The Guardian, London, Friday 25 June 1999

Young favour Americanisms

Gregory Byron

Young people are abandoning traditional pronunciations in favour of Americanisms while older people remain loyal to the Queen's English, a comprehensive survey of phonetic preferences has found.

Two thirds of people aged under 26 now call a schedule a "skedule" in contrast to 92% of over 65s who still say "shedule", according to research by a linguistics and phonetics professor, John Wells, who has compiled a new edition of the Longman pronunciation dictionary due out in November.

He also discovered that half of young people pronounce ogle "oggle" while 95% of over-65s would rather "oagle".

The survey of 2,000 people from all over the country - the largest of its kind in Britain - revealed a growing fondness among the young for saying "veycation", and for stressing the first syllable in "princess" rather than the latter.

But it is not all doom and gloom for guardians of traditional British pronunciation. Few people - even among the young - have taken to saying "nitch" rather than "neesh" for niche, and only 3% of those questioned say "sighmultaneous" for simultaneous.

Prof Wells, of University College London, said he found strong differences of opinion over many of the 100 words covered by the survey.

The debate over "scone" illustrates the point. Two thirds of people prefer "sconn" but a third steadfastly prefer "scoan".

Prof Wells said yesterday: "There seems to be no difference between the north and the south of England, although the Scots are solid for 'sconn'.

"Some English people think that 'sconn' is ordinary and 'scoan' is posh, but others think it is the other way round."

His research also uncovered a tendency of young, southern people to adopt a northern lilt. "Chance" was pronounced "chans" by 60% of young people whereas 80% of over-65s preferred "chahnce".

Prof Wells said: "There is a northern pronunciation increasing among the young which the word 'chance' clearly shows."

He added: "Older people will be shocked that the under-26s prefer 'misCHIEVous' to the traditional 'MISchievous'."

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the pronunciation of "controversy" continues, with 40% of people preferring to stress the first syllable while 60% prefer to stress the second.

Placed on the web 1999 06 25 JCW, lifted from,3604,61078,00.html

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