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Democratisation of Accent

 
  • The character of the accent as spoken by the educated class in Britain has dramatically altered over the past one hundred years or so

 
  • Regional accents have been rehabilitated

 
  • A number of features previously associated with local London speech have become fashionable

 
  • They make up an accent that is sometimes referred to as “Estuary English”

 
  • “Estuary English” was first noticed in the 1980s. It is emerging around the River Thames estuary and spreading around the country, as far north as Yorkshire and as far west as Dorset

 
  • It is a mixture of Received Pronunciation and Cockney

 
  • The rise of this accent has been encouraged by an upmarket movement of originally Cockney speakers and a downmarket trend towards “ordinary” (as opposed to “posh”) speech by the middle class

 
  • Its rise goes hand in hand with the decline in the prestige of Received Pronunciation. By the 1990s conservative RP had begun to attract negative attitudes, such as “posh” and “distant”

 
  • By contrast, Estuary English elicits positive evaluations as “warm”, “customer-friendly”, and “down to earth”

 
  • Call-centres throughout the UK use speakers of regional varieties: varieties of Edinburgh Scots, Yorkshire, and other regional forms are routinely encountered, but traditional RP hardly ever

 
  • The number of people using a non-regionally tinged RP accent has fallen greatly: less than 2% of the British population and falling

 

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