British English in Southern England: Wikis


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Southern English English is a phrase given to describe the different dialects and accents of the British English spoken in southern England.


South East England and the Home Counties

South East England and the Home Counties (the counties bordering London) tend to reflect the interface between the London region and other regional accents. Affluent districts are associated with a slightly RP accent, reflecting their traditional popularity with middle-class and upper-class residents as desirable semi-rural areas within commuting distance of London. Less affluent areas have London-like accents that grade into southern rural outside urban areas.


Regional dialect levelling ("supralocalisation") in the South-East of England

There are reports of widespread homogenisation in the south-east (Kerswill & Williams 2000; Britain 2002). The "levelling" features include:

  • Reduced amount of H-dropping
  • Increased amount of TH-fronting
  • GOAT-fronting to [əʏ]
  • "RP" variant in MOUTH [aʊ]
  • Low-back onset of PRICE [ɑɪ], lowered/unrounded from [ʌɪ], [ɔɪ] or [ɒɪ]
  • Raising of onset of FACE to [ɛ̝̝ɪ]
  • Fronting of GOOSE to [ʏː]
  • Fronting of FOOT
  • Lowering and backing of TRAP
  • Backing of STRUT


The accents of this region are uniformly nonrhotic, that is, the sound [ɹ] occurs only before vowels. Before consonants and in word-final position it is dropped, for example far /fɑː/, farm /fɑːm/.

Some characteristics of a London accent include:

  • diphthongal realization of /iː/ and /uː/, for example beat [ˈbɪit], boot [ˈbʊʉt]
  • diphthongal realization of /ɔː/ in open syllables, for example bore [ˈbɔə], paw [ˈpɔə] versus a monophthongal realization in closed syllables, for example board [ˈboːd], pause [ˈpoːz]. But the diphthong is retained before inflectional endings, so that board and pause can contrast with bored [ˈbɔəd] and paws [ˈpɔəz].
  • lengthening of /æ/ in a few words such as man, sad, bag etc., leading to a split of /æ/ into two phonemes /æ/ and /æː/, as in Australian English. See bad-lad split.
  • an allophone of /əʊ/ before "dark L" ([ɫ]), namely [ɒʊ], for example whole [ˈhɒʊɫ] versus holy [ˈhəʊli]. But the [ɒʊ] is retained when the addition of a suffix turns the "dark L" clear, so that wholly [ˈhɒʊli] can contrast with holy.

It is also common to hear young Londoners drop "(to) the" from sentences related to going places (such as: Do you want to go cinema?/Do you want to go West End?).


Sloane-speak or Sloaney-speech is an elitist variety of English spoken by the upper middle and upper classes of certain urban enclaves of South-West respectively West London such as the areal gravitating around Sloane Street and respectively Sloane Square, but also in Mayfair and alongside Marylebone High Street. The speakers of Sloaney are sometimes defined Sloane Rangers. The conservative nature of the speech of the aristocracy was heightened in the early 1980s by the 'Princess Diana' effect and what was dubbed as the 'Sloane Ranger' phenomenon. Here social class met urban space as the young upper and upper-middle classes like Diana herself tended to settle as singletons in the 'muesli belt' round Sloane Square on the border of Belgravia and Chelsea, but also on King's Road into Fulham and even south of the river in Wandsworth. Sloanies became cultural icons for a time marked by dress, cultural pursuits and language. Words were either drawled ('jah' for yes; "she's rairly rairly (really) nice', or shortened ('Rods' for Harrods; 'Fred's' for Fortnum and Mason's). Hyperbole was rife ('frightfully', 'ghastly', 'appalling'), but there were signs of an influence from the more demotic speech of the capital, at the other end of the King's Road. Word-final glottal stops were noted in the speech of both Diana and Prince Edward ('There's a lot about it'); and vocoids for "l" as in 'miu(l)k'; and words like 'bog' (lavatory) and 'yonks' (a long time). To many middle-class Londoners, however, the speech of the Sloane Rangers was most probably deemed as 'marked' or 'affected' as the Queen's, so closely identified was with a particular social group: the 'rah-rah' accent, as it was dubbed in 1982. The once trendy Sloane-speak faded into oblivion during the Cool Britannia decade but is apparently, lately staging a comeback under a slightly different, edgier, rougher form:

  • "Sloane-speak has grown edgier. Nancy Mitford's vocabulary was updated last year by a wealth of new words compiled into a dictionary by Olivia Stewart-Liberty and Peter York (author of the original Sloane Ranger Handbook). But the past few months have yielded telling additions: "disrevelled" refers to a Sloane's appearance after a heavy night at Boujis; "dorleybowl" is a bad haircut (in frequent usage, as you can imagine); "squippy" is the perpetual state of the Sloane (it means "hyperactive"). Then there's "jollop" (to go out and enjoy oneself) and "floordrobe", the place young Sloanes choose to store their clothes - i.e., on the floor. Oddly, there don't seem to be any jolly, japeish terms for "the workplace", "grocery shopping" and "bill paying"".[1]


Cockney is an accent traditionally from the working classes of the East End of London. It is characterized by a number of phonological differences from RP, most of which are highly stigmatized:

  • The dental fricatives [θ, ð] are replaced with labiodental [f, v], for example think [fɪŋk]
  • The diphthong /aʊ/ is monophthongized to [æː], for example south [sæːf]
  • H-dropping, for example house [æːs]
  • Replacement of [t] in the middle or end of a word with a glottal stop; for example hit [ɪʔ]
  • Diphthong shift of [iː] to [əi] (for example beet [bəiʔ]), [eɪ] to [aɪ] (for example bait [baɪʔ]), [aɪ] to [ɒɪ] (for example bite [bɒɪʔ]), and [ɔɪ] to [oɪ] (for example, boy [boɪ].
  • Vocalisation of [ɫ] (dark L) to [ɯ], for example, people [pəipɯ]

Multicultural London English

Multicultural London English (abbreviated MLE), colloquially called Blockney or Jafaican, is a dialect(and/or sociolect) of English that emerged in the late 20th century. It is spoken mainly by youths in inner London.


The speech of Jamaicans, or children of Jamaican parents, in London shows interesting combinations of the Jamaican accent with the London accent. For example, in Jamaican English, /θ/ is replaced by [t], for example both /boːt/. In London, word-final /t/ is realised as [ʔ], as mentioned above. In Jamaican-London speech, glottalization of /t/ applies also to /t/ from /θ/, for example both of them [bʌʊʔ ə dem]. Hypercorrections like [fʊθ] for foot are also heard from Jamaicans. John C. Wells' dissertation, Jamaican pronunciation in London, was published by the Philological Society in 1973.


Essex, is usually associated with Estuary English, mainly in urban areas receiving an influx of East London migrants. The non-urban Essex accent, generally found in the north of the county, is more closely related to those of East Anglia.


Estuary English is the name given to an accent (or group of accents) that may informally be considered a compromise between Cockney and RP. It avoids some of the most stigmatised aspects of Cockney speech, such as H-dropping and the replacement of [θ, ð] with [f, v], while retaining others, such as replacement of [t] with [ʔ] (the glottal stop) in weak positions, the vocalisation of [ɫ] (dark L) to [o], and yod coalescence in stressed syllables (for example, duty /dʒuːti/).


Hertfordshire varies: the east Herts accent is akin to the native Essex, while west Herts and neighbouring Bedfordshire shares elements with West Country accents and south Midlands accents – again with strong influences from London accents thanks to the influx of post-WW2 migrants from London.

Bedfordshire and Lutonian

Just like with nearby Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire has a different variety of accents. In South Beds in the towns of Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis especially the accent is not to much different one of London because of the overflow of Londoners and their subsequent generations in the area. The accent is not as strong sounding as a accent of Essex. The main difference with this accent to others in the South of England is mainly with the pronunciation of the letter T. Take example the pronunciation of the town "Luton". To most natives of the town it is said like "Lu'n". A difference which many outsiders of South Beds do not notice with this regional dialect. This was played on in the famous Campari advert by Lorraine Chase. See more here London Luton Airport in the media . This accent has its own name as well. It is called 'Lutonian'

In Mid Bedfordshire the more traditional accent of the area is still held. Especially by those of a older generation, or in very remote areas.

