Ulrike Altendorf
Estuary English
Levelling at the Interface of RP and South-Eastern British English
ISBN: 3-8233-6022-1
ISSN: 0939-9399
Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2003


The term "Estuary English" (EE) was coined by David Rosewarne in 1984 and first described in a widely regarded article in the Times Educational Supplement. According to Rosewarne, EE is a phonetically and socially intermediate accent on the south-eastern accent continuum between Cockney and RP. What he considers to be new and most striking about EE is its increasing social acceptability. Rosewarne even goes so far as to describe EE as "the new RP".

Since the term "Estuary English" was coined, it has been discussed with increasing frequency and unreduced controversy, first by the linguistic layman and then also by professional linguists. In this discussion the term has proved as unpopular with professional linguists as it is popular with the linguistic layman. Journalists and literary authors make frequent use of the term in order to label a number of different trends, such as structural convergence of the accents of the Home Counties or the situation-related use of London variants by speakers who are otherwise speakers of RP. Linguists on the other hand are very critical of the term itself and the way it is used. Some see it as an inappropriate "shorthand" for only partly related trends, others as a new name for an old phenomenon.

The continued disagreement about EE is mostly due to the absence of systematic empirically-based socio-phonetic studies of EE in the larger context of the south-eastern accent continuum. This book is such a systematic study aiming at describing and explaining EE. It also contains a section exploring possible explanations - both socio-historical and system-internal - for the rise and shape of the socio-linguistic situation in south-eastern England today.