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diastratic / diatopic varieties of English. Cockney Estuary English. Cockney.

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  • Cockney represents the basilectal end of the London accent and can be considered the broadest form of London local accent.(Wells 1982b) It traditionally refers only to specific regions and speakers within the city. While many Londoners may speak what is referred to as "popular London" (Wells 1982b) they do not necessarily speak Cockney. The popular Londoner accent can be distinguished from Cockney in a number of ways, and can also be found outside of the capital, unlike the true Cockney accent.
  • The term Cockney refers to both the variety as well as to those people who speak it.
  • The etymology of Cockney has long been discussed and disputed. One explanation is that "Cockney" literally means cock's egg, a misshapen egg such as sometimes laid by young hens.
  • It was originally used when referring to a weak townsman, opposed to the tougher countryman and by the 17th century the term, through banter, came to mean a Londoner.
  • Today's natives of London, especially in its East End use the term with respect and pride (`Cockney Pride'.)

Geography of Cockney English:

  • London, the capital of England, is situated on the River Thames, approximately 50 miles north of the English Channel, in the south east section of the country. It is generally agreed, that to be a true Cockney, a person has to be born within hearing distance of the bells of St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside, in the City of London.
  • This traditional working-class accent of the region is also associated with other suburbs in the eastern section of the city such as the East End, Stepney, Hackney, Shoreditch Poplar and Bow.
The Cockney accent is generally considered one of the broadest of the British accents and is heavily stigmatized.
  • It is considered to epitomize the working class accents of Londoners and in its more diluted form, of other areas.
  • The area and its colourful characters and accents have often become the foundation for British "soap operas" and other television specials.
  • Currently, the BBC is showing one of the most popular soaps set in this region, "East Enders" and the characters’ accents and lives within this television program provide wonderful opportunities for observers of language and culture.
Cockney represents the basilectal end of the London accent and can be considered the broadest form of London local accent.(Wells 1982b)
  • It traditionally refers only to specific regions and speakers within the city.
  • While many Londoners may speak what is referred to as "popular London" (Wells 1982b) they do not necessarily speak Cockney.
  • The popular Londoner accent can be distinguished from Cockney in a number of ways, and can also be found outside of the capital, unlike the true Cockney accent.
the most striking phonological features of cockney are
The most striking phonological features of Cockney are:
  • r is pronounced only when followed immediately by a vowel-sound. So, no r is pronounced in flowers. (Some New England accents and Southern U.S. accents have this same feature.)
  • Dropped ‘h’ at beginning of words (Voiceless glottal fricative):h is usually omitted (home in the demonstration words); in self-conscious speech it's articulated very strongly. Examples: house = ‘ouse; hammer = ‘ammer
  • l is pronounced only when a vowel-sound follows (so no l is pronounced in hole, etc.).
  • TH fronting Another very well known characteristic of Cockney is th fronting which involves the replacement of the dental fricatives, and by labiodentals [f] and [v] respectively. Voiceless th is often, but not always, pronounced as f (breath, etc.). Voiced th is likewise often but not always pronounced as v (breathe, etc.). Examples: thin = fin; brother = bruvver; three = free; bath = barf
  • The long vowels are all diphthongs. Notice especially the difference between force etc. (spelled with r followed by a consonant, though the r is not pronounced) and poor etc. (spelled with r not followed by a consonant, though again the r is not pronounced).
  • MonophthongizationThis affects the lexical set ‘mouth’ vowel.
  • Glottal stop (the ‘t’ sound is not pronounced in intervocalic or final positions. there are some words where the omission of ‘t’ has become very accepted. Examples: Gatwick = Ga’wick; Scotland = Sco'land; statement = Sta'emen; network = Ne’work
read and pronounce the following words then listen
Read and pronounce the following words, then listen…
  • fleece, police, grease
  • face, chase, lace
  • price, rice, nice
  • choose, lose, shoes
  • mouth, round, flowers
  • goat, note, home
  • force, north, porch
  • poor, more, door
  • hole, bowl, coal
  • little, model, fiddle
  • breath, three, thanks
  • breathe, mother, other
grammatical features
Grammatical features:
  • Use of me instead of my, for example, "At's me book you got 'ere".
  • Use of ain'tinstead of isn't, am not, are not, has not, and have not
  • Use of double negatives, for example "I didn't see nothing.“
  • Use of the invariable tag question “innit”
lexical features
Lexical features
  • Cockney is characterized by its own special vocabulary and usage (‘mate’, ‘cheers’, etc.), and traditionally by its own development of "rhyming slang.“
rhyming slang
Rhyming slang
  • Cockney rhyming slang is an amusing, widely under-estimated part of the English language. It began 200 years ago among the London east-end docks builders. Cockney rhyming slang then developed as a secret language of the London underworld from the 1850's, when villains used the coded speech to confuse police and eavesdroppers. Since then the slang has continued to grow and reflect new trends and wider usage, notably leading to Australian rhyming slang expressions, and American too. Many original cockney rhyming slang words have now entered the language and many users are largely oblivious as to their beginnings.
Cockney rhyming slang uses substitute words, usually two, as a coded alternative for another word. The final word of the substitute phrase rhymes with the word it replaces (for example - the cockney rhyming slang for the word 'look' is 'butcher's hook'). When only the first word of the replacement phrase is used, as is usual, the meaning is difficult to guess (ie 'butchers' = 'look').
cockney rhyming slang

'Allo me old china - wot say we pop round the Jack. I'll stand you a pig and you can rabbit on about your teapots. We can 'ave some loop and tommy and be off before the dickory hits twelve.

or, to translate

Hello my old mate (china plate) - what do you say we pop around to the bar (Jack Tar). I'll buy you a beer (pig's ear) and you can talk (rabbit and pork) about your kids (teapot lids). We can have some soup (loop de loop) and supper (Tommy Tucker) and be gone before the clock (hickory dickory dock) strikes twelve.


