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The English language spoken and written in England encompasses a diverse range of accents and dialects. The language forms part of the broader British English, along with other varieties in the United Kingdom. Terms used to refer to the English language spoken and written in England include English English[1][2] and Anglo-English.[3][4]

The related term British English is ambiguous, so it can be used and interpreted in multiple ways,[5] but it is usually reserved to describe the features common to Anglo-English, Welsh English, and Scottish English.

England, Wales, and Scotland are the three traditional countries on the island of Great Britain. The main dialect of the fourth country of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, is Ulster English, which is generally considered a dialect of Hiberno-English.

General features

Many different accents and dialects are found throughout England, and people are often very proud of their local accent or dialect. However, accents and dialects also highlight social class differences, rivalries, or other associated prejudices, as illustrated by George Bernard Shaw's comment:

It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.[6]

As well as pride in one's accent, there is also stigma placed on many traditional working-class dialects. In his work on the dialect of Bolton, Graham Shorrocks wrote:

I have personally known those who would avoid, or could never enjoy, a conversation with a stranger, because they were literally too ashamed to open their mouths. It has been drummed into people—often in school, and certainly in society at large—that dialect speech is incorrect, impure, vulgar, clumsy, ugly, careless, shoddy, ignorant, and altogether inferior. Furthermore, the particularly close link in recent English society between speech, especially accents, and social class and values has made local dialect a hindrance to upward social mobility."[7]

The three largest recognisable dialect groups in England are Southern English dialects, Midlands English dialects and Northern English dialects. The most prominent isogloss is the foot–strut split, which runs roughly from mid-Shropshire (on the Welsh border) to south of Birmingham and then to the Wash. South of the isogloss (the Midlands and Southern dialects), the Middle English phoneme /ʊ/ split into /ʌ/ (as in cut, strut) and /ʊ/ (put, foot); this change did not occur north of the isogloss.

Most native Anglo-English speakers can tell the general region in England that a speaker comes from, and experts or locals may be able to narrow this down to within a few miles. Historically, such differences could be a major impediment to understanding between people from different areas. There are also many cases where a large city has a very different accent from the rural area around it (e.g. Bristol and Avon, Hull and the East Riding, Liverpool and Lancashire). But modern communications and mass media have reduced these differences in some parts of the country.[8][9] Speakers may also change their pronunciation and vocabulary, particularly towards Received Pronunciation and Standard English when in public.

British and Irish varieties of English, including Anglo-English, are discussed in John C. Wells (1982). Some of the features of Anglo-English are that:

Change over time

There has been academic interest in dialects since the late 19th century. The main works are On Early English Pronunciation by A.J. Ellis, English Dialect Grammar by Joseph Wright, and the English Dialect Dictionary also by Joseph Wright. The Dialect Test was developed by Joseph Wright so he could hear the differences in the vowel sounds of a dialect by listening to different people reading the same short text passage.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Survey of English Dialects was undertaken to preserve a record of the traditional spectrum of rural dialects that merged into each other. The traditional picture was that there would be a few changes in lexicon and pronunciation every couple of miles, but that there would be no sharp borders between completely different ways of speaking. Within a county, the accents of the different towns and villages would drift gradually so that residents of bordering areas sounded more similar to those in neighbouring counties.

Because of greater social mobility and the teaching of "Standard English" in secondary schools, this model is no longer very accurate. There are some English counties in which there is little change in accent/dialect, and people are more likely to categorise their accent by a region or county than by their town or village. As agriculture became less prominent, many rural dialects were lost. Some urban dialects have also declined; for example, the traditional dialect of Bradford is now quite rarely spoken in the city, and call centres have seen Bradford as a useful location for the very fact that potential employees there nowadays generally lack dialectal speech.[18][19] Some local call centres have stated that they were attracted to Bradford because it has a regional accent that is relatively easy to understand.[20][better source needed] Nevertheless, working in the opposite direction, concentrations of migration may cause a town or area to develop its own accent. The two most famous examples of this are Liverpool and Corby. Liverpool's dialect is influenced heavily by Irish and Welsh, and it sounds completely different from the surrounding areas of Lancashire. Corby's dialect is influenced heavily by Scots, and it sounds completely different from the rest of Northamptonshire. The Voices 2006 survey found that the various ethnic minorities that have settled in large populations in parts of Britain develop their own specific dialects. For example, Asian may have an Oriental influence on their accent so sometimes urban dialects are now just as easily identifiable as rural dialects, even if they are not from South Asia. In the traditional view, urban speech has just been seen as a watered-down version of that of the surrounding rural area. Historically, rural areas had much more stable demographics than urban areas, but there is now only a small difference between the two. It has probably never been true since the Industrial Revolution caused an enormous influx to cities from rural areas.

