English pp 128-153 | Cite as

English Varieties in the British Isles

  • Jan Svartvik
  • Geoffrey Leech


Unlike spelling, which has been more or less standardized for the last two centuries, pronunciation varies immensely among the hundreds of millions of people who speak English as their first language. In the United Kingdom, pronunciation reflects both regional and social factors. There are, of course, different geographical varieties: South-Western (‘West Country’) English, Northern English, Scottish English, and so forth. But what is traditionally characteristic of the UK, especially of England, is that many people are particularly conscious of accent as a class marker — a sensitivity to pronunciation that is unparalleled in the English-speaking world, perhaps in the whole world. Although no one English accent has official status, there are some widespread attitudes to different accents, which may be of interest to learners of English as a foreign language. In England, research has shown that Received Pronunciation, which is associated with southern England, has traditionally had a high rating as being pleasing, articulate and prestigious. In comparison, Northern accents (for example) are rated poorly for these qualities, especially urban accents. But this is only one side of the picture: for warmth and friendliness, the North does better than Received Pronunciation. And attitudes are changing, as we shall see.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Svartvik
    • 1
  • Geoffrey Leech
    • 2
  1. 1.Lund UniversitySweden
  2. 2.Lancaster UniversityUK

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