"Got to my mickey, found me way up the apples, put on me whistle and the bloody dog went. It was me trouble telling me to fetch the teapots."

which really means,

"Got to my house (mickey mouse), found my way up the stairs (apples and pears), put on my suit (whistle and flute) when the phone (dog and bone) rang. It was my wife (trouble and strife) telling me to get the kids (teapot lids)."


Cockney rhyming slang is so prevalent in British English that many people unwittingly employ it in everyday speech. You will hear several established terms used in conversation throughout Britain:

"Let's have a butchers at that magazine" (butcher's hook = look)

"I haven't heard a dicky bird about it" (dickie bird = word)

"Use your loaf and think next time" (loaf of bread = head)

"Did you half-inch that car?" (half-inch = pinch, meaning steal)

"You will have to speak up, he's a bit mutton" (mutt'n'jeff = deaf)

"I'm going on my tod" (todsloan = alone, or own)

"Are you telling porkies?" (porkies = pork pies = lies)

"Are you going to rabbit all night?" (rabbit and pork = talk)

"Scarper lads! The police are coming" (scarpa flow = go)


Rhyming slang, is still part of the true Cockney culture even if it is sometimes used for effect.

Since the 1980s there has been a resurgence in the popularity of rhyming slang, with numerous new examples popping up in everyday in speech. Some make a bold attempt to infiltrate language use at a national level, usually employed by eager and cocky (sic) adolescents and especially young male adults in an attempt to strengthen their identity. The popularity of 'new laddism', 'girl power' and youth culture in general in the 1990's, encouraged by the media as a profitable commodity, has led to a wealth of rhyming slang taking hold throughout the United Kingdom.


Ayrton Senna = tenner (a monetary note)

Claire Rayners = trainers (the footwear)

Darren Gough = cough

Damon Hill = pill

David Gower = shower

Gary Ablett = tablet (ecstasy pill)

Gary Glitter = shitter (anus)

Gianluca Vialli = charlie (cocaine)

Jack Dee = pee

Janet Street-Porter = quarter (a weight of drugs)

Tony Blair (s) = flairs or hair

Here's a small selection of general, but older, currently used expressions:

ruby murray = curry

barnet fair = hair

currant bun = sun

hampstead heath = teeth

deep sea diver = fiver (a monetary note)

mince pies = eyes

china plate = mate

pen and ink = stink

septic tank = yank (a person from the U.S.)

whistle and flute = suit

song starz in their eyes
Song – Starz in their eyes
  • They'll be making sure you stay amused They'll fill you up with drugs and booze Maybe you'll make the evening news And when you're tripping over your dreams They'll keep you down by any means and by the end of the night you'll be stifling your screams Since you became a VIPerson It's like your problems have all worsened Your paranoia casts aspersions On the truths you know And they'll just put you in the spotlight And hope that you'll do alright Or maybe not Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? So why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Starz in their eyes? Remember they said you'd show them all Emphasise the rise but not the fall And now you're playing a shopping mall Your mum and dad they can't believe What you appear to have achieved While the rest of these users are just laughing in their sleeves Since you became a VIPerson It's like your problems have all worsened Your paranoia casts aspersions On the truths you know And now the tabloids use your face To document your fall from grace And then they'll tell you that that's just the way it goes That's just the way it goes Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? It's the same old story well they just didn't realise And it's a long way to come from the dog and duck karaoke machine And Saturday night's drunken dreams
Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? It's the same old story well they just didn't realise And it's a long way to come from your private bedroom dance routines And Saturday night's drunken dreams Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? So why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? Starz in their eyes? Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? It's the same old story well they just didn't realise And it's a long way to come from the dog and duck karaoke machine And Saturday night's drunken dreams (When I grow up im going to be famous) Behind the steel barrier and sequence and glitter Five inch heels still knee deep in the litter Each of them a bitter bullshitter, Wrapped up in the cloak of fake glamour, getting lost in the camera Well footprints are fools gold, diamonds crusts on their one off plimsolls So little time for these one off arseholes Rigour mortis Ken and Barbie dolls, A pair of big shades and a push up bra, It's such a short gap between the gutter and stars, That you've come a long way from the place that you started So why'd you wanna go and get so down hearted Welcome to the kingdom of the blagger Uncutting you nose clean, coating you bladder A whole lot happier a whole lot sadder, Used to be satisfied but now you feel like Mick Jagger, Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? It's the same old story well they just didn't realise And it's a long way to come from the dog and duck karaoke machine And Saturday night's drunken dreams Now why do you wanna go and put starz in their eyes? It's the same old story well they just didn't realise And it's a long way to come from your private bedroom dance routines And Saturday night's drunken dreams
george bernard shaw s pygmalion
George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion tells a story of a phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who makes a bet with Colonel Pickering that he can transform Eliza Doolittle, a thick-accented Cockney flower girl or a "squashed cabbage leaf" (as he himself describes her) into a fine duchess within three months.

