Every linguist has his/her own unique accent. Some linguists are very proud of it and some just hate it and would love to change it to sound more poised, sophisticated – a bit more (royal) English. At the end of the day, everyone has a unique accent and there is really no such thing as a perfect English accent. When a person learns their second language, they usually keep many of the sounds and speech rules from their native language. This is what gives a person an accent. Changing your accent is extremely hard. Even among professional actors, many struggle with imitating other accents.
The UK is very rich in dialect, with countless accents shaped by thousands of years. The English language has always been a mixed bag of diverse words, structures and sounds. At no point in time has the language been identical across the entire country and it is highly unlikely that it ever will be.
Dialects spoken in some regions are superior and more prestigious than dialects spoken in other regions. For example, some say that “BBC English, is superior to the Scottish English.”
Let me introduce you to some of the most common British Accents:
It is sometimes mistakenly used to refer to the speech of the whole of the North East of England. Specifically, the Geordie accent refers to the speech of the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the surrounding urban area of Tyneside. Geordie is more than an accent. It’s a strong regional dialect, a full-blown variant of English with many of its’ own words for common things. It is crammed with words of Anglo-Saxon origin compared to the English spoken further south and may derive from Anglo-Saxon mercenaries brought over by the Romans to fight the Scottish tribes to the north. For instance, the Geordie word “claes” is their own word for clothes. This suggests how much more Geordie is than just an accent. – Say ‘gan’ instead of ‘go’ and ‘gannin’ instead of ‘going’.
– For ‘alright’, say ‘ah-reet’.
It is commonly spoken in East London and is also used to refer to anyone who comes from London. It is thought that the word Cockney originates from the Norman word for a sugar cake. The Normans called London the ‘Land of Sugar Cake’ and the name seems to have stuck with some variations over the years.
Cockney rhyming slang phrases:
Rabbit and pork – ‘talk’: “We sat for a while and had a good old rabbit and pork.”
Pig’s ear – ‘beer’: “I think I owe you a pig’s ear.”
Sausage and mash – ‘cash’ (money): “I forgot all my sausage and mash!”
Trouble and strife – ‘wife’: “I had an argument with the trouble and strife last night.”
Dog and bone – ‘phone’: “What’s that ringing? Is it the dog and bone?”
Scottish English is a dialect that is spoken in Scotland. Scottish English was born from a soft mix between English and Scots. It came about during the 17th century when the language underwent a number of linguistic changes. After the union with England in 1707, Scottish transformed while remaining autonomous. This independence helped created the languages identity, which ties in with the culture. Whether it’s the phonology, the semantics, punctuation, or even the grammar, this type of English has contributed to how the people of Scotland express themselves.
Some examples of Scottish-English words:
- Auld – Old
- Aye – Yes
- Bairn – Baby or Young Child
- Bonnie – Beautiful
- Braw – Good or Nice
- Clipe – This means to ‘tell on’ someone, or ‘snitch’
- Dinnae – Don’t
- Guy – Very
- Haud – Hold
- Loch – Lake
- Tattie – Potato
- Wain – (pronounced Wayne) Child
- Yin – One
West Country (Southwest British)
This accent can be heard in the South of England toward to the Welsh border.
Its origins can be traced back to various West-Saxon dialects, which eventually developed into Old English in the Middle Ages. This Saxon influence is visible in the most basic verbs; for instance, “I be” instead of the standard English “I am”. It actually mirrors how the verb used to be conjugated in Old English. Though not so common nowadays, bist, rather than the standard “(you) are”, was also a feature of the West Country dialect. For those of you that speak German you may be surprised to find out that bist is used in West Country dialect.
Brummie is an English dialect that is spoken in the West Midlands of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Those who speak with the accent have a tendency to end sentences in a lower octave, which may be interpreted as less attractive to a listener.
By the start of the 20th century Welsh was no longer widely spoken as a mother tongue in the densely populated urban areas in the south and along the border with England. However, by a new policy which introduced compulsory teaching of Welsh in school has led to an increase in the number of Welsh speakers.
Some examples of Welsh words:
Alright or Wha? – An introductory term used to mean ‘hello’
Iechyd Da – Most commonly heard in South Wales, it is phrase that essentially means ‘cheers’
Cymru am byth – A phrase that spikes in usage when sport comes into the equation. It translates as ‘Wales Forever’ or ‘Long Live Wales’.
Drive – In other countries it is a verb meaning to operate the direction of a motor vehicle. In Wales, it is what you call your bus driver
The RP Accent
RP is sometimes called BBC English or The Queen’s English. RP stands for “Received Pronunciation” and it sounds reasonably posh to most British ears. Although RP is loosely defined as the regionally neutral accent of England, it is most often found in the south.
There are elocution classes teaching phonetics and showing the correct shaping of mouth and lips and placement of the tongue in relation to the teeth in order to produce the sound of English. Students usually use a voice recorder in order to hear their progress as well as a mirror or selfie camera, so they can make sure that they are forming the correct mouth shapes for each vowel sound.
Our accents tell a story about where we originally came from and what part of the world we’ve lived in. Accents are beautiful. Accents shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, but they should be celebrated.
Please remember that your accent is your story to tell. Be proud of your accent, it’s your identity.