Skip to main content Accessibility help

Local accents in England and Wales

  • J. C. Wells (a1)


1. Dialectologists in England have concentrated on the speech of small and relatively isolated rural communities (see, for example, Orton and Dieth, 1962: Introduction, 14). Other linguists and phoneticians concerned with the English of England have almost without exception described Standard English and the form of pronunciation they call, using an established but less than happy term, ‘Received Pronunciation’ (Jones, 1967:xvii). Yet the English of most English (and English-speaking Welsh) people is neither RP Standard English nor a rural dialect. The vast mass of urban working-class and lower-middle-class speakers use a pronunciation nearer to RP, and lexical and grammatical forms much nearer to Standard English, than the archaic rural dialects recorded by the dialectologists. Yet their speech diverges in many ways from what is described as standard. The purpose of this article, which must be regarded as preliminary and tentative, is to sketch the principal phonetic variables among such local, mainly urban, forms of English.1 It is the task of anyone concerned with the description of these ‘accents’ of English to investigate whatever phonetic variables can be identified and to establish their correlation with the non-linguistic variables of age, social standing and education, and geographical provenance. (For discussion of some of the problems of urban dialectology, see particularly Wright, 1966.)



Hide All
Abercrombie, D. (1965). RP and local accent, in Studies in Phonetics and Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Abercrombie, D. (1967). Elements of General Phonetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Barber, C. (1964). Linguistic Change in Present-day English. Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Boyd.
Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
[Ellis, S.] (1965). Language and dialects, in The Reader's Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles. London: The Reader's Digest Association.
Eustace, S. S. (1964). The long vowel in bad, etc.: an explanation. Maître Phonetique 121. 45.
Fudge, E. C. (1969). Syllables. JL 5. 253286.
Gimson, A. C. (1960). The instability of English alveolar articulations. Maître Phonétique 113. 710.
Gimson, A. C. (1962). An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English. London: Edward Arnold.
Halliday, M. A. K., McIntosh, A. & Strevens, P. (1964). The Linguistic Sciences and Language Teaching. London: Longmans.
Hurford, J. R. (1967). The speech of one family: a phonetic comparison of the three generations in a family of East Londoners. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London.
Jones, D. (1957). An Outline of English Phonetics. 8th edn.Cambridge: Heffer.
Jones, D. (1962). The Phoneme: its Nature and Use. 2nd edn.Cambridge: Heffer.
Jones, D. (1966). The Pronunciation of English. 4th edn.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, D. (1967). English Pronouncing Dictionary. 13th edn. revised by Gimson, A. C.. London: Dent.
Kelly, J. (1967). On the phonology of an English urban accent. Maître Phonétique 127. 25.
Kökeritz, H. (1932). The Phonology of the Suffolk Dialect. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitetets Årsskrift.
Kurath, H. (1964). A Phonology and Prosody of Modern English. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag.
Kurath, H. & McDavid, R. I. Jr., (1961). The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Lodge, K. R. (1966). The Stockport dialect. Maître Phonétique 126. 2630.
Orton, H. & Dieth, E. (eds.) (1962– ). Survey of English Dialects. Leeds: E. J. Arnold. Later volumes have as editors Orton, H., et al.
Painter, C. (1963). Black Country speech. Maître Phonétique 120. 3033.
Philp, A. M. (1968). Attitudes to Correctness in English. Papers in Linguistics and English Teaching no. 6. London: Longmans.
Sivertsen, E. (1960). Cockney Phonology. Oslo: Oslo University Press.
Smith, H. L. Jr., (1968). English Morphophonics. Monograph no. 10. Oneonta, New York: N.Y. State English Council.
Spencer, J. (1957). Received pronunciation: some problems of interpretation. Lingua 7 1. 729.
Thomas, A. R. (1967). Generative phonology in dialectology. TPhS 1967. 179203.
Trager, G. L. & Smith, H. L. (1951). An Outline of English Structure. SIL Occasional Papers, no. 3.
Trim, J. L. M. (1961). English Standard Pronunciation. English Language Teaching, 16. 1. 2837.
Turner, G. W. (1966). The English Language in Australia and New Zealand. London: Longmans.
Waldo, G. S. (1959). The phonology of Gloucestershire-Worcestershire English. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London.
Ward, I. C. (1958). The Phonetics of English. 4th edn.Cambridge: Heffer.
Wells, J. C. (1962). A specimen of British English. Maître Phonétique 117. 25.
Wells, J. C. (1965). The phonological status of syllabic consonants in English RP. Phonetica 13. 110113.
Wells, J. C. (1968). Nonprevocalic intrusive /r/ in urban Hampshire. 1968 Progress Report, Department of Phonetics, University College, London.
Wilkinson, A. D. (forthcoming). The phonology of a dialect on the Hampshire–Dorset border. To be presented as an M.Phil. dissertation, University of London.
Windsor Lewis, J. (1969). A Guide to English Pronunciation. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Wright, J. T. (1966). Urban dialects: a consideration of method. Zeitschr. f. Mundartforschung 33. 232246.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed