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Languages change with time and pronunciation is one of the things that changes. What is interesting about pronunciation is that direct evidence of this change exists only since we invented audio recording (XIX century).

I was looking for audio evidence of pronunciation change in various languages. In particular I'm interested in finding speeches, conversations, etc. that show how a language used to sound.

What kind of people are the most likely to have such recordings? For USA, president speeches seem to go quite back (Benjamin Harrison). For France oldest president speech I found was from much later (Paul Deschanel). For Russia I found Lenin.

I'm making the assumption that a person's accent is formed in their youth which means that Grover Cleveland is likely to have morn "modern" accent than Benjamin Harrison even though the former became president first. Is this assumption correct?

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    Second sentence is very misleading. Sure, sound is technically required for it to be "direct" evidence. However, we can see pronunciation changes by tracking rhymes, and via a great deal of other indirect evidence. Recordings are nice, but absolutely not required! – T.E.D. Jan 30 '18 at 15:39
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    I think this one should go to linguistics se – Ne Mo Jan 30 '18 at 15:41
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    Important: Americans on radio back in the day had fake accents, FDR for example. This will certainly color things. Probably there were linguistic recordings made back then though. If you post on se:linguistics, please let me know. – axsvl77 Jan 30 '18 at 15:45
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    Also, the accent used by a POTUS candidate is quite likely to be at least somewhat affected. For a nice modern example, look at the tendency of modern candidates to engage in gratuitous g-dropping. I believe I've even seen g-dropping in speeches held up as evidence someone was running for President prior to their official announcement. – T.E.D. Jan 30 '18 at 15:45
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    @T.E.D. Ha! I'll take you up on that – axsvl77 Jan 30 '18 at 15:53
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You might find this site interesting: https://www.firstsounds.org

First Sounds seeks out the world's oldest sound recordings—wherever they are. We rewrote history in 2008 when we discovered and resurrected humanity’s first recordings of its own voice, created in 1860 in Paris by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. Since then, we have identified and played back even older recordings. First Sounds remains the authority on Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville and his recordings.

In other words, the earliest available recordings for your hearing pleasure are those made by the inventor of the phonautograph, the earliest known sound recording device in the late 1850s.

I'd put forward in passing that you can go earlier in time than that by simply visiting Quebec. Linguists widely believe that they speak French with an accent similar to how it was spoken in the 17th century. Or for that matter, as suggested in the comments, rhymes in poetry give good hints on how people spoke in a given time period.

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    Or Afrikaans vs Dutch, or New Mexican Spanish, or various other isolated populations vs the mother region... – Jon Custer Jan 30 '18 at 20:00
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    That too, yeah. I recollect meeting a Colombian one day who put forward that they're the only ones still speaking real Spanish. But I admittedly never dug into whether that claim had merit. – Denis de Bernardy Jan 30 '18 at 20:07

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