Regional accents of English: Wikis

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Distribution of the English language in different countries of the world

The regional accents of English speakers show great variation across the areas where English is spoken as a first language. This article provides an overview of the many identifiable variations in pronunciation, usually deriving from the phoneme inventory of the local dialect, of the local variety of Standard English between various populations of native English speakers.

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Local accents are part of local dialects. Any dialect of English has unique features in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. The term "accent" describes only the first of these, namely, pronunciation. See also: List of dialects of the English language.

Non-native speakers of English tend to carry over the intonation and phonemic inventory from their mother tongue into their English speech. For more details see Non-native pronunciations of English.

Among native English speakers, many different accents exist. Some regional accents are easily identified by certain characteristics. Further variations are to be found within the regions identified below; for example, towns located less than 10 miles (16 km) from the city of Manchester such as Bolton, Oldham and Salford, each have distinct accents, all of which form the Lancashire accent, yet in extreme cases are different enough to be noticed even by a non-local listener. There is also much room for misunderstanding between people from different regions, as the way one word is pronounced in one accent (for example, petal in American English) will sound like a different word in another accent (for example, pearl in Scottish English).

Contents

Great Britain

English accents and dialects vary widely across Britain. This may be related to the fact that the language has its origins there and has been evolving there for many hundreds of years.

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England

The main accent groupings within England are between Northern England and Southern England; the dividing line runs roughly from Shrewsbury to south of Birmingham and then to The Wash.

For many years, the BBC and academic bodies employed Received Pronunciation as a 'standard', although this is no longer a requirement for broadcasting. Received Pronunciation has its roots in the speech patterns of the counties just north of London, where many of the monied classes in London originated from during the 16th and 17th centuries, but is now more a marker of a particular social class than a region.

There is considerable variation within the accents of the English. Notable geographical accents include West Country (the counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Avon (Bristol) and Cornwall); North East England (Northumberland, County Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland); North West England (Cumbria, Lancashire, with regional variants in Bolton, Manchester, Preston, Blackpool and Merseyside); Yorkshire (which has differences between the North Riding of Yorkshire, West Riding of Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire); West Midlands (The Black Country, Dudley, Birmingham and Wolverhampton); the accents of the counties comprising the East Midlands (Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, and Kettering) and East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire). Even within these broad categories there are considerable differences in inflection and pronunciation.

The arrival of large scale immigration to England has produced another layer of regional accents that have merged with the accents of immigrants. Such examples include London-Caribbean, West Yorkshire mixed with Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi.

Scotland

With respect to phonology, Scottish English generally has the following characteristics:

  • Scottish English is rhotic; /r/ is most often an alveolar tap [ɾ], but a continuant [ɹ] similar to that of RP is also heard.
  • For most speakers, the short vowels /ʌ, ɛ, ɪ/ are kept distinct before /r/, so that burn, earth, and bird have three different vowels, unlike in most other accents.
  • The contrast between /o/ and /ɔ/ before /r/ (as in hoarse vs horse) is preserved.
  • The contrast between /hw/ (as in which) and /w/ (as in witch) is preserved.
  • There is no contrast between the vowel of pull, foot and that of pool, food; the merged vowel is typically a short, central [ʉ].
  • For many speakers, the vowel of cot and that of caught are merged, usually to [ɔ].
  • For many speakers, there is no short A-broad A distinction, so that palm, trap and bath have the same vowel, typically [a].
  • /l/ is dark in all positions.
  • Due to the Scottish Vowel Length Rule, crude contrasts with crewed, need with kneed and side with sighed, the latter item in each pair having a longer vowel.
  • There are many different dialects and accents throughout Scotland not only between island communities and the mainland but also between villages, towns and cities.
  • Accents heard in the west (Glasgow) are noticeably different from those spoken in the east (Edinburgh). Similarly, there are variations between the speech norms of the Lowlands and those of the Highlands (Aberdeen, Inverness).

