Accents and Dialects

Notes on Accents and Dialects

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Key Words

  • Received Pronunciation RP - associated with respectability, good education and high social status
    (Queen's English, only around 2-3% speak)
  • Standard English SE -  regarded as prestigious, associated with government, law, education, church and the financial world
  • Social Prestige
    Overt -
    status valued and shared by mainstream society and change
    Covert -  shared by minority groups in society, usually w/ alternative or opposing views to mainstream society
  • Prescriptivists - English is governed by a set of rules which dictate a proper and correct use of language. Any deviation of this is wrong, they dislike change perceiving it as decaying/eroding standards
  • Descriptivists - Observe language in different situations
    - describes the ways language varies according to user, use + context
    - see change as inevitable, describe language as non-standard - based on knowledge of audience
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David Crystal


  • upholds the view that SE is a core form of the language
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John Honey

John Honey

  • In his book 'Does Accent Matter', Honey argues that some of our prejudices about accent are reasonable and based on reality and that they are so deeply ingrained they are unlikely to be eradicated.
  • Children are being disadvantaged in life because they are not being equipped with an accent which will help them succeed, hence SE should be taught in schools
  • Status of an accent reflects the power and status of the people who use it. There is a hierarchy of accents in terms of social prestige + perceived attractiveness 
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Estuary English

A variety of English growing out of its original roots, influencing more speakers and spreading into wider areas of usage in the UK
There is a prediction that it may in time replace RP as the standard pronunciation form of English.

David Rosewarne - 1980s

  • Estuary English is influenced by Cockney and SE, the remainder of the dialect is 'standard' in the sense that it adheres to the prestige form of RP
  • Certain dialect features involving non-standard grammatical forms:
    i.e. the contracted word 'ain't' as a verb + non-standard past tense forms, i.e. 'come' for 'came' 
    i.e. use of double negative forms - derived from Cockney
  • 'yod-coalescence' - use of consonant sound /j/ in place of /dy/ i.e. 'dune'
  • glottalling - consonant /t/ pronounced by a glottal stop
  • l-vocalisation - replacement of consonant sound /l/ w/ a vowel/semi-vowel sound  
  • vowel fronting 
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Estuary English Cont.

Dominant pronunciation form in much of the spoken broadcast media and from prominent public figures like politicians, business people, sportspeople, actors and musicians. This is one of the factors resulting in the spread of Estuary English beyond its regional area of the South East. 


  • Research into Milton Keynes  founded vowel fronting indicating the influence of Estuary English due to significant migration in the area from London. 
  • This represents how Estuary English has a potential role in dialect levelling
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  • 1970s
  • looked at accents of those in Saks and S.Klein and found that people would modify their accent resulting in a perceived overt prestige
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  • researched into males and females within different social classes 
  • found that women used a form of overt prestige in order to appear from a higher social class; this often resulted in hypercorrectness
  • men would use covert prestige in order to appear more 'down-to'earth' and 'tough' 
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  • social variation theory - anti-language
  • Halliday found that forms of sociolect arise in order to support subcultures who were seeking a covert identity
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  • 1990s
  • researched into children's prestige in order to explore whether adults prestige stemmed from their speech as children
  • found that girls spoke to create and maintain friendships
  • boys used their language to instill a group identity
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LOVE THIS KARINA!!! so helpful!!

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