While in North Bedfordshire especially near the border with Northamptonshire it can be argued that the dialect is one which is sounding more of the East Midlands.


Jafaican, also known as Tikkiny or less commonly "Hood-Chat" is part accent, part dialect, from around the mid-1990s, and influenced not only by British black urban culture, but by rap music. This variant is used by the youth of all races as a 'street' patois, with clear African-American/American English influences (such as the greeting "Yo!"), but also Caribbean patterns such as "aks" (rather than "ask"). This dialect is used by all races. It can be heard in many parts of England, but especially around London.

Southern Rural and West Country accents

This family of similar strongly rhotic accents – now perceived as rural – originally extended across much of southern England south of the broad A isogloss, but are now most often, (but not always) found west of a line roughly from Shropshire to Hampshire via Oxfordshire. Their shared characteristics have been caricatured as Mummerset.

They persist most strongly in areas that remain largely rural with a largely indigenous population, particularly the West Country. In many other areas they are declining due to immigration by RP and Estuary speakers; for instance, strong Isle of Wight accents tend to be more prevalent in older speakers.

As well as rhoticity, common features of these accents include

  • The diphthong /aɪ/ (as in price) realised as [ʌɪ] or [ɔɪ], sounding more like the diphthong in Received Pronunciation choice.
  • The diphthong /aʊ/ (as in mouth) realised as [ɛʊ], with a starting point close to the vowel in Received Pronunciation dress.
  • The vowel /ɒ/ (as in lot) realised as an unrounded vowel [ɑ], as in many forms of American English.
  • In traditional West Country accents, the voiceless fricatives /s/,/f/,/θ/,/ʃ/ (as in sat, farm, think, shed respectively) are often voiced to [z],[v],[ð],[ʒ], giving pronunciations like "Zummerzet" for Somerset, "varm" for farm, "zhure" for sure, etc.
  • In the Bristol area a vowel at the end of a word is often followed by an intrusive dark l, [ɫ]. Hence the old joke about the three Bristolian sisters Evil, Idle, and Normal (written Eva, Ida, and Norma). L is pronounced darkly where it is present, too, which means that in Bristolian rendering, 'idea' and 'ideal' are homophones.

East Anglia

Features which can be found in East Anglian English (especially in Norfolk) include:

  • Yod-dropping after all consonants: beautiful may be pronounced [ˈbʉːʔɪfəl], often represented as "bootiful" or "bewtiful", huge as [ˈhʉːdʒ], and so on.[2]
  • Absence of the long mid merger between Early Modern English /oː/ (as in toe, moan, road, boat) and /ɔʊ/ (as in tow, mown, rowed). The vowel of toe, moan, road, boat may be realised as [ʊu], so that boat may sound to outsiders like boot.
  • Glottal stop frequent for /t/.
  • The diphthong /aɪ/ (as in price) realised as [ɔɪ], sounding more like the diphthong in Received Pronunciation choice.
  • The vowel /ɒ/ (as in lot) realised as an unrounded vowel [ɑ], as in many forms of American English.
  • Merger of the vowels of near and square (RP /ɪə/ and /ɛə/), making chair and cheer homophones.
  • East Anglian accents are generally non-rhotic.

There are differences between areas within East Anglia, and even within areas: the Norwich accent has distinguishing aspects from the Norfolk dialect that surrounds it – chiefly in the vowel sounds. The accents of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are different from the Norfolk accent.[3]


  1. ^ OK, yo! Sloane-speak's gone street - Celia Walden The Daily Telegraph 17 Jul 2008 'London from Punk to Blair' By Joe Kerr, Andrew Gibson, Mike Seaborne - Reaktion Books, 2003
  2. ^ There are more details on [1], written by Norfolk-born linguist Peter Trudgill
  3. ^ Some examples of the Norfolk accent (with dialectal words thrown in) at [2]


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