English Accents

My post today will look at English accents in the UK only. I shall discuss other English accents outside the UK in a separate post later.

Let me start by providing a definition of the word ‘accent’ when related to accents in languages which is as defined in the Oxford Dictionary:-

“A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class”

In terms of accents relating to the English language, these can be divided into different accents in the United Kingdom (UK), other English speaking countries and countries where English is not the native language.

Brief History of the English Language

The origins of English can be divided into three periods namely:-

  1. Old English (Anglo Saxon)
  2. Middle English
  3. Modern English

The Old English period began with the migration of some Germanic tribes to Britain in the 5th century and continued until 11th century.

The Middle English period was from approximately the 12th century through the 15th century with French (and Latin, often by way of French) influencing the English language.

Modern English extends from the 16th century to the present day.

Accents in the United Kingdom (UK)

The most unique feature of accents in the UK is that the UK, being a relatively small island, has many different accents unlike many countries of a similar size.

There are many variations in pronunciation, the key accents in the UK are summarised as follows:-

  1. ‘Queen’s English’ – sometimes known as Oxford English or posh English is mainly in the South and around the London area, for example, as spoken by newscasters on the BBC, British Royalty and Margaret Thatcher (the Iron Lady and past Prime Minister of the UK) Sample: Click here
  2. Cockney – spoken mainly in the East End of London and probably the second most common accent. Sample: Click here
  3. South East English – very similar to cockney. Sample: Click here
  4. South West English – spoken about 50-60 miles west of London to the border with Wales. Sample: Click here
  5. English in the Midlands – The best known example of this dialect is the English spoken around Birmingham, very nasal!. Sample: Click here
  6. Northern English – spoken north of the Midlands, for example around Manchester and Liverpool. Sample: Click here
  7. Geordie – As spoken around Newcastle-on-Tyne in the North East of England. Sample: Click here
  8. English in Scotland – a wonderful accent from the far north of U.K. Sample: Click here
  9. Welsh Accent – although Wales has its own language the sample here is English spoken by the Welsh. Sample: Click here

I hope this has helped you to understand and hear the different key accents in the UK.


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