Language Attitudes and Opinions

Ever heard an accent or dialect and instantly disliked it? What about those accents you really like? Everyone has attitudes and opinions on accents and dialects, and Leomarc_caution_steep_hill_downdialectologists try to work out what they are and why they exist. 

 

Peter Trudgill suggests that it is possible to differentiate all the major regional accents of England by using the sentence :

“VERY FEW CARS MADE IT UP THE LONG HILL”

This is because no two speakers from two different regions will pronounce all of these words in the same way. Here are nine examples we collected from people from all different regions in England saying Trudgill’s sentence. Listen to each clip and guess where the speaker is from based on the knowledge you may already have of accents.

 

Kal

Charlotte

Lucy

Lorna

Lewis

David

Ian

Chris

James

 

In Dialectology, specific methods can detect where certain accents originate. This is done by looking at the phonological, grammatical and lexical features of an accent or dialect. Trudgill will have been looking at phonological features alone in this case. If you wish to read more about what his investigation consisted of, Joan Beal explains it in detail in her 2006 book ‘Language and Region’. [1]

 

Accents and Opinions

People often instinctively form opinions about speakers based on their accents and dialects, and you may have found yourself doing this while listening to the sound clips above. However in linguistics we take a descriptive view of language and strongly avoid judgement like ‘correct’ or ‘wrong’ when talking about a certain accent or dialect.

English does have a standard as well as the RP (received pronunciation) accent (see Standardisation and RP for further discussion), but this does not mean other accents and dialects are lesser or inadequate in any way. In fact, Standard English and RP are considered just one of many accents by linguists.

The outcome of these attitudes can have significant social consequences. However much linguists try to take an impartial approach, people will generally associate accents and dialects with geographical location which in turn leads to assumptions being made about the people who live there as a whole. 

If you’ve gotten interested in how languages influence society, take a look at our Sociolinguistics section to learn more. 


References

[1] Beal, J.C. (2006) Language and Region, Abingdon: Routledge.