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English accents. 4. Estuary English. The 1980's: a claim that a new variety of English has arisen, Estuary English The 1990's: the name enters popular usage. The existence of EE is taken as a fact.

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English accents l.jpg

English accents

4. Estuary English


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  • The 1980's: a claim that a new variety of English has arisen, Estuary English

  • The 1990's: the name enters popular usage. The existence of EE is taken as a fact.

  • The 2000's: scholarly accounts based on substantial research appear. They show that EE as previously defined does not exist.


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The claim arisen,

'"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 London speech at either end, "Estuary English" speakers are to be found grouped in the middle ground.'

David Rosewarne 1984


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'The heartland of this variety lies by the banks of the Thames and its estuary, …' Rosewarne, 1984


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…but it seems to be the most influential accent in the south-east of England. Rosewarne 1984


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www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary south-east of England.


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www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary south-east of England.


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The hype south-east of England.

'Estuary English can nowadays be heard throughout London and the Home Counties and well beyond … as far as the north Norfolk coast, … the Dorset coast, … the south Kent coast … beyond the northern boundaries of Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.' Coggle 1993


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My view is that Rosewarne is misguided in very many respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP.

Kerswill Linguist List 5.527, 08 May 1994


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JCW's proposed definition respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP.

EE = Standard English spoken with a non-RP, London-influenced accent

  • …therefore

  • has standard grammar, and

  • does not have stigmatized characteristics such as

    • h-dropping

    • [æ:, a:] in MOUTH words

    • [ʔ] for [t] between vowels within a word

    • TH fronting (??)


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The spread of Cockney features to Estuary and RP respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP.

- no ±perhaps+ yes


Transcribing estuary english differences from rp l.jpg
Transcribing Estuary English: respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP. differences from RP

  • for -ing optionally write EE /ɪn/; for -thing optionally write EE /θɪŋk/

  • for RP dark /l/, write EE /o/

  • for RP /t/ when between {a vowel or sonorant} and {a consonant or word boundary}, write EE /ʔ/

  • for RP /tj, dj/, write EE /tʃ, dʒ/

  • for RP /aɪ, aʊ/, write EE /ɑɪ, æʊ/

  • for RP /n̩/ in various positions, write EE /ən/

  • for twenty, plenty, want(ed, ing, it, us), went (before a vowel), in EE optionally omit the /t/


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The confusion respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP.

Stylistic variability

degrees of formality

cheers! there you go!

Good or bad?

● EE 'has street cred', is 'modern, up-front, trend-setting'

● EE is 'a bastardized version of Cockney dialect'


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The truth respects. For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the non-standard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features, such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense, and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery associated with some forms of RP.

Percentage of glottalling by teenagers (Przedlacka, p. 87)

RP Eton 8

'EE' counties 32

Cockney Bethnal Green 85

Aylesbury, Bucks 43

Lit. Baddow, Essex 8

Farningham, Kent 38

Walton/Hill, Surrey 21


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