Estuary English taking over England

Damian   Tuesday, November 02, 2004, 22:39 GMT
Estuary English, in my opinion, has really developed through the final demise of the class system in England.

At one time accent had a direct correlation with class and social status in ENGLAND, but not in Scotland or Wales. In the Celtic fringe it was never an issue, so we in those areas tended to think England and the English were riddled with snobbery, and an English person would immediately judge another from the way he/she spoke. That has not really been the case in Scotland at all...even though Edinburgh does look down a bit on the Glasgow accent, come to think of it, but certainly not in the English sense.

It was through this, for instance, that George Bernard Shaw wrote "Pygmalion", with wee Eliza Doolittle switching from broad Cockney to upper class English which allowed her to circulate in the higher echelons of English society. The film "My Fair Lady" was adapted from the book.

By the 1980's in England a slow move away from RP took place, starting in the London/Thames Estuary area of England and the fashionable trend was to "dumb down" the accent and combine RP with a form of London Cockney (nicknamed Mockney).

Estuary was born, and it was first called that in 1984 by a guy called David Rosewarne. So to be trendy was to adopt Estuary. It started off as a sort of teen-speak but quickly became the standard way of speaking by most people in the age group up to about 30, including the trendsetters moving into all the fashionable developments sprouting up all over London and the South East. High flyers living in newly developed Docklands spoke Estuary doing multi million pound deals in their jobs in the City (the financial centre of London).

RP quickly became seen as a "posh" accent and regarded as old fashioned and fuddy-duddy and increasingly people switched to Estuary in order to appear more "normal" and not still part of some old fashioned class based system that was seen as very outmoded.

It looks as