Estuary English

A posting on behalf of Paul Coggle to the LINGUIST list, 6 May 1994

Mirrored from

Further to the recent mention of Estuary English, readers of Linguist may like to know that my book `Do you speak Estuary?' was published in November 1993 by Bloomsbury ISBN 0-7475-1656-1. It did receive a certain amount of media attention at the time, probably because it refers to a number of prominent media personalities who are EE speakers.

EE exists between RP and Cockney and is, I claim, serving as a bridge between the various classes in SE England. So, for instance, upper class speakers can move `down market' from RP towards Cockney (by adopting some, but not all the features of Cockney) and Cockney speakers can move `up market ' towards RP, discarding certain Cockney features and retaining others. I hope to establish whether or not individual features are adopted or discarded in any particular order (it seems that they *are*).

An interesting aspect is that EE seems to be pushing out the traditional accents (of Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Essex etc). Most young people in the SE now speak a version of EE - presumably because it is an urban and not a rural accent and lends `street cred'.

When the University of Kent was established in 1965 the predominant accent amongst our students was RP (tending towards conservative RP). Regional accents were also on their way in, but people tended to modify these towards RP. Now, 29 years later, the tendency is definitely towards EE. Of course other accents are represented, but these tend to get modified towards EE rather than towards RP. Even many of our foreign students are picking up EE features (and sounding all the more English for it!). I suspect that EE will push out RP in the long run or at least will modify it very substantially.

For more details see my book (which as far as I know is the only book so far on this topic)!

I welcome any comments, discussion, further observations etc.

Paul Coggle (University of Kent at Canterbury)

Posted on this UCL P&L site 1998 11 27

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