Overview of regional accents

According to dialectologist Peter Trudgill, the major regional English accents of modern England can be divided on the basis on the following basic features; the word columns each represent the pronunciation of one italicised word in the sentence "Very few cars made it up the long hill".[21] Two additional distinguishing features—the absence or presence of a trap–bath split and the realisation of the GOAT vowel—are also represented under the "path" and "stone" columns (so that the sentence could be rendered "Very few cars made it up the path of the long stone hill").[22]

Accent name Trudgill's accent region Strongest centre very few cars made up path long stone hill
Geordie Northeast Newcastle/Sunderland /i/ /juː/ [ɒː] [eː] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋ/ [oː] [hɪl]
Yorkshire Central and Lower North Leeds/Bradford /ɪ/ /juː/ [äː] [eː] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋ/ [oː] [ɪl]
Lancashire (traditional) Central Lancashire Rossendale /ɪ/ /juː/ [aːɹ] [note 1] [eː] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋg/ [oː] [ɪl]
Scouse Merseyside Liverpool /i/ /juː/ [äː] [eɪ] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋg/ [ou] [ɪl]
Manchester Northwest Manchester/Salford /ɪ/ /juː/ [äː] [eɪ] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋg/ [ɔʊ] [ɪl]
Brummie West Midlands Birmingham /i/ /juː/ [ɑː] [ʌɪ] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋg/ [ʌʊ] [ɪl]
East Midlands East, North, and South Midlands Lincoln /i/ [note 2] /juː/ [note 3] [ɑː] [eɪ] [note 4] /ʊ/ /æ/ [a] /ŋ/ [ʌʊ] [ɪl] [note 5]
West Country Southwest Bristol/Plymouth /i/ /juː/ [ɑːɹ] [eɪ] [note 6] /ʌ/ /æ/ [æ] /ŋ/ [ɔʊ] [ɪl] [note 7]
East Anglian (traditional) East Anglia Rural Norfolk/Suffolk /i/ /uː/ [aː] [æɪ] or [eː] /ʌ/ /æ/ [æ] /ŋ/ [ʊu] [(h)ɪl]
London/Estuary (also Multicultural London English) Home Counties Greater London /i/ /juː/ [ɑː] [eɪ~æɪ] /ʌ/ /ɑː/ /ŋ/ [ʌʊ], [oː] in MLE [ɪo]
RP (modern) /i/ /juː/ [ɑː] [eɪ] /ʌ/ /ɑː/ /ŋ/ [əʊ] [hɪl]

Southern England

Main article: British English in Southern England

See also: Sussex dialect, Kentish dialect, Surrey dialect, and Isle of Wight § Language and dialect

In general, Southern English accents are distinguished from Northern English accents primarily by not using the short a in words such as "bath". In the south-east, the broad A is normally used before a /f/, /s/ or /θ/: words such as "cast" and "bath" are pronounced /kɑːst/, /bɑːθ/ rather than /kæst/, /bæθ/. This sometimes occurs before /nd/: it is used in "command" and "demand" but not in "brand" or "grand".

In the south-west, an /aː/ sound is used in these words but also in words that take /æ/ in RP; there is no trap–bath split but both are pronounced with an extended fronted vowel.[23] Bristol is an exception to the bath-broadening rule: it uses /a/ in the trap and bath sets, just as is the case in the North and the Midlands.[24]

Accents originally from the upper class speech of the LondonOxfordCambridge triangle are particularly notable as the basis for Received Pronunciation.

