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Review of  English Accents and Dialects, Fourth Edition

Reviewer: Wendy Anderson
Book Title: English Accents and Dialects, Fourth Edition
Book Author: Arthur John Hughes Peter Trudgill Dominic Watt
Publisher: Hodder Education
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 18.609

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AUTHORS: Hughes, Arthur ; Trudgill, Peter ; Watt, Dominic
TITLE: English Accents and Dialects, Fourth Edition
SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in
the British Isles
PUBLISHER: Hodder Arnold
YEAR: 2005

Wendy Anderson, SCOTS Project, Department of English Language, University
of Glasgow, Scotland


This essential introduction to English accents and dialects was first
published in 1979, and now reaches its fourth edition. Each edition has
been fuller than the last, but it remains a slim, concise volume, which
will be attractive to students and general users alike. Compared with the
third edition (1996), the main additions in the fourth are new sections on
the speech of Leicester, Aberdeen and Galway, and corresponding new
exercises. There is also an updated reference list, and substantially more
detail on further reading, including reference to Aberdeen University's
portal to online resources (at which is
carefully selected and kept up-to-date. A welcome improvement with this new
edition is a CD, containing 75 minutes of audio material, rather than the
audio cassette which was available with previous editions. The recordings
are very varied, in terms of the age of speaker, subject of discussion and
level of formality: examples include an Edinburgh schoolboy talking about
gang fighting, a Liverpool barmaid discussing pubs, and a middle-aged woman
from Norwich on how she met her husband.

Chapters 1 to 4 (together constituting roughly half of the book) introduce
the reader to variation in modern British English from the point of view of
dialect and accent, with each chapter ending with a useful summary. Chapter
1, Variation in English, provides a descriptivist overview of the
parameters of variation, particularly targeted at foreign learners. The
notions of dialect and accent and Received Pronunciation (RP) are also
dealt with here, and the authors move regularly from general statements to
examples of salient features (such as the glottal stop in Estuary English).
Despite the main focus on user-related variation, stylistic variation and
unconditioned variation also receive attention. Chapter 1 ends with a
glance at the notion of correctness: as one would expect, correctness is
presented as a matter of appropriateness to the situation.

Chapter 2 focuses in on Dialect Variation, both within Standard English,
particularly north-south differences in usage, and non-standard varieties.
Lexical features receive only cursory treatment (further examples can be
found in Chapter 5 in the sections on individual locations), but salient
grammatical features differentiating varieties of Standard English are
explained clearly with well-chosen examples. The topics covered in
non-standard varieties include relative pronouns, prepositions of place,
multiple negation and the past tense of irregular verbs.

Chapter 3 moves on from dialect to accent, setting out a framework for the
description of Received Pronunciation, presented here as containing
internal variation of its own. A large part of this chapter takes the
reader through the individual consonant and vowel sounds of RP, and then
presents discussion and transcriptions of three recordings (from the
accompanying CD), highlighting the differences between the RP varieties

Chapter 4 discusses regional accent variation, particularly the urban
variation which foreign learners of English are likely to encounter. It
deals in turn with ten consonant or vowels sounds which are central to
variation. There follows a very useful table summing up of key phonological
characteristics (p. 71).

Students will now be well prepared for the series of snapshots of the
speech of individual areas of the British Isles which are offered in
Chapter 5. Each of the 16 sections corresponds to material on the CD:
recordings of word lists and natural speech for the first 13 representative
towns and cities, and a recording of natural speech alone from three areas,
namely Devon, Northumberland and Lowland Scotland, representing traditional
dialects. Each section contains 10-15 numbered comments on distinctive
features of pronunciation and a figure showing vowel qualities. References
to the recordings are made where possible. Finally, each section contains
an annotated, orthographic transcription of the recording.

The front matter includes the IPA chart and the word list used in the
recordings, phonetically transcribed in RP, therefore allowing for direct
comparison between accents. Following Chapter 5 on individual accents come
a number of suggestions for using the book. This contains general ideas for
student activities, as well as exercises on each chapter (answers to which
can be found in the relevant chapter). Judging by the suggested exercises,
the authors are targeting an audience of both native English speakers (such
as undergraduate students of linguistics or phonetics) and learners of
English, particularly those who wish to be exposed to a range of British
accents (and to a lesser extent, dialects) for the purposes of
comprehension rather than production. After the activities the reader is
offered notes on the test passages contained in the CD - ten short
recordings which may be used to test students' recognition, and three
longer passages of varieties which have not previously been introduced, for
discussion and identification. Finally, the index includes entries on
individual phonemes as well as placenames and the usual key words.


This book is tried and tested and the fourth edition offers greater
geographical coverage, the flexibility of a CD and general improvements in
maps and phonetic diagrams. It would be an excellent textbook for an
introductory course on British English dialects, and also for learners of
English keen to familiarise themselves with variation, for example before a
study year in Britain.

That said, it is much more useful as an introduction to accent differences
than to dialect. Similarly, and with reference to the subtitle of the book,
it is much more thorough as an account of regional parameters for variation
than other social parameters, although such issues are touched upon and
contribute to the book's overall portrayal of variation based on a large
number of factors. Some readers may wish for more detail, either fuller
comments on individual towns and cities or a larger number of these.
However, for such a compact, introductory volume, there is a surprising
amount of detail. The book serves as a valuable overview: students should
refer to the more specialist works mentioned in the book for fuller details
on individual varieties.

For tutors keen to integrate further authentic examples into courses, this
book would readily serve as inspiration for numerous corpus studies. It is
only a shame that more corpora and online resources covering varieties of
English are not available (though see the References section below for
details of a few). To use an example close to myself, the Scottish Corpus
of Texts and Speech can provide startlingly clear evidence of the
age-related use of 'like' as a pause-filler, focus marker, and in its
quotative function (discussed here in Chapter 2). The BNC (particularly
through the VIEW interface) can show relative frequency of competing
grammatical structures (e.g. the marked and unmarked plurality in ''a
hundred pounds'' / ''a hundred pound''). Aberdeen University's extensive
language and linguistics links are an excellent starting point for finding
online texts and resources to investigate the book's topics more
thoroughly. The British Library's Sound Archive and the BBC Voices pages
are particularly relevant here (web addresses in the References below).

To summarise, the book is clear and concise, packing a great deal of
information into only 159 pages and a CD. As such, it is likely to continue
to be of great value to undergraduate students, senior school pupils, and a
more general user wishing to familiarise him/herself with geographical
variation in British English. For an introductory book of this level, the
geographical coverage really could not be bettered.


Hughes, Arthur, Trudgill, Peter (1996). ''English Accents and Dialects: An
Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British
Isles''. Third Edition. Hodder Arnold.

Aberdeen University web resources for linguistics:

British Library accents and dialects webpage:

British National Corpus (BNC):

British National Corpus VIEW interface:

Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech (SCOTS):

Wendy Anderson is Research Assistant on the Scottish Corpus of Texts and
Speech (SCOTS) project at the University of Glasgow. Her Ph.D. (St. Andrews
University, 2003) was a corpus study of phraseology and collocation in
European Union administrative French. She is also interested in the
languages of Scotland and French-English translation.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0340887184
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: c.176pp
Prices: U.K. £ 24.99