Wales

The accent of English in Wales is strongly influenced by the phonology of the Welsh language, which more than 20% of the population of Wales speak as their first or second language. The North Wales accent is distinct from South Wales and north east Wales is influenced by Scouse and Cheshire accents. South Wales border accents are influenced by West Country accents. The Wenglish of the South Wales Valleys shows a deep cross-fertilisation between the two. Cardiff also has a different accent, distinctive from that of the South Wales Valleys.

Ireland

Ireland has two main accents that can be differentiated between by outsiders owing to the varying speech patterns/intonations of the two: (1) the flat, unfluctuating tone of urban, working class Dublin City, characterised by a heavy influence from the unchanging speech modes of the English aristocracy that governed Ireland from the capital city for over 4 centuries; and, (2) the multi-toned (sing-song) speech of the remainder 31 counties of the island, wherein the input of Scots, Huguenot French and Spanish elements can be observed - depending on the region.

Ulster

The Ulster accent has two main sub accents, namely Mid Ulster English and Ulster Scots. The language is spoken throughout the nine counties of Ulster, and in some northern areas of bordering counties such as Louth and Leitrim. It bears many similarities to Scottish English through influence from Ulster Scots, which is has many distinct characteristics and is often seen as a variety of Scots.

Some characteristics of the Ulster accent include:

  • As in Scotland, the vowels /ʊ/ and /u/ are merged, so that look and Luke are homophonous. The vowel is a high central rounded vowel, [ʉ].
  • The diphthong /aʊ/ is pronounced approximately [əʉ], but wide variation exists, especially between social classes in Belfast
  • In Belfast, /eɪ/ is a monophthong in open syllables (e.g. day [dɛː]) but a rising diphthong in closed syllables (e.g. daze [deəz]). But the monophthong remains when inflectional endings are added, thus daze contrasts with days [dɛːz].
  • The alveolar stops /t, d/ become dental before /r, ər/, e.g. tree and spider
  • /t/ often undergoes flapping to [ɾ] before an unstressed syllable, e.g. eighty [ɛːɾi]

Connacht, Leinster and Munster

The accent of these three provinces is relatively similar.[citation needed] Despite generalization from people within the nine counties of Ulster that refer to the "southern accent", there are important exceptions, to this generalization

Dublin

There is stereotypically a difference between the accents of the Northside, Southside and Westside of Dublin, but as each these areas have many working class and middle class areas there is very little truth in this.

Historically the Dublin county area, parts of Wicklow and Louth, became under heavy exclusive influence from the first English settlements (known as The Pale). It remained up until Independence from Britain as the biggest concentration of English influence in the whole island.

Though big differences are obvious between the class divide -influence from the original English settlers are seen in certain English-rooted colloquialisms (e.g. "bleedin...") and certain vowel forms like ow (e.g. "I don't know" pronounced "I downt now")- Dublin English is more similar to Estuary English in relative respect than say the neighbouring counties of Leinster province where in general this would be pronounced under the same general Southern accent. The flat intonation of the 'working-class' Dublin accent remains an anomaly on the island with all other accents retaing the signature Irish 'sing-song' intonation.

Cork

The Corkonian accent has a unique lyrical intonation. Every sentence typically ends in the trademark elongated tail-off on the last word. In Cork heavier emphasis yet is put on the brrr sound to the letter R.

Kerry

Similar to the Cork accent but without the same unmistakable intonation, Kerry puts even heavier emphasis on the brrr sound to the letter R. For example: the word Forty. Throughout the south this word is pronounced whereby the r exhibits the typified Irish brrr. In Kerry however (especially in rural areas) the roll on the r is enforced with vibrations from the tongue (not unlike Scottish here). "Are you?" becomes a co-joined "A-rrou?" single tongue flutter (esp. in rural areas). This extra emphasis on R also seen in varying measures through parts of West Limerick and West Cork in closer proximity to Kerry

Another feature in the Kerry accent is the S before the consonant. True to its Gaelic origins like nowhere else in Ireland "s" maintains the shh sound as in shop or sheep. The word Start becomes "Shtart". Stop becomes Shtop.

Irish Travellers

Irish Travellers have a very distinct accent closely related to a rural Hiberno-English. Many Travellers who were born in parts of Britain have the accent, despite the fact that they do not live in Ireland. They also have their own language which strongly links in with their dialect/accent of English, see Shelta.

North America

North American English is a collective term for the dialects of the United States and Canada; it does not include the varieties of Caribbean English spoken in the West Indies.

  • Rhoticity and mergers before /r/. Most North American English accents differ from Received Pronunciation and some other British dialects by being rhotic; the phoneme /r/ is pronounced before consonants and at the end of syllables, and the "r-colored vowel" [ɚ] is used as a syllable nucleus. For example, while the words hard and singer would be pronounced [hɑːd] and [sɪŋə] in Received Pronunciation, they would be pronounced [hɑɹd] and [sɪŋɚ] in General American. (Exceptions are certain traditional accents found in eastern New England, New York City, and the Southern United States.) R-coloring has ultimately led to some phonemic mergers before historic /r/ that are unknown in most other native dialects: in many North American accents, Mary, merry and marry sound the same, despite having different vowels in RP ([ɛə] , [ɛ] , [æ] respectively); likewise, hairy rhymes with ferry, and nearer rhymes with mirror.
  • Mergers of the low back vowels. Other North American mergers that are absent in Received Pronunciation are the merger of the vowels of caught and cot ([kɔːt] and [kɒt] in RP) in many accents, and the merger of father (RP [fɑːðə]) and bother (RP [bɒðə]) in almost all.
  • Flat A. Most North American accents lack the so-called trap-bath split found in Southern England: Words like ask, answer, grass, bath, staff, dance are pronounced with the short-a /æ/ of trap, not with the broad A /ɑ/ of father heard in Southern England as well as in most of the Southern hemisphere. (In North America, the vowel of father has merged with that of lot and bother, see above.)
  • Flapping of /t/ and /d/. Another feature distinguishing North American English dialects in general from British Received Pronunciation is the voicing or flapping of /t/ before an unstressed vowel, causing the word better to sound like "bedder" [bɛdɚ] or [bɛɾɚ].

American English has a 'standard' accent, analogous to Britain's Received Pronunciation, that of the upper Midwest region, which is used by news broadcasters due to its clear understandability. It is spoken in northern Ohio, northern Indiana, Michigan, northern Illinois, and in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Americans who, for many years, have been trying to shed their stigmatizing local accents, such as Southern state accents or Brooklynese, take classes to learn Upper Midwestern. It prominently features the flat A, but does not consistently merge low back vowels, so that 'caught' generally rhymes with 'nought' and 'cot' rhymes with 'not'.

Upper Midwestern as spoken at home does have some idiosyncratic inconsistencies in pronunciation. In some areas, for example in northern Indiana, speakers may rhyme 'route' with either 'gout' or 'boot', and 'root' with either 'soot' or 'boot', so that the two may or may not be homonyms. Even individual speakers are not always totally self-consistent in usage. However, 'routing' almost always rhymes with 'pouting', and 'rooting' with 'booting', while 'uprooted' may go either way.

Canada

Three major dialect areas can be found in Canada: Western/Central Canada, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland.

The phonology of West/Central Canadian English, also called General Canadian, is broadly identical to that of the Western U.S., except for the following features:

  • The diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ are raised to approximately [əɪ] and [ʌʊ][1] before voiceless consonants; thus, for example, the vowel sound of out [ʌʊt] is different from that of loud [laʊd]. This feature is known as Canadian raising.
  • There is no contrast between the vowels of caught and cot (cot-caught merger, as above); in addition, the short a of bat is more open than almost everywhere else in North America [æ̞ ~ a]. The other front lax vowels /ɛ/ and /ɪ/, too, can be lowered and/or retracted. This phenomenon has been labelled the Canadian Shift.

With respect to phonemic incidence, the pronunciation of certain words has American and/or British influence. For instance, shone is /ʃɒn/; been is often /bin/; process can be either /prosɛs/ or /prɒsɛs/; etc.

Words like drama, pyjamas, pasta tend to have /æ/ rather than /ɑ/=/ɒ/. Words like sorrow, Florida, orange have /or/ rather than /ɑr/; therefore, sorry rhymes with story rather than with starry.

United States

West Indies and Bermuda

For discussion, see:

Southern Hemisphere

Australia

The greatest variation in Australian accents is along educational and occupational lines, expressed as three class-based accents: Broad Australian, General Australian and Cultivated Australian. However, some regional variation has been documented. Generally, accents are found to be broadest in the more remote and rural areas.

A 1995 survey by D. Crystal of the usage of /aː/ ("long a") and /æ/ in the same words ("graph", "chance", "demand", "dance", "castle", "grasp" and "contrast", across five cities, found that /aː/ was generally strongest in Adelaide, where it was used on average 88% of the time, and weakest in Hobart at 39% (Crystal, 1995, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language).

Some people in Victoria have a tendency to pronounce the vowel in words like dress, bed and head as /æ/. As a result, the words "celery" and "salary" are pronounced alike.[2][3] In Western Australia, a tendency to pronounce words such as "beer" with two syllables (/biː.ə/ or "be-ah"), in cases where other Australians use one syllable (/biə/), has been noted.[4]

According to anecdote and stereotype, Queenslanders tend to use Broad Australian more and to drawl, although this does not appear to have been verified by research, and General and Cultivated accents are also widespread in Queensland.

New Zealand

The New Zealand accent is distinguished from the Australian one by the presence of "clipped" vowels, slightly resembling South African English. Phonetically, these are raised or centralised versions of the short "i" and "e" vowels, which in New Zealand are close to [ɨ] and [ɪ] respectively rather than [ɪ] ands [ɛ]. New Zealand pronunciations are often popularly represented outside New Zealand by writing "fish and chips" as "fush and chups", "yes" as "yiss", "sixty-six" as "suxty-sux". Scottish English influence is most evident in the southern regions of New Zealand, notably Dunedin.

Geographical variations appear slight, and mainly confined to individual special local words. One group of speakers, however, hold a recognised place as "talking differently": the South of the South Island (Murihiku) harbours a "Celtic fringe" of people speaking with a "Southland burr" in which a back-trilled 'r' appears prominently. The area formed a traditional repository of immigration from Scotland.

The trilled 'r' is also used by some Māori, who may also pronounce 't' and 'k' sounds without aspiration, striking other English speakers as similar to 'd' and 'g'. This is also encountered in South African English, especially among Afrikaans speakers.

South Atlantic

Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands have a large non-native born population, mainly from England, but also from Saint Helena. In rural areas, the Falkland accent tends to be stronger. The accent has resemblances to both Australia-NZ English, and that of Norfolk in England, and contains a number of Spanish loanwords.

Saint Helena

"Saints", as Saint Helenan islanders are called, have a variety of different influences on their accent. To outsiders, the accent has resemblances to the accents of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Television is a reasonably recent arrival there, and is only just beginning to have an effect.

Southern Africa

South Africa

South Africa has 11 official languages, one of which is English. Accents vary significantly between ethnic and language groups.[5] Native English speakers (white, Indian and Coloured or Cape Coloured) in South Africa have an accent that generally resembles British Received Pronunciation (modified with varying degrees of Germanic inflection due to Afrikaans). Native English speakers in South Africa may employ Afrikaans and Bantu loanwords into their speech.

"For `Coloureds' whose traditional language was Afrikaans, English has become increasingly influential since the early nineteenth century (Mesthrie 1993). While complete language shift to English has occurred among this group, this appears to be a trend only amongst more affluent and educated individuals. In total, 51% of `Coloureds' indicated a speaking knowledge of English in the 1991 census."

David H. Gough, English in South Africa[6]

The Coloured community are generally bilingual, however English accents are strongly influenced by primary mother-tongue (Afrikaans or English). A range of accents can be seen, with the majority of Coloureds showing a strong Afrikaans inflection. Similarly, Afrikaners (and Cape Coloureds), both descendant of mainly Dutch settlers, tend to pronounce English phonemes with a strong Afrikaans inflection. It should be noted that the English accents of both related groups are significantly different and easily distinguishable (primarily because of prevalent code-switching amongst the majority of Coloured English speakers, particularly in the Western Cape of South Africa). The range of accents found amongst English-speaking Coloureds (from the distinctive "Cape Flats or Coloured English"[7] to the standard "colloquial" South African English accent) are of special interest. It should be noted, that geography and education levels play a major role therein.

Black Africans generally speak English as a second language, and accent is strongly influenced by mother-tongue (particularly Bantu languages). However, urban middle-class black Africans have developed an English accent, with similar inflection as native English speakers. Black, Indian and Coloured students educated in former Model C schools or at formerly white tertiary institutions will generally adopt a similar accent to their white classmates.[8] Interestingly, code-switching and the "Cape Flats" accent are becoming popular amongst white learners in public schools within Cape Town. This trend appears to be similar to the adoption of urban African-American accent and slang by suburban or urban white children in the US.

South African accents also vary between major cities (particularly Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg) and provinces (regions).[9] Accent variation are also observed within respective cities, for instance, Johannesburg, where the northern suburbs (Parkview, Parkwood, Parktown North, Saxonwold, etc.) tend to be less strongly influenced by Afrikaans. These suburbs are more affluent and populated by individuals with tertiary education and higher incomes. The accents of native English speakers from the southern suburbs (Rosettenville, Turffontein, etc.) tend to be more strongly influenced by Afrikaans. These suburbs are populated by tradesmen and factory workers, with lower incomes. The extent of Afrikaans influence is explained by the fact that Afrikaans urbanisation would historically have been from failed marginal farms or failing economies in rural towns, into the southern and western suburbs of Johannesburg. The western suburbs of Johannesburg (Newlands, Triomf, which has now reverted to its old name Sophiatown, Westdene, etc) are predominantly Afrikaans speaking. In a similar fashion, people from predominantly or traditionally Jewish areas in the Johannesburg area (such as Sandton, Linksfield or Victory Park) may have accents influenced by Yiddish or Hebrew ancestry.

Examples of South African accents (obtained from http://accent.gmu.edu)

Additional samples of South African accents and dialects can be found at http://web.ku.edu/~idea/africa/southafrica/southafrica.htm

Regardless of regional and ethnic differences (in accents), the "colloquial" South African English accent is often mistaken with Australian (or New Zealand) English by British and American English speakers.[10][11]

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, native English speakers (mainly the white and Coloured minority) have a similar speech pattern to that of South Africa. Hence those with high degrees of Germanic inflection would pronounce 'Zimbabwe' as zim-bah-bwi, as opposed to the African pronunciation zeem-bah-bweh.

Example of a Zimbabwean English accent (obtained from http://accent.gmu.edu)

Namibia

Namibian English tends to be strongly influenced by that of South Africa.

Madagascar

Madagascar has 3 official languages: Malagasy, French and English. Malagasy English is a combination of French and English due to the strong influence of French spreading across the country.

Asia

Philippines

Philippine English employs a rhotic accent that originated from the time when it was first introduced by the Americans during the colonization period to replace Spanish as the dominant language used in politics. Philippine English is the only English accent that has survived The AmE phonology in colonized territories because[citation needed] by the time the Americans started introducing American English in its conquered colonies, people have already become increasingly hesitant in adopting the accent since it was viewed as not elegant as the BrE at the time and the fact that virtually all known territories have already had a strong British English foothold. American English pronunciation still remains the official pronunciation taught in schools but is hardly followed by most Filipinos not because it is difficult to pronounce but because sporting an American accent or American pronunciation raises judgments or prejudices of having a colonial mentality, not being faithful to the country, showy, gay, or too American. Even brilliant politicians, businessmen, and academicians have shied away from the correct pronunciation for fear of giving away an impression or for fear of being ridiculed. People who sport American English accent are often labeled "spokening dollar". The way English is pronounced in the Philippines has created a rift between the rich and the poor. Brilliant individuals who are not necessarily rich but who pronounce English correctly are often discredited because of the "English-is-for-the-rich-only" stigma occurring in the Philippines.

Philippine accent is the most laid back of all English accents. This can be traced from the residual phonology of regional languages primarily the Tagalog. Tagalog accent has been made popular lingua franca because of the widespread reach of Tagalog media over the archipelago through films, televisions, and radios, and aside from the fact that one of the two official languages in the Philippines, one of which is English, virtually rose out of the Tagalog dialect. The introduction of Taglish, a coined word for Tagalog-English combination, gave rise to a different English accent that is largely popular among the upper classes of the Tagalog-speaking affluent urban communities. One of the most famous Taglish speakers is the celebrity socialite Kris Aquino.

Philippine English accent is American English specific such that variations in pronunciation would leave the listener unable to comprehend the word because Filipinos understand the meaning by relying on the correct spelling. So, if the word "writer" was dictated with a British or Australian accent, the Filipino would not be able to understand it because the "t" was heavily stressed and "r" has been omitted as opposed to the American pronunciation where the "t" is soft and the "r" is clearly audible.

Hong Kong

The accent of English spoken in Hong Kong follows mainly British, with rather strong influence from Cantonese on the pronunciations of a few consonants and vowels, and sentence grammar and structure. In recent years there are some Canadian and Australian influences, attributable to the return to Hong Kong of persons who had emigrated to these countries.

South Asia

A number of distinct dialects of English are spoken in South Asia. There are many languages spoken in South Asia like Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, Marathi, Bengali, Maithili, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Rajasthani and many more, creating a variety of accents of English. Accents originating in this part of the world tend to display several distinctive features, including:

  • syllable-timing, in which a roughly equal time is allocated to each syllable. Akin to the English of Singapore and Malaysia. (Elsewhere, English speech timing is based predominantly on stress);
  • "sing-song" pitch (somewhat reminiscent of those of Welsh English).

Malaysia

English is the lingua franca of Malaysia, a former British colony.

The Malaysian accent appears to be a melding of British, Chinese, and Malay influences.

Many Malaysians adopt different accents and usages depending on the situation; for example, an office worker may speak with less colloquialism and with a more British accent on the job than with friends or while out shopping.

  • syllable-timing, where speech is timed according to syllable, akin to the English of the Indian Subcontinent. (Elsewhere, speech is usually timed to stress.)
  • A quick, staccato style, with "puncturing" syllables and well-defined, drawn out tones.
  • Non-rhoticity, like most varieties of English language in England. Hence caught and court are homophonous as /kɔːt/ (in actuality, /kɔːʔ/ or /koːʔ/, see "Simplification" below); can't rhymes with aren't, etc.
  • The "ay" and "ow" sounds in raid and road (/eɪ/ and /oʊ/ respectively) are pronounced as monophthongs, i.e. with no "glide": [red] and [rod].
  • /θ/ is pronounced as [t] and /ð/ as [d]; hence, thin is [tɪn] and then is [dɛn].
  • Depending on how colloquial the situation is: many discourse particles, or words inserted at the end of sentences that indicate the role of the sentence in discourse and the mood it conveys, like "lah", "leh", "mah", "hor", etc.

Singapore

Singapore is effectively a multi-lingual nation. The Singapore government recognises four official languages: English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil.

English is the first language of Singapore. Singapore is unique as it is the only country in Asia which has English as its first language.

English is the language of instruction in all government schools. All students in government schools are educated in English as their first language. Students in Primary and Secondary schools also learn a second language called their "Mother Tongue" by the Ministry of Education, where they are either taught Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil. A main point to note is while "Mother Tongue" generally refers to the first language (L1) overseas, in Singapore, it is used by the Ministry of Education to denote the second language (L2).

There are two main types of English spoken in Singapore - Standard Singapore English and Singlish.

A 2005 census showed that around 30% of Singaporeans speak English as their main language at home.[12]

There is a large number of foreigners working in Singapore. 36% of the population in Singapore are foreigners and foreigners make up 50% of the service sector.[13] Therefore, it is very common to encounter service staff who are not fluent in English. Most of these staff speak Mandarin Chinese. Those who do not speak Mandarin Chinese tend to speak either broken English or Singlish, which they have learnt from the locals.

Some people mistake the Standard Singaporean accent as similar to the accent of Malaysian English speakers but both accents are very different.

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Wells, J C (1982). Accents of English 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521285410. 

External links


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