Southern English accents have three main historical influences:

Relatively recently, the first two have increasingly influenced southern accents outside London via social class mobility and the expansion of London. From some time during the 19th century, middle and upper middle classes began to adopt affectations, including the RP accent, associated with the upper class. In the late 20th and 21st century other social changes, such as middle class RP-speakers forming an increasing component of rural communities, have accentuated the spread of RP. The South East coast accents traditionally have several features in common with the West Country; for example, rhoticity and the a: sound in words such as bath, cast, etc. However, the younger generation in the area is more likely to be non-rhotic and use the London/East Anglian A: sound in bath.

After the Second World War, about one million Londoners were relocated to new and expanded towns throughout the south east, bringing with them their distinctive London accent.

During the 19th century distinct dialects of English were recorded in Sussex, Surrey and Kent. These dialects are now extinct or nearly extinct due to improved communications and population movements.

South West England

Main article: West Country dialects

The West Country dialects and accents are the English dialects and accents used by much of the indigenous population of South West England, the area popularly known as the West Country.

This region encompasses Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, while Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire are usually also included, although the northern and eastern boundaries of the area are hard to define and sometimes even wider areas are encompassed. The West Country accent is said to reflect the pronunciation of the Anglo-Saxons far better than other modern English Dialects.

In the nearby counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, it was possible to encounter comparable accents and, indeed, distinct local dialects until perhaps the 1960s. There is now limited use of such dialects amongst older people in local areas. Although natives of such locations, especially in western parts, can still have West Country influences in their speech, the increased mobility and urbanisation of the population have meant that local Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight dialects (as opposed to accents) are today essentially extinct.

Academically the regional variations are considered to be dialectal forms. The Survey of English Dialects captured manners of speech across the West Country that were just as different from Standard English as anything from the far North. Close proximity has completely different languages such as Cornish, which is a Celtic language related to Welsh, and more closely to Breton. The Cornish dialect of English spoken in Cornwall by Cornish people is to some extent influenced by Cornish grammar, and often includes words derived from the language.


The Norfolk dialect is spoken in the traditional county of Norfolk and areas of north Suffolk. Famous speakers include Keith Skipper. The group FOND (Friends of Norfolk Dialect) was formed to record the county's dialect and to provide advice for TV companies using the dialect in productions.

East Anglian dialect is also spoken in areas of Cambridgeshire. It is characterised by the use of [ei] for /iː/ in FLEECE words.[25]


West Midlands

Main article: West Midlands English

East Midlands

Main article: East Midlands English

Northern England

Main article: Northern England English

There are several features that are common to most of the accents of northern England:[17]

Some dialect words used across the North are listed in extended editions of the Oxford Dictionary with a marker "North England": for example, the words ginnell and snicket for specific types of alleyway, the word fettle for to organise, or the use of while to mean until. The best-known Northern words are nowt, owt and summat, which are included in most dictionaries. For more localised features, see the following sections.

The "present historical" is named after the speech of the region, but it is often used in many working class dialects in the south of England too. Instead of saying "I said to him", users of the rule would say, "I says to him". Instead of saying, "I went up there", they would say, "I goes up there."

In the far north of England, the local speech is indistinguishable from Scots. Wells said that northernmost Northumberland "though politically English is linguistically Scottish".[32]

Liverpool (Scouse)

Main article: Scouse

The Liverpool accent, known as Scouse colloquially, is quite different from the accent of surrounding Lancashire. This is because Liverpool has had many immigrants in recent centuries, particularly Irish people. Irish influences on Scouse speech include the pronunciation of unstressed 'my' as 'me' and the pronunciation of 'th' sounds like 't' or 'd' (although they remain distinct as dental /t̪/ /d̪/). Other features of Scouse include the pronunciation of non-initial /k/ as [x] and the pronunciation of 'r' as a tap /ɾ/.


