Accent and Dialect Theory's




A dialect of the English language traditionally spoken by working-class Londoners. 

It is the replacing of words with a rhyming word or expression.

It was first used by street sellers, beggers and petty criminals as code. 


Glottal stopping 

/æ/ replaced with /e/ 

"h" dropping 

"th" fronting so replacing /ø/ with /f/ 


He ain't got the bottle to do it, has he?  (He doesn't have the courage to do it, does he?)         Apple and pairs (up the stairs)


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Received pronunciation


Is and accent, traditionally associated with educated people and the upper classes. 

Discribed as typically British. 

Is and accent not a dialect. 


Long /a:/ sound 

Never drop the letter "h" 

No /r/ sound follows the vowels 


Car- /ka:/ 

Bath- b/a:/th     Tom/a:/to   

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MLE (Multicultural London English)


A sociolect predominantly spoken by young, working class peaple. 

It can be called a multiethnolct and originated in the multicultural neighbourhhds of inner-city London, and has features from cockney and jamaican Creole. 


econmic deprivation has lead to the maintenance of close neighbourhood ties. Milroy said that groups with high-multiplexity tend to speak in non-standard forms and Cheshire linked this and said that the low economic groups have high- multiplexity and thatthese are the groups that use sociolects such as MLE. 

David Starkey:

White people are becoming black, violance and gangs are the new fashion. 


Loan words: Mandem, dutty

/Th/ fronting:  Three becomes Free

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John Honey

He said children should be taught standard english in schools in order to have equal opportunities in later life. 

Children will be disadvantaged if they cannot communicate in Standard English.

John Honey contradicted himself by rejecting the idea that standardisation in history was an attempt to force this way of speaking amongst all English speakers. 

He researched whether young people speak differently to their elders and whether standard english is still used by the middle and upper class: 

1. Slang is not only used by young people but is pcikedup by the older generation at work and in pubs.

2. He found that people in more affluent areas tend to speak in more polite forms, and that people in the middle-class and that working-class people use slang and taboo.  

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Peter Trudgill: Norwich Study

Trudgill found that women are more likely to use overt prestige ( a move towards RP- publicly acknowledged)

Men are more likely to use covert prestige ( a move towards their regional accent- only recognised in certain social groups). 

He also found that variation across speach styles parallels variation across social class. 

In the "lower middle class" and the "upper working class" the difference were greatest in formal speech, thereby identifying these classes as most susceptible to the prestige of RP form, with women leading the way on this front. 

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William Labov: New York Study

Study in 1962 at department stores in New York. 

ASked the smae question in each department store to test the pronunciation of the /r/ phoneme. The subjects were made to say 'fourth floor' twice. 

Labov's hypothesis: Salespeople in the highest ranked store will tress /r/ the mostm those int the middle ranked store will have an intermidiate value, and those in the lowest ranked store will have the least. 

People's pronunciations tends to move closer in higher class speech styles in formal situations and closer to lower class styles when situatins are more relaxed. 

Individual variations turned into a reflection of speech differences that emerge when you look at different class in a soiety. 

Labov concluded that individuals internalise class hierachy and act it out, often unconsciously, in ordinary life.  

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Beryl Bainbridge

The novelist Beryl Bainbridge believed that all children should have elocution lessons to wipe out their regional accents. 

She said that being taught to abandon her own Liverpool accent had helped her career no end. 

Bainbridge talked about the children on Brookside as: "they don't speak the ENglish language". 

Bainbrdge is criticised for falling into the Pymalion trap: the idea that higher expectations = increased performance. 

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Lance Workman

Scientists at bath spa university asked 48 volunteers to complete a study into accent perception. 

Dr Lance Workman, who led the team of researchers, said that one of the reasons for ding the study "was to discover accent stereotypes." 

He asked people to look at photographs and listen to the various accents, then rate the accent according to a number of different criteria. 

Yorkshire accent= most intelligent

Birmingham accent= least intelligent

defending his study= Birmingham i've found people to be very bright and friendly. 

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Howard Giles

Giles presented five groups of students with an identical set of arguments against capital punishment. One group read a printed text the other four groups heard an oral presentation. 

The four oral presentations were given bby speakers with different accents: 

RP, Somerset, South Wales and Birmingham.

The students were first asked about how impressed they were by the competence of the presentation. those who read the printed text and those who had heard the RP speaker were the most impressed. Least impressed were those who heard the Birmingham speaker. 

Giles then assessed the persuasiveness of the accents by comparing the students' views on capital punishment before and after the presentations. Regional accents scored most highly: those hearing regional speakers were more likely to have changed their minds than those hearing the RP speaker or reading the printed text.

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Worcester college study

Suggested that speakers with a Birmingham accent may be more likely to be presumed guilty when suspected of criminal offence. 

The research team hired male actors to reproduce police interviews with suspected armed robbers. 

The actors used the Biemingham accent together with other accents and the resulting tapes were played to a large group of students. 

Suspect with a Birmingham aceent was more likely to be considered guilty and was also regarded as less intelligent, less socially competemt and more likely to be poor and working class. 

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Milroy: Belfast

Members of a speech community are connected to each other in social networks which may be closed or open. Network ties are said to be multiplex 

A person whos contacts all know each other becong to a CLOSED NETWORK. High density

An individual whose contacts tend not ot kow wach other belong to an OPEN NETWORK. Low density 

The dense networks will have the capacity to enforce linguistic norms. the correlaton between the denseity of the network and the language was that the higher the dentisty the more there was a use of vernacular or non-standarcd forms. 

Men were usually in tight-knit social network and had used non-standard forms 

Women the non-standard use was less obvious due to less dense social networks 

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