Professor Higgins is a man who can say where a person comes from by his or her accent.

In the play (and film) the emphasis in changing one’s social class is more on learning to speak the right accent than on other significant factors.

Higgins stresses that Eliza has to abandon her "Kerbstone English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days" and learn how to speak beautifully.

In Shaw’s days (that is at the beginning of the 20th century) Britain was a very class-ridden society, and accent was a very good marker of one’s social class.

pygmalion preface
Pygmalion - Preface

The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like.

It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.


The story revolves around a bet made by the male protagonist who wants to change Eliza into an educated and refined person.

So the Professor makesaninitial challenge towardPickeringwhichbecomes the cornerstoneof the film's plot. Hewagerswith the Colonelthatwithinsixmonths, he can teachElizaDoolittletospeakarticulately so thatshewillbetransformedinto a pure-speaking lady, so that no onewillsuspecther Cockney originswhensheispassed off as a duchess at anEmbassy Ball. Shewillbecome a proper, aristocratic lady just bybeingtaughtproper English:

“Youseethis creature withhercurbstone English. The English thatwillkeepher in the guttertill the end ofherdays. Well, sir, in sixmonths, I could pass her off as a duchess at anEmbassy Ball. I couldevengether a job as a lady's maid or a shop assistant, whichrequiresbetter English...

[ToEliza] Yes, yousquashedcabbageleaf. Youdisgraceto the noblearchitectureofthesecolumns! You incarnate insultto the English language! I could pass you off as, ah, the Queen ofSheba”.

The cinematic version of P is My Fair Lady, starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle (the Cockney flower girl).


The Flower Girl is a Cockney speaker, her ‘variation’ is a dialect, it has geographic origins and a social connotation.

G.B. Shaw – Pygmalion:

The flower girl: I am a good girl, I am.

The flower girl: Aint no call to meddle with me, he aint.



In English, beyond regional (geographic) varieties we have very marked social varieties.

The British need one or max. two sentences to decide if their interlocutors belong to the upper class, middle class or the many other classes in between.

Eliza Doolittle is a working class Londoner (two connotations, social and geographic).

The purpose was to highlight Eliza’s bad use of language and the fact that Prof. Higgins wanted her to speak a good language (upper class accent).


PYGMALION script available at: http://www.bartleby.com/138/index.html

  • "In six months—in three, if she has a good ear and a quick tongue—I'll take her anywhere and I'll pass her off as anything. I'll make a queen of that barbarous wretch!"

So the Professor makesaninitial challenge towardPickeringwhichbecomes the cornerstoneof the film's plot. Hewagerswith the Colonelthatwithinsixmonths, he can teachElizaDoolittletospeakarticulately so thatshewillbetransformedinto a pure-speaking lady, so that no onewillsuspecther Cockney originswhensheispassed off as a duchess at anEmbassy Ball. Shewillbecome a proper, aristocratic lady just bybeingtaughtproper English:

«Youseethis creature with hercurbstone English. The English thatwillkeepher in the guttertill the end of herdays. Well, sir, in sixmonths, I could pass her off as a duchess at an Embassy Ball. I couldevengether a job as a lady's maid or a shop assistant, whichrequiresbetter English...[To Eliza] Yes, yousquashedcabbageleaf. Youdisgrace to the noblearchitecture of thesecolumns! You incarnate insult to the English language! I could pass you off as, ah, the Queen of Sheba».

the rain in spain
The rain in Spain
  • “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! Henry By George, she's got it! By George, she's got it!Now, once again where does it rain? Eliza On the plain! On the plain! Henry And where's that soggy plain? Eliza In Spain! In Spain! The three The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! “
  • The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! Henry In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire...? Eliza Hurricanes hardly happen. How kind of you to let me come! Henry Now once again, where does it rain?Eliza On the plain! On the plain! Henry And where's that blasted plain? Eliza In Spain! In Spain!

Griffinepisode «Oneif by Clam, Twoif by Sea» (it. «My Fair Eliza»)

  • http://watchfamilyguyonline.org/movie/51-Family_Guy_304_One_If_By_Clam_Two_If_By_Sea.html


When a hurricane strikes Quohog, everything is destroyed except The Drunken Clam, which is bought out by a Brit who turns it into an English pub. As it happens, pub owner Nigel Pinchley and his family move in next door to the Griffins, and Stewie tries to teach Nigel's Cockney-accented 3-year-old daughter how to speak proper English.


The entire Stewie story is based on the play "My Fair Lady," in which two affluent British gentlemen make a wager that one can pass off a common flower girl as a princess. The songs are parodies of those in the musical My Fair Lady, which is based on play. In both the play and this episode, the girl's name is Eliza.

mins 6 28 6
Mins. 6:28 – 6:

Stewie: Ahh! What the devil is that ghastly noise?Eliza: It's me! Eliza Pinchley. You want a flower, little baby? Stewie: Excuse me. What I think you mean to say is,"Would I like a flower?" Heavens! You don't so much speak the language as chew on it and spit it out!Eliza: Go on. What's wrong with the way I talk?Stewie: Everything. Look, here's a shiny sixpence if you keep your mouth shut and go away.

mins 8 51 9 36
Mins. 8:51 – 9:36

Lois: Stewie, look. It's an invitation to little Eliza's birthday party!

