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A glance at English UK

English is the third most spoken language worldwide (preceded by Chinese and Spanish) given that it has 335,000,000 speakers. It is therefore unsurprising that how its sound can vary from one place to another. Today we’re going to have a look at one particular variety: English UK.

Even though the UK is relatively small in terms of size, spoken English varies significantly from one end of the country to the other.  Received Pronunciation (RP) is intended to be a standard pronunciation of the language. It’s not actually spoken by many people other than the Queen and BBC news reporters and it’s often associated with the idea of intelligence and authority.  This may be because it emerged from the 18th and 19th century aristocracy. It is used for phonetic pronunciation in dictionaries as well as for teaching English (anyone who’s studied English Phonetics will know what I’m talking about). A characteristic of this accent is the lack of the “r” pronunciation in final positions. For example mother is pronounced “muthuh”.

Some of the dialects spoken in the UK:

Cockney: It’s associated with the traditional working-class accent, specifically from the Eastern side of London. Speakers characteristically drop the “h” from words and turn “th” into an “f” sound so that: “‘ouse” is house and “fank you” is thank you. One of its most peculiar traits is its rhyming slang. It works by taking two associated words in which the second must rhyme with the one intended. The first word is said to indicate the one actually intended so for example “plates of meat” means feet and “loaf of bread” means head.

Estuary English: It’s described as something in between Cockney and RP and gets its name from the location of its speakers who live on the estuaries of the River Thames in Central and Greater London. This dialect is interesting and it seems to be the most popular today. It apparently increases “street credibility” yet a lot of speakers with regional accents tend to adopt it because it sounds more sophisticated. The word “cheers” is characteristic of the Estuary dialect. It’s increasingly used instead of saying thanks and also as a greeting.

A few more dialects spoken in the UK are West Country (Southwest British), Midlands English and Northern England English.