Main article: Yorkshire dialect

Wuthering Heights is one of the few classic works of English literature to contain a substantial amount of dialect, specifically Yorkshire dialect. Set in Haworth, the servant Joseph speaks in the traditional dialect of the area, which many modern readers struggle to understand. This dialect was still spoken around Haworth until the late 1970s, but now only a minority of the dialect's features are still in everyday use.[33] The old dialect is now mainly encountered in Skipton, Otley, Settle and other similar places where older farmers from deep in the dales live. Examples of differences from RP in Yorkshire pronunciation include, but are not limited to:


The accents of Teesside, usually known as Smoggy, are sometimes grouped with Yorkshire and sometimes grouped with the North-East of England, for they share characteristics with both accent regions. As this urban area grew in the early 20th century, there are fewer dialect words that date back to older forms of English; Teesside speak is the sort of modern dialect that Peter Trudgill identified in his "The Dialects of England". There is a Lower Tees Dialect group.[34] A recent study found that most people from Middlesbrough do not consider their accent to be "Yorkshire", but that they are less hostile to being grouped with Yorkshire than to being grouped with the Geordie accent.[35] Intriguingly, speakers from Middlesbrough are occasionally mistaken for speakers from Liverpool[36] as they share many of the same characteristics. It is thought the occasional similarities between the Middlesbrough and Liverpool accent may be due to the high number of Irish migrants to both areas during the late 1900s in fact the 1871 census showed Middlesbrough had the second-highest proportion of people from Ireland after Liverpool. Some examples of traits that are shared with [most parts of] Yorkshire include:

Examples of traits shared with the North-East include:

The vowel in "goat" is an /oː/ sound, as is found in both Durham and rural North Yorkshire. In common with this area of the country, Middlesbrough is a non-rhotic accent.

The vowel in "face" is pronounced as /eː/, as is commonplace in the North-East of England.


Main article: Lancashire dialect


Main articles: Cumbrian dialect and Barrovian

North East England

Examples of accents used by public figures

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Regional English accents in the media

The Archers has had characters with a variety of different West Country accents (see Mummerset).

The shows of Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement have often included a variety of regional accents, the most notable being Auf Wiedersehen Pet about Geordie men in Germany. Porridge featured London and Cumberland accents, and The Likely Lads featured north east England.

The programmes of Carla Lane such as The Liver Birds and Bread featured Scouse accents.

In the 2005 version of the science fiction programme Doctor Who, various Londoners wonder why the Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston), an alien, sounds as if he comes from the North. Eccleston used his own Salford accent in the role; the Doctor's usual response is "Lots of planets have a North!" Other accents in the same series include Cockney (used by actress Billie Piper) and Estuary (used by actress Catherine Tate and David Tennant's Tenth Doctor)

A television reality programme Rock School was set in Suffolk in its second series, providing lots of examples of the Suffolk dialect.

See also


  1. ^ The traditional feature of rhoticity in Lancashire is increasingly giving way to non-rhoticity: Beal, Joan (2004). "English dialects in the North of England: phonology". A Handbook of Varieties of English (pp. 113–133). Berlin, Boston: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 127.
  2. ^ [ɪ] defines the Central Midlands (centred on Nottingham and Derby).
  3. ^ [uː] defines the East Midlands (centred on Leicester and Rutland) and partly defines the South Midlands (centred on Northampton and Bedford).
  4. ^ [eː] defines South Humberside or North Lincolnshire (centred on Scunthorpe).
  5. ^ [ɪo] defines the South Midlands (centred on Northampton and Bedford).
  6. ^ [eː] defines the Lower Southwest (Cornwall and Devon).
  7. ^ [ɪo] defines the Central Southwest.