Stewie: You mean that horrid girl who talks like a scullery maid? I didn't realize she'd been born. I assumed she'd simply congealed in a gutter somewhere.

Lois: Ooh, i'mgonnar.s.v.p. right now!

Stewie: Oh, splendid. An entire afternoon of her "ers," and "ars," and "'alf a pound of ha'penny rice." God, why can't the English teach their children how to speak?

Brian: Why don't you teach her? Unless you don't think you're up to it.

Stewie: Oh, yes, this is the part where I'm supposed to say, "Oh, I am so up to it". Well, I am! I accept your challenge! At the celebration of her birthday, I shall pass that guttersnipe off as a lady! What are the stakes of this wager?

Brian: Why don't you shut up for about a week?

Stewie: Very well. And if I win?

Brian: Well, I--I wasn't betting. Why don't you just shut up for about a week?

Stewie: You're on!

mins 14 46 15 25
Mins. 14:46 – 15:25

Stewie: No, no, no! If you're ever going to be a lady, you must learn to speak like one. Now try it again. "The life of the wife is ended by the knife."Eliza: "The loif of the w..."Stewie: No, no, no. Not "loif," "life!" "Life!"Eliza: That's wha' I said! "Loif!"Stewie: Now listen to me, you tin-eared piece of baggage, we've got five days left, and I'll not lose my wager. Now repeat after me. "Hello, Mother. Have you hidden my hatchet?"Eliza: 'Allo, Mother. 'Ave you 'idden my 'atchet?"Stewie: God, no! It's an "H" sound, you moron! H! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!Eliza: Ooh, your breath smells like kitty litter!Stewie: I was curious!

mins 16 14 16
Mins. 16:14 – 16:

Stewie: Once again, here is how it should sound. "How do you do?" And here is how you sound: [Can moos] Now try it again.Eliza: "How do you do?"Stewie: What did you say?Eliza: "The life of the wife is ended by the knife."Stewie: I think she's got it! I think she's got it!Eliza: ? "The life of the wife is ended by the knife" ?Stewie: By George, she's got it! By George, she's got it! Now, what ends her wretched life?Eliza: ? The knife! The knife! ?Stewie: And where's that bloody knife?Eliza: ? In the wife! In the wife! ?Both: ? The life of the wife is ended by the knife ?Stewie: Bravo, Eliza!Both: ? The life of the wife is ended by the knife ?

mins 18 47 19 24
Mins. 18:47 – 19:24

Stewie: Psst! You-Dogbert! Down here! Get a front-row seat for this one.Eliza: How kind of you all to come.Stewie: Magnificent! I say, old sport, why don't you pull your face from your own loins and bury it into some humble pie?Eliza: Oh, bloody 'ell! I've gone and wet meself!Stewie: Don't give me that smug look! Fine! Well, you have extra-sensitive hearing. Hear this.[Inaudible “f*** you”]Brian: I'm telling.Stewie: No! I said "vacuum"!

mins 20 44
Mins. 20:44 -

Eliza: Dear Stewie, I want you to know I blame my father's death and my incarceration in this hell hole entirely on your awful mother. If it takes the rest of my life, I shall see that she suffers a slow and painful death. Eliza.Stewie: [Laughing] Excellent. Here, have a look.Giant Bug: Good, good.


Heineken spot

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7gexcPQb_c&feature=related
estuary english

Emergence of a new replacement variety first dubbed ‘Estuary English’ by Rosewarne (1984)

Estuary English is a name given to the form(s) of English widely spoken in and around London and, more generally, in the southeast of England — along the river Thames and its estuary.

[...] 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. (Rosewarne 1984)
From a geographical point of view, EE is said to have been first spoken "by the banks of the Thames and its estuary" (Rosewarne 1984, 29), then became "the most influential accent in the south-east of England“ (Rosewarne 1984, 29) and is now spreading "northwards to Norwich and westwards to Cornwall" (Rosewarne 1994, 4). From a sociological point of view, EE is reported to be used by speakers who constitute the social "middle ground" (Rosewarne 1984, 29). This definition includes speakers who want to conform to (linguistic) middle class norms either by moving up or down the social scale. The first group aims at EE in order to sound more 'posh', the second to sound less 'posh', both avoiding the elitist character of RP. This social compromise is also reflected in the linguistic makeup of EE. It comprises features of RP as well as non-standard London English thus borrowing the positive prestige from both accents without committing itself to either. This vagueness makes it extremely difficult to pin EE down linguistically.

