HeadlinesOctober 18, 2010
- Improving assessment
- Potter dredging turns up time capsules, trash and treasure
- School of Social Welfare lands $13 million grant to help improve lives of foster children
- Chancellors Club Research, Teaching Awards announced
- KU reaches record level in research expenditures
- Professor profile: The art of pronunciation
- Watkins offers flu shot clinics for employees
- 'Media Memes' exhibit takes collaborative approach to explore meaning of photos
- Giving to KU reaches record $110 million
- School of Business earns funding to support, expand programs with U.S. Army
- 'Generations Project' aims to improve services to families with at-risk children
- Researchers work to improve prevention of cancer among Latino, American Indian communities
- Shankel takes part in 10th version of cancer research conference born at KU
- Faculty, staff encouraged to help stock professional clothing closet for students
Professor profile: The art of pronunciation
Paul Meier, professor of theatre
People who can do a variety of accents may be a hit at parties and get laughs, but actors with a mastery of accents and dialects can be a hit professionally.
In a new KU YouTube video, Paul Meier, professor of theatre, discusses teaching accents to students, researching Shakespeare, producing plays in original pronunciation and why he came to KU.
“To be able to switch from one accent to another is just a wonderful party trick, and a very, very important credential for an actor,” Meier said.
His classes that teach acting with an accent and using dialects are always among his most popular. He trains KU students to adopt accents for stage productions but has also coached actors in Hollywood productions and stage performances across the country. He also frequently consults with actors by videoconferencing.
Meier’s research focuses on his passion: Shakespeare. Recently he’s studied the pronunciation of the great writer’s plays in the time they were originally produced.
“These plays are very fresh, even 400 years later,” Meier said of Shakespeare's works. “But the language has moved on and the sound of the language is quite different.”
As there were no video or audio recordings of plays in Shakespeare’s day, many wonder how they can know what the pronunciation sounded like. There are several clues. First, people of the era spelled phonetically, as there was no such thing as “correct” spelling.
“People spelled just any way they wished,” he said. “Shakespeare himself spelled his name seven different ways. So when you got a letter from someone, you could hear their accent. When we get a letter from someone, we cannot hear their accent, because spelling has been regularized.”
The evidence is also in the plays themselves. In plays such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the lines were written to rhyme. Although words such as eyes and fantasies wouldn’t rhyme if spoken today, they did at the time. Researchers can then cross-reference those rhymes to others found throughout writing of the period. Perhaps most fortunately for the researchers, there were early phoneticians documenting how things were pronounced at the time.
A native of England, Meier said he was drawn to KU because it gave him a chance to teach, research his passion and work with great students.
“There was this amazing job at a research university,” Meier said. “You get to teach 40 percent of the time, you get to research, you get to travel, you get to teach fantastic students from all over America. It’s a really wonderful job and it’s kept me enthusiastic for a little over 20 years now.”