  1. ^ English, a. and n. (2nd ed.). The Oxford English Dictionary. 1989.
  2. ^ Trudgill & Hannah (2002), p. 2.
  3. ^ Tom McArthur, The Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Retrieved via
  4. ^ Todd, Loreto; Hancock, Ian (1990). International English Usage. London. ISBN 9780415051026.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English (p. 45)
  6. ^ Bernard Shaw, George (1916), "Preface", Pygmalion, A Professor of Phonetics, retrieved 20 April 2009
  7. ^ Shorrocks, Graham (1998). A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area. Pt. 1: Introduction; phonology. Bamberger Beiträge Zur Englische Sprachwissenschaft; Bd. 41. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. p. 90. ISBN 3-631-33066-9.
  8. ^ Voices 2005: Accent – a great leveller? BBC 15 August 2005. Interview with Professor Paul Kerswill who stated "The difference between regional accents is getting less with time."
  9. ^ Alvarez, Lizette; Liverpool Journal; Baffling Scouse Is Spoken Here, So Bring a Sensa Yuma, International Herald Tribune, 15 March 2005. "While most regional accents in England are growing a touch less pronounced in this age of high-speed travel and 600-channel satellite systems, it seems that the Liverpool accent is boldly growing thicker. ... migrating London accents are blamed for the slight changes in regional accents over the past few decades. ... That said, the curator of English accents and dialects at the British Library said the Northeast accents, from places like Northumberland and Tyneside, were also going stronger."
  10. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. chpt. 17
  11. ^ Trudgill & Hannah (2002), p. 138.
  12. ^ Costa, Davide; Serra, Raffaele (2022). "Rhoticity in English, a Journey Over Time Through Social Class: A Narrative Review". Frontiers in Sociology. 7: 902213. doi:10.3389/fsoc.2022.902213. ISSN 2297-7775. PMC 9120598. PMID 35602002.
  13. ^ Wells (1992), pp. 348–349.
  14. ^ Trask (1999), pp. 104–106.
  15. ^ A. C. Gimson in Collins English Dictionary, 1979, page xxiv
  16. ^ Barrera, Berta Badia (August 2015). A Sociolinguistic Study of T-glottalling in Young RP: Accent, Class and Education (PDF) (PhD thesis). Department of Language and Linguistics University of Essex. Retrieved 24 November 2022 – via
  17. ^ a b Wells (1982), section 4.4.
  18. ^ "By 'eck! Bratford-speak is dyin' out". Bradford Telegraph & Argus. 5 April 2004. Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  19. ^ "Does tha kno't old way o' callin'?". BBC News. 2005. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  20. ^ Mahony, GV (January 2001). "Race relations in Bradford" (PDF). GV Mahony. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  21. ^ Ihalainen, Ossi (1992). "The Dialects of England since 1776". In The Cambridge History of the English language. Vol. 5, English in Britain and Overseas: Origins and Development, ed. Robert Burchfield, pp. 255–258. Cambridge University Press.
  22. ^ Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W; Burridge, Kate, eds. (2004). A handbook of varieties of English a multimedia reference tool. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 124, 138, 170, 187, 198. ISBN 978-3-11-019718-1.
  23. ^ Wells (1982), p. 352.
  24. ^ Wells (1982), p. 348.
  25. ^ Wells (1984), p. 62.
  26. ^ Wells (1984), p. 58.
  27. ^ Hughes; Trudgill; Watts, eds. (2005). "chapter on Leicester's speech, Hodder Arnold". English accents and dialects: an introduction to social and regional varieties of English in the British Isles.
  28. ^ "Voices – The Voices Recordings". BBC. 6 July 1975. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  29. ^ Hughes & Trudgill (1996), p. 65.
  30. ^ Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 29 June 2005. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ Britain, David, ed. (2007). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. p. 67. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511620782. ISBN 978-0-511-62078-2.
  32. ^ Wells (1982), p. 351.
  33. ^ K.M. Petyt, Emily Bronte and the Haworth Dialect, Hudson History, Settle, 2001.
  34. ^ Wood, Vic (2007). "TeesSpeak: Dialect of the Lower Tees Valley". This is the North East. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  35. ^ Llamas, Carmen (2000). "Middlesbrough English: Convergent and divergent trends in a "Par of Britain with no identity"" (PDF). Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics. University of Leeds (8). Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  36. ^ Robinson, Jonnie. "The shifting sand(-shoes) of linguistic identity in Teesside – Sound and vision blog". Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  37. ^ Beal, Joan C.; Burbano-Elizondo, Lourdes; Llamas, Carmen (2012). Urban North-Eastern English: Tyneside to Teesside. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748641521. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  38. ^ Beal, Joan C. (2012). Urban North-eastern English: Tyneside to Teesside (Dialects of English). Edinburgh University Press.
  39. ^ "The Queen's English". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  40. ^ Liberman, Mark (2006). "Language Log: Happy-tensing and coal in sex". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  41. ^ "Jack O'Connell's dilemma over accent". Breaking News. 7 January 2015. Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2018.

Further reading