavale Christian sect members developed a distinct accent as a result of isolation, linguist says

Gloriavale Christian sect members developed a distinct accent as a result of isolation, linguist says

| NZ Herald | Lincoln Tan |

Living in isolation in a closeted community has given members of the Gloriavale Christian sect an accent that is “unique and distinct”, a linguistic expert says.

Gloriavale has been under the spotlight with a three-part documentary series called Escaping Utopiacurrently airing on TVNZ 1.

There are about 600 living in the commune and children born into Gloriavale are taught to believe the community is the utopian vision of Earth and they will be damning themselves to eternal damnation if they leave.

“I was fascinated by the accent, especially those women from Gloriavale who were giving evidence in Court,” said Associate Professor Sharon Harvey, a specialist in applied and educational linguistics at AUT University.

“The accent is really marked and idiosyncratic.”

Harvey said an online comment said the distinct accent sounded like “all the regular dials on our Kiwi accent have been turned up to 11″.

“I thought that perfectly explains it, but I’m also thinking the Gloriavale accent is quite close to the more general West Coast accent which is quite distinct as well,” she said.

“For example, they talk about the ‘coal-moynes’ instead of ‘coal-mines’, turning that ‘i’ to an ‘oy’ sound and that was some of the sounds the Gloriavale women were making.”

She also noted that those people on the documentary who had been out of Gloriavale for 10 years or more had adapted their accents to what would be more mainstream.

Harvey said generally groups of people who interact with each other regularly will adopt a similar accent, more so for those who live in isolation from others.

“We tend to mimic people we’re around and also accent is about identity, and so it can be used to distinguish us and make it clear that we’re part of a particular group,” she said.

“For example, Auckland teenagers of whatever ethnicity can quite easily turn up the South Auckland Kiwi English dial if they wanted to show solidarity with a particular group, and then return to their more general accent.”

Harvey said the Gloriavale accent developed because they had been isolated for a long time, and described it as a “very exaggerated New Zealand accent”.

“I’m sure it’s formed quite naturally, I don’t think it was put on in any way.”