Language Variation

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Malcolm Petyt, Bradford, "h"-dropping, phonology

Petyt investigated the omission of the "h" sound across different social classes, in words such as "house," "horse" and "happen." 
- This study shows the relationship between non-standard dialect use (since the "h" drop is a feature of many northern English accents, Manchester) and social class
Results: 
Upper-middle class = 12% (of "h" dropping) whereas lower-working class = 93%
Lower-middle class = 28% (of "h" dropping) whereas middle-working class = 89%
- While the lower-classes seemed to always include "h" dropping in their speech, the upper-classes only used it occationally. This shows there was a divide between the usages in social classes. 
- The trend in results showed greater regional accent use in the working-class, which diminished as you moved up the social scale. (Regional accent features became less common, in favour of Standard English, prestigious dialect.)
- There is a close relationship between the dropping of the "h" at the beginning of words and social class. 

It is interesting to note that "h" dropping is not a common feature in American English or the speech of Irish and Scottish speakers. The "h" drop is also common in the Cockney accent but not in MLE and MEYD, which is spoken by young people. Therefore, we can summise that "h" dropping is beginning to decrease in the language of young people. 

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