Although this book is in its fourth edition, and Trudgill and Hannah (henceforth T & H) have added a rather substantial amount of new material since it was first published some twenty years ago, its main focus remains the same, namely ''*Standard English*, the variety of the English language which is normally employed in writing and normally spoken by 'educated' speakers of the language'' (p. 1). It is made up of eight chapters - two more than in the original edition - which are followed by a two-page glossary, a slightly longer list of references
and an index.
Chapter 1 begins by introducing what are generally considered to be the two main standard varieties of English. The first is British English or, as the authors prefer to call it, English English (EngEng) which ''generally means Standard English as it is normally written and spoken by educated speakers of England and, with minor differences, in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa'' (p. 2). The other major variety is North
American English (NAmEng) by which they mean ''English as it is written and spoken by educated speakers in the United States of America and Canada'' (p. 2). This chapter also includes a section on the spread of English, and one on the nature of native overseas Englishes which is a recent addition to the text.
Chapter 2 comprises three main sections. The first is on Received Pronunciation (RP) which is ''the accent which is normally taught to students who are studying EngEng'' (p. 8). T & H provide a description of the vowel and consonant systems of this form of English as well as a list of the most notable vowel differences that are found in what they call near-RP south-of-England accents. The second section discusses the major phonological and grammatical features of Australian English (AusEng), New Zealand English (NZEng) and South African English
(SAfEng). The last section does the same for Welsh English (WEng).
The next two chapters deal with North American English. The first is devoted exclusively to pronunciation and includes sections on vowels, consonants, stress, regional differences in the United States (USEng), and a recently added separate section on Canadian English (CanEng). In the second chapter, the authors deal in turn with some of the salient grammatical, orthographical and lexical differences between NAmEng and EngEng. What emerges from this survey is that while ''there are relatively few differences in grammar and spelling between EngEng and NAmEng ... vocabulary differences ... are very numerous and are capable of causing varying degrees of comprehension problems'' (p. 55).
Chapter 5 focuses on Scottish English (ScotEng) and Irish English (IrEng). In the first section, T & H ''concentrate on Scottish English as used and spoken by educated, middle-class urban Scots'', which constitutes ''a form of Standard English which is grammatically and lexically not very different from that used elsewhere'' though it is spoken ''with a very obviously Scottish accent'' (p. 91). The rest of the chapter is divided between the English of Northern Ireland (NIrEng) and
that of the Republic (SIrEng). The former refers specifically to ''the ScotEng-origin varieties spoken in the north of Ireland, i.e. Ulster-Scots and Mid-Ulster English'' while the latter denotes ''the EngEng-origin varieties of the south of Ireland'' (p. 99).
The original Chapter 6, which contained two sections entitled ''English-based Creoles'' and ''Non-native Varieties of English'', has been expanded to three separate chapters. The first of these examines West Indian Standard English, that is, Jamaican English (JamEng) and other Caribbean Englishes such as those of Trinidad and Guyana, as well as various English-based pidgins and creoles of that area. Chapter 7 surveys lesser-known Englishes, i.e., those of ''many other places in the world where there are long-established communities of native English'' (p. 115), such as the Channel Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Falklands, Zimbabwe, etc. Finally, Chapter 8 looks into the numerous second language varieties of English which are found ''in those nations where English is used as an official language, and/or as a language of education, and/or as a means of wider communication within the country, by people who are not native speakers'' (p. 123). There are sections on the varieties spoken in West Africa, East Africa, India, Singapore and the Philippines.
Any book which is deemed worthy of a fourth edition must be answering the needs of a great many people. As an instructor in English phonetics and phonology who has always encouraged students to transcribe material in their own dialect, I have often gone to this guide in search of the major characteristics of certain varieties of non-NAmEng speech in order to help them find the symbols that would most faithfully reflect their pronunciation. Just recently, for example, a student from Scotland came to me for help in determining how she should transcribe words like 'pat' and 'pot', and I was able to confirm to her through the table of ScotEng
vowels on p. 92 that she was using a central low vowel in the former and a mid-low back rounded vowel in the latter in contradistinction to my CanEng low front/back (unrounded) opposition in such forms. In sum, my own personal use of this handbook over the last fifteen years or so has convinced me that T & H have more than fulfilled their modest goal of providing ''at least a partial solution to the problem of recognizing and coping with differences among the standard varieties of English by covering differences at the levels of phonetics, phonology, grammar and vocabulary'' (p. 3).