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Accent and dialect

Accent and dialect

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Summary

Accent and dialect

​​In a nutshell

Accent is the characteristic way a person pronounces the sounds of a language. Dialect involves even deeper variation in sentence structure, vocabulary and phrasing. Both accent and dialect reflect a person's identity, and there is a place for writing and analysing accent and dialect in literary texts.


Accent

Simply put, someone's accent is the sound of their voice in terms of how they pronounce vowel and consonant sounds. Some accents are shared by the people of a particular region and are very distinctive, like the Geordie accent of Newcastle or the Scouse accent of Liverpool. Everybody speaks with an accent, whether it's a culturally distinct one or not.


There is a huge variety of accents in the United Kingdom, let alone in the English-speaking world. Take a look at some examples of the accents from all four nations of the United Kingdom below.


Examples 

Northern Irish accent

• Rhotic, meaning the /r/ sound is kept at the end of a word. Standard English "car" is pronounced /cah/, with rhoticity pronounced /car/.   
• Variation in vowel sounds, e.g. the /au/ sound pronounced more like /ai/ – "now" /naiy/.
• Consonant variation, e.g. "which" pronounced /hwitch/. 

Welsh accent

• ​Vowel variation, e.g. "bus" pronounced more like /bas/. 
• Consonant variation, e.g. dropping /h/ sound in the phrase "What's happening?". 
English; Spoken English; KS3 Year 7; Accent and dialect


Scottish accent​

• Vowel variation, e.g.  "happy" pronounced more like /happai/.
• Rhotic, meaning the /r/ sound is kept at the end of a word. Standard English "car" is pronounced /cah/, with rhoticity pronounced /car/.
• Consonant variation, e.g. "which" pronounced /hwitch/.

English accent

• Accents of Northern England more likely to show the vowel in "bath" rhyming with "tap".
• Accents of Southern England more likely to show the vowel in "bath" rhyming with "bar".
• Non-rhotic, meaning the /r/ sound is usually dropped at the end of a word, e.g. "car" – /cah/. Exceptions apply e.g. in the West Country. 

What type of accent do you speak with?



Dialect

A dialect involves more than just different pronunciation. Whole words, phrases, even sentence structure can vary between different dialects. Dialects are not considered entirely separate languages since there is usually a high degree of mutual intelligibility (people speaking different dialects of the same language can still understand each other). That said, there are key differences in the sentence structure, vocabulary and pronunciation that give dialects a distinctive character within the language.



Accent, dialect and identity

Accent and dialect are inextricably linked to the person's identity. Where you're from, where you were brought up, the varieties your parents speak and your friends all can have a bearing on the accent and dialect you speak in.


Multicultural London English (MLE)

One example of an emerging dialect of British English is called Multicultural London English. This is mostly spoken by younger people who live in culturally diverse parts of London. Research has shown that, if you live in London, the more friends from different cultures you have, the more likely you are to display features of MLE. 


Examples of MLE features
  • Regularisation of "to be": "You were" becomes "You was".
  • "Man" as a pronoun, e.g. "Man's too tired" or "Where's man going?".
  • "Innit" as a tag question, e.g. "I don't like pasta though, innit."
  • /th/ --> /f/, e.g. "three" becomes "free". 



Accent and dialect in literature

Most of your writing in at school will be in Standard English. However, you will encounter some examples of different regional accents and dialects in your study of literature, and you may write in non-Standard English when it is appropriate in your creative writing.


Take a look at this example from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In this extract, George is talking to Lennie. Both of them are migrant workers working on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, California, United States in the 1930s during the Great Depression.


Example
"Well, you ain’t petting no mice while you walk with me. You remember where we’re goin’ now?"

"Working Man's English" (original)
"Well, you aren't petting a​ny mice while you walk with me. Do you remember where we're going now?

Standard English (gloss)


See how the non-Standard accent (e.g. dropping the G in "goin'"), and the non-Standard dialect (e.g. "ain't" for "aren't", or "no" for "any") are represented.


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