Estuary English?!?

J.C.Wells, University College London

Handout for a talk first given at the BAAP Colloquium, Cambridge, 1992, and later revised

1. ‘Estuary English’ (EE) was defined by Rosewarne (1984) as: ‘a variety of modified regional speech, [...] a mixture of non-regional and local south-eastern English pronunciation and intonation’. It received great media attention in 1993. Coggle’s book (1993) is subtitled ‘the new Standard English’. The Tory Minister of Education condemned it as ‘a bastardized version of Cockney dialect’.

2. EE differs from Cockney in that it lacks
/h/ dropping (in content words) "hænd Qn "hA:t ("ænd Qn "A:?)
TH fronting TINk (fINk), "fA:ð@ ("fA:v@)
MOUTH vowel monophthong mæUT (ma:f), dæUn (da:n)
T glottalling within a word before V "bVt@ ("bV?@), "wO:t@ ("wOU?@)

3. EE agrees with Cockney, but differs from RP, in having (perhaps variably)
tense vowel in HAPPY "hæpi, "kQfi, "ve@ri@s
T glottalling finally (etc.) "teIk I? "Qf, "ðæ? "Iz, "pV?ni
vocalization of preconsonantal/final /l/ "mIok %bQto, "dZento/"dZen?li
yod coalescence in stressed syllables "tSu:zdeI, rI"dZu:s, "stSu:d@n?
(?) diphthong shift in FACE, PRICE, GOAT fVIs, prAIs, gVU?
(?) striking allophony (phoneme split?) in sold sQU(5)d, "rQUl@

4. Disregard Rosewarne's claims re
glottalling of /d/ (!)
phonetic quality of /r/
yod dropping after /s/ and /l/ su:t, "æbs@lu:t
accenting of prepositions, use of rise-fall, use of question-tags
usage: cheers 'thank you; goodbye'; there you go 'here you are' etc.
international ratings (RP 84%, GenAm 71%, Australian 59%, EE 57%...)

5. Issues:


Posted on the web 1998 Nov 09. John Wells

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