Most (linguistic) people seem to agree on EE being a variant (accent) that is rapidly spreading in England. It can apparently be found in the area south of The Wash to the Avon. Linguists have described it as "a levelling of regional varieties towards London speech" and a "mixture of non-regional and local south-eastern English pronunciation and intonation". In letters-to-the-editor columns the debate has been heated; it's been called "slobspeak", ugly and vulgar, a "thing" that has to be corrected especially in school. Pronunciation traits include vocalisation of dark /l/ the use of glottal stops in certain positions, the change of st- (station, estuary, Christian) and -str- (strike, industrial, instruction) to the sound of sh- in she. This was observed on the BBC only a month ago. The quality of some vowels and diphthongs change which can lead to homophones like: way- why , say- sigh, pulls-pools-Paul's (- pause). Other features are: vocabulary (Americanisms and Cockney, the adding of basically), tags are very frequent (inni', don't I),stressing prepositions and auxiliary verbs (which can create misunderstandings: "Totters have been in operation FOR years").Several other features can be seen but I will refrain from giving more on this here. Suggestions for further reading will be put at the end of this SUM.

  • Who speaks EE?
  • It is very popular among the young probably because it is said to obscure social origins - very often it is adopted as a neutral accent. It increases "street cred" among the young from an RP background and young people with local accents adopt it because it sounds more "sophisticated". EE speakers are to be found "grouped in the middle ground", but it can be heard in the House of Commons as well as being used by some of the members of the Lords. It can be heard on the BBC and it is well established among the business men in the City.

Estuary English

  • web site (regularly maintained by J.C. Wells): http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/home.htmProvides numerous web links to "scholarly articles, papers, lectures, web sites and "light journalism."

As major phonological markers of EE, Rosewarne (1984) names:

  • /t/-glottalling as in for Gatwick Airport
  • /l/-vocalization as in for people
  • /j/-dropping as in for news
  • the diphthongal realisation of /i:/ and final /i/ as in for me and for city

According to J.C. Wells, phonetically EE differs from Cockney in usually not being characterized by, for example:

  • h-dropping ('and on 'eart)
  • TH fronting (I fink)
t glottalling

It's the 'sound' that is produced when you block off the air in the back of your throat with the glottis and let go again, producing a kind of almost audible pause, often replacing a final 't' or a post-vocalic 't' (righ' for right or wa'er for water).


Cockney phrase: "A li'le bi' of breab wiv a bi' of bu'er on i'."

This process seems to be analogous to the loss of the t in such words as "Sco'land", "ga'eway", "Ga'wick", "sta'ement", "sea'-bel' ", "trea'ment", and "ne'work". Not all RP speakers would sound these ts. As would be expected, an "Estuary English" speaker uses fewer glottal stops for t or d than a "London" speaker, but more than an RP speaker.(Rosewarne 1984)

l vocalisation

Like Cockney (and other English accents) EE exhibits l-vocalisation. The rule is:

an /l/ sound occurring at the end of a word or before a consonant is replaced with a vowel sound (realised as a back, closeish rounded vowel)

RP:clear/l/ vs dark /ɫ/ (e.g.: leaf vs apple or little)

Very often [w] is used to symbolise the sound.

Examples: milk=[miwk], mill=[miw]

(pool = pull = Paul)

l vocalisation48

As shown by Paul Coggle talking about his own personal occurrence:

“When my local computer shop promised to phone me back with information, the assistant assured me: `I'll give you a bell, Paul'. All the final ls had become ws:

I'uw give you a be-uw, Pauw.”

So an EE speaker might say:

I down' feeuw atsauw weuw.

(I don't feel at all well)

yod dropping
Yod Dropping

Yod-dropping is the elision of the sound [j]. Where?

In environments where RP has an alveolar stop plus yod: e.g. [ tu:n ] for `tune´, [ du:k ] for `duke´ or [nu: ] for `new´.

yod dropping50
Yod Dropping

In EE, the phoneme /j/ in words such as `assume´ and `issue´ is most often dropped. (cf. Coggle 1993)

Additionally, the /ju: / is retained after plosives, nasals and / f, v, h /, e.g. `beauty´, `queue´, `argue´

and when /l/ is preceded by an accented vowel,

e.g. value.

Therefore, the phoneme / j / in words like `beauty´, `pure´,`few´ and `view´ is not likely to disappear in EE.

diphthong shift
Diphthong shift

Fleece vowel: [] to []

e.g. beet [b] [‘m] for me and [‘st] for city

Face vowel:[e] to [a]

e.g. bait [ba]

Price vowel:[a] to []

e.g. I [] or bite [b]


The phoneme /r/

“A feature of "Estuary English" which seems to have received no attention to date is the r. It can sound somewhat similar to a general American r, but it does not have retroflection. For the r of General RP, the tip of the tongue is held close to the rear part of the upper teeth ridge and the central part of the tongue is lowered. My own observations suggest that in the typical "Estuary" realization the tip of the tongue is lowered and the central part raised to a position close to, but not touching, the soft palate.” (Rosewarne 1984)

th fronting
TH Fronting
  • merger of voiceless // with /f/, and voiced [ð] with /v/, hence [mæfs] for ‘maths’, [bv] for ‘bother’

for example // with /f/: [fik] for / ik /, [ frw it smif ] for `throw it, Smith´

the voiced dental fricative [ð] with /v /:

[fv ] for /f/ or [mv briv n ] for `mother, breathe in´.

syntactic features
Syntactic features
  • Use of ain't instead of isn't, am not, are not, has not, and have not
  • Multiple negatives: `I ain´t got no money.´
  • The use of `never´, a possible remnant of the double negative, is more widely in evidence, as in `I never knew he was a teacher´. It is used as a past tense negative in the same way as `didn’t´. This is becoming extremely popular in EE and serves to negate the sentence, while in the standard dialect of English `never´ has the sense of `not on any occasion´. (cf. Coggle 1993)
syntactic features55
Syntactic features
  • Use of `there’s´ as invariable form without concord of number

“There’s three reasons this decision has been taken by the Hospital Board.”

