Estuary English

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One modern dialect - or perhaps this is an academic fiction based on several modern dialects - is so-called Estuary English. Here is David Rosewarne's description:

Estuary English is a variety of modified regional speech. It is a mixture of non-regional and local south-eastern English pronunciation and intonation. If one imagines a continuum with RP and popular London speech at either end, Estuary English speakers are to be found grouped in the middle ground. They are “between Cockney and the Queen”, in the words of The Sunday Times. (Rosewarne 1994: Estuary English: Tomorrow's RP? English Today, 10[1], pp. 3-8.)

Rosewarne claims that people correct their speech for reasons of social aspiration. They lose grammatically non-standard features, such as

  • double negatives
  • the word ain't,
  • past tense forms like writ for “wrote”, come for “came”.

They also, he claims, change accent. In the Southeast, they avoid the most stigmatised phonetic features, such as dropping of h and using /t/ instead of the glottal stop. The result has been the emergence of a new southern or south-eastern variety (some characteristics of which have spread to the midlands and the north). This variety, which we may call Estuary, has these features:

  • glottal stops for /t/, including some between vowels;
  • vocalised /l/ as in fill, giving pronunciations sounding like “fiw”;
  • “Cockney” (London) vowels (broad diphthongs, so that mace sounds like RP mice, buy sounds like RP boy, and rice has


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