  • Use of replace `as´ or `as if´ by `like´ which is used in all functional varieties to introduce a clause: “They are spending money like there was no tomorrow.´ (Rosewarne 1996)
syntactic features56
Syntactic features
  • Use of emphatic personal pronouns

`Me and her go to school together every day.´

or `Me and my mate went to the disco last night.´

  • Use of “Innit” to question a positive when making a statement, for example, “Good day today innit?”
  • Use of `you know what I mean?´
syntactic features57
Syntactic features
  • Use of the adjective to fulfil the function of an adverb

e.g. ‘talk proper!’ (Talk properly!)

An Estuary speaker would in this instance be more likely to say:

She sang really nice(ly).

‘quick’ and ‘slow’ as in:

Down' ea' sow quick.

(Don't eat so quickly)

syntactic features58
Syntactic features


Dawn types really slow.

and ‘good’ and ‘bad’, as in:

Sleep good!


My leg hurts really bad.

words and expressions
Words and expressions
  • Cheers

Traditionally, `Cheers!´ - a toast

In Cockney - both `good-bye´ and `Thank you´.

EE - Any small service rendered, such as holding the door open for a complete stranger or telling the time for someone without a watch

`Cheers!´ is frequently accompanied by the word `mate´, which tends to be pronounced [mai], though the further round the RP spectrum a speaker is, the more unlikely they are to add mate.

words and expressions60
Words and expressions
  • Mate

used to be used as a means of address exclusively by men of men, but is nowadays often used by women to women and by women to men.

Generally, `mate´ is a social class word and tends to be dropped by Estuary English speakers as they progress up the social scale.

words and expressions61
Words and expressions
  • Basically

Originally it served to indicate that the speaker had a full grasp of the matter under discussion and was about to present the listener with an analysis, eg. ’Basically, there are 3 problems connected with this process. Firstly, .... Secondly...., Thirdly.....’

Nowadays `basically´ serves as a useful “filler“ word giving the speaker thinking time in order to assemble a response, even though it can still be used in its original way .

dialect blog british accents
Dialect blog – Britishaccents
  • http://dialectblog.com/british-accents/

Kate and William interview

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn-eglpPKh8
listening activity comma gets a cure
Listeningactivity:Comma gets a cure
  • From the “International Dialects of English Archive”http://web.ku.edu/~idea/index.htm
  • Well, here's a story for you: Sarah Perry was a veterinary nurse who had been working daily at an old zoo in a deserted district of the territory, so she was very happy to start a new job at a superb private practice in North Square near the Duke Street Tower. That area was much nearer for her and more to her liking. Even so, on her first morning, she felt stressed. She ate a bowl of porridge, checked herself in the mirror and washed her face in a hurry. Then she put on a plain yellow dress and a fleece jacket, picked up her kit and headed for work.When she got there, there was a woman with a goose waiting for her. The woman gave Sarah an official letter from the vet. The letter implied that the animal could be suffering from a rare form of foot and mouth disease, which was surprising, because normally you would only expect to see it in a dog or a goat. Sarah was sentimental, so this made her feel sorry for the beautiful bird.Before long, that itchy goose began to strut around the office like a lunatic, which made an unsanitary mess. The goose's owner, Mary Harrison, kept calling, "Comma, Comma," which Sarah thought was an odd choice for a name. Comma was strong and huge, so it would take some force to trap her, but Sarah had a different idea. First she tried gently stroking the goose's lower back with her palm, then singing a tune to her. Finally, she administered ether. Her efforts were not futile. In no time, the goose began to tire, so Sarah was able to hold onto Comma and give her a relaxing bath.Once Sarah had managed to bathe the goose, she wiped her off with a cloth and laid her on her right side. Then Sarah confirmed the vet's diagnosis. Almost immediately, she remembered an effective treatment that required her to measure out a lot of medicine. Sarah warned that this course of treatment might be expensive-either five or six times the cost of penicillin. I can't imagine paying so much, but Mrs. Harrison-a millionaire lawyer-thought it was a fair price for a cure.

LISTEN 1The subject is a 49 year-old white male speaker of ‘contemporary’ RP, born in Woking, Surrey and educated to A-Level (age 18) at a local grammar school. He has lived most of his adult life in Brighton and works as a local government officer. The speaker recalls that his accent was closer to ‘pure’ RP when growing up in Surrey than in its current incarnation. Brighton is a student city and the influence of many younger ‘Estuary English’ speakers is probably significant. His occupation also entails a fair amount of telephone-based conflict resolution and he admits to regularly micro-adjusting his natural accent in both class directions in order to better establish a rapport with colleagues and complainants.

  • The following sounds heard in the recording are fairly typical of a shift away from traditional toward ‘relaxed’ RP.
  • Slight centring of GOOSE vowel with fairly relaxed lip rounding relative to advanced RP.
  • Retraction and lowering of first vowel in FACE diphthong
  • Raising of first vowel in MOUTH diphthong
  • Retraction of first element of PRICE vowel, sometimes smoothing it into a monophthong.
  • CURE and SQUARE vowels are often realised as monophthongs..
  • Affricated intervocalic /t/
  • The intermittent occurrence of a labiodental or ‘weak’ r is a feature of the speaker’s idiolect and not particularly characteristic of either of his regions of origin.


  • Well, I was um, I was born in Surrey, in 1957, and, uh in a little town called Woking. Ah, I lived with my parents, ah, for three years in a…caravan on a caravan site, um… until the birth of my brother, when I was about three, er, and then we moved into the.. gamekeeper’s cottage on an estate, where my grandfather worked, my grandfather was the gamekeeper on the estate. Er, and we lived there for a couple of years.
  • Um, just in the, this little little cottage on the estate looking at watching the animals, I remember my father chasing a fox in the garden, and I remember there being lots of dead animals around, that had been shot, by the gamekeeper, my grandfather gamekeeper.
  • Anyway we lived there for a while, and then my father got er, a house, in Addlestone, near Addlestone. And we lived there until I… got a permanent job, which involved me living, working, overseas in other parts of the world, and then, eventually moving down to Brighton, and I’ve been here…about…25 years, or more, I think.
listen 2
Listen 2
  • The subject is a 28 year old white female born and raised in Portslade, East Sussex, now living in nearby Brighton. She describes herself as working class, having grown up in a low income area. She attended private school on an assisted place and university in 1997, the year before student grants were withdrawn by the UK government.
  • Her accent is a good example of the much-contested category ‘Estuary English’. She notes that while attending private school, it veered closer to contemporary RP, due to ‘overwhelming social pressure’ to conform to the same speech system as the vast majority of her fellow pupils.
  • She also remarks that her accent derives more from the general populace of her social environment than her family members or close personal friends, many of whom speak an Estuary variant considerably closer to Standard RP.
  • The following features can be heard in the recording:
  • The GOOSE vowel is advanced- almost fronted- to a greater extent than the centralised variant in Contemporary RP. It has almost no discernible lip rounding and is not far from Primary Cardinal 2.
  • Unrounded GOAT vowel with both elements quite centralised.
  • ‘g’ is dropped from ing verb participle endings.
  • Intervocalic glottal replacement of /t/.
  • Others /t/s are often slightly dentalised or affricated.
  • Elision of 3rd syllable, and coalescence, or ‘crunching’ of /t/ and /r/ at the final syllable onset of ‘territory’.
  • Alveolar-palatal coalescence, resulting in an dropped yod and affricate onset for ‘Duke’. This is very common in Estuary accents and not unusual in Contemporary RP.
  • Replacement of dark l with FOOT vowel.
  • Labiodental variant of both voiced and unvoiced ‘th’, especially in medial position.
  • Fairly open DRESS vowel relative to RP, often heading towards SQUARE.
  • Slight retraction of NURSE (see ‘beautiful bird’), towards a long STRUT.
  • Retracted first element and slight monophthongisation of PRICE vowel.
  • SQUARE is usually monophthonised.
  • ‘Cure’ at the end of the set passage is realized with THOUGHT vowel.

Trascription of what she says of herself

  • I think that my accent is um, a true reflection of where I come from in the social spectrum in this country…and I have quite…in my area.  And I have quite a strong political belief that I won’t alter my accent for other people despite having been sent to a private school…erm…my family having aspirations, to fit in with a much more conventional, accepted way of behaving, I’ve never accepted that, I want to be accepted for who I really am, and if people find it threatening, that’s not really my problem.
  • Erm, I’ve always been…corrected, as most children are, erm, in this country by my parents for not speaking ‘The Queen’s English’, er dropping my aitches and ‘t’s, though in words for a reason despite the fact that lots of other letters like g, h and other expressions in English language are silent deliberately, umm, to decide on your own to do that…is in some way anarchistic, so it should be stamped out or otherwise you won’t be allowed to take part in polite society.
  • I don’t really hold a lot of…I don’t think that idea holds a lot of water, I still argue with my dad about it. He tells my brothers off, for dropping their ‘t’s and says ‘I know your sister does it, but she’s too big to tell off’, and I’ll say you know, it’s, it’s not fair to say that to me, when I grew up in a place in Portslade, where it’s normal to speak like this.
  • If I’m in, ah, working in a shop, in my shop I work in, I always try, er, to be polite and I probably try and sound a little bit more innocent than I really am to try and…mask the threatening effects…but…I won’t try and speak in a more proper way to get respect.
  • Running time: 04:04
perceiving accents
  • No accent is intrinsically good or bad, but it has to be recognized that the way we perceive accents does play a role in our attitude to others. Different people have differing perceptions. So there are significant numbers of young people who see Estuary English as modern, up-front, high on 'street cred' and ideal for image-conscious trendsetters. Others regard it as projecting an approachable, informal and flexible image. Whereas RP, Queen's English, Oxford English and Sloane Ranger English are all increasingly perceived as exclusive and formal. —Paul Coggle, 1993, in Do you speak Estuary?
  • To sum up and deepen your knowledge

What is sociolinguistics?

Sociolinguistics is often defined as the study of language and society.

Sociolinguistics: the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used.

It also studies how ‘lects’ differ between groups separated by certain social variables, e.g., ethnicity, age, status, gender, level of education, etc., and how creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social class or socio-economic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place (dialect), from person to person (idiolect), language usage varies among social classes, and it is these sociolects that sociolinguistics studies.

The social aspects of language was in the modern sense first studied by Indian and Japanese linguists in the 1930s, but did not receive much attention in the West until much later. Sociolinguistics in the west first appeared in the 1960s and was pioneered by linguists such as William Labov in the US and Peter Trudgill in the UK.


Sociolinguistics investigates speech as a form of social identity, used to indicate membership of different social groups or different speech communities

social dialects
Social dialects

Varieties of languageused by groupsdefinedaccording to class, education, age, sex and a number of other social parameters

(wehaveseen some social dialects…)

language and identity
Language and identity

Linguistic forms often have social significance, and speakers are well aware of this significance.


overt prestige

generally recognised ‘better’ or positively valued ways of speaking in social communities.




the status of linguisticformswhich are of lowprestige to the community as a wholebutwhich are of crucialimportance in maintaining a speaker’s position in a particular social group.


Itis a hiddentype of positive value.

social dialect
Social dialect

Social class


Phonological features as social markers

E.g. dropping ‘h’ in Cockney

age variation
Age variation

Even within the same social class language is different according to age

Ex: It sucks…

gender variation
Gender variation



Grammatical forms

men or women
Men or women?
  • They make frequent use of more admiring terms such as divine, cute, adorable.
  • They interrupt a lot.
  • They use more baby-talk than …..
  • ……’s discourse is more cooperative, ….’s is more competitive.
  • They use more tag questions, like it’s nice, isn’t it?
  • They are more likely to use prestige forms.

Women make frequent use of more admiring terms such as divine, cute, adorable.

  • Men interrupt a lot.
  • Women use more baby-talk than men.
  • Women’s discourse is more cooperative, men’s is more competitive.
  • Women use more tag questions, like it’s nice, isn’t it?
  • Women are more likely to use prestige forms.

Women tend to use more prestigious forms than men within the same social background.


I done it  I did it

He ain’t  He isn’t


Women are reported to use more expressions associated with tentativeness:

Hedges: Sort of, kind of…

Tags: isn’t it, don’t you

“Well, em, I think that golf is kind of boring, don’t you?”


Robin Lakoff, in 1975, published an influential account of women's language. This was the book Language and Woman's Place. In a related article, Woman's language, she published a set of basic assumptions about what marks out the language of women. Among these are claims that women:

Hedge: using phrases like “sort of”, “kind of”, “it seems like”,and so on.

Use (super)polite forms: “Would you mind...”,“I'd appreciate it if...”, “...if you don't mind”.

Use tag questions: “You're going to dinner, aren't you?”

Speak in italics: intonational emphasis equal to underlining words - so, very, quite.

Use empty adjectives: divine, lovely, adorable, and so on

Use hypercorrect grammar and pronunciation: English prestige grammar and clear enunciation.

Use direct quotation: men paraphrase more often.

Have a special lexicon: women use more words for things like colours, men for sports.


Use question intonation in declarative statements: women make declarative statements into questions by raising the pitch of their voice at the end of a statement, expressing uncertainty. For example, “What school do you attend? Eton College?”

Use “wh-” imperatives: (such as, “Why don't you open the door?”)

Speak less frequently

Overuse qualifiers: (for example, “I Think that...”)

Apologise more: (for instance, “I'm sorry, but I think that...”)

Use modal constructions: (such as can, would, should, ought - “Should we turn up the heat?”)

Avoid coarse language or expletives

Use indirect commands and requests: (for example, “My, isn't it cold in here?” - really a request to turn the heat on or close a window)

Use more intensifiers: especially so and very (for instance, “I am so glad you came!”)

Lack a sense of humour: women do not tell jokes well and often don't understand the punch line of jokes.


If interested in deepening your knowledge on Language and Gender see:


ethnic background
Ethnic background

BEV (Black English Vernacular)

Spoken by manyAfrican-Americans, is a widespread social dialect, oftencuttingacrossregionaldifferences.

Social isolation more marked social dialectdifferences


Itmay be stigmatizedas ‘badspeech’


  • absence of copula
    • Theymine Youcrazy
  • Double negation
  • Absence of thirdperson s
    • He don’tknownothing
  • veryinformal formal
  • Spokenlanguage:
    • Excuse me, is the manager in his office? I have an appointment
    • Hey, isthatlazy dog still in bed? I gotta seehimaboutsomething
  • Writtenlanguage:
    • Business letter vs letter to a friend

Variation according to use in specific situations

Jargon Style:

Technical vocabulary associated with special activity or group

(insiders vs outsiders)


A situation in which two very different varieties of language co-exist in a speech community (normally a high and a low variety)

to be read
To be read
  • Links to 2 documents by David Crystal about Global English and Standard English:
  • http://www.davidcrystal.com/DC_articles/English21.pdf
  • http://www.davidcrystal.com/DC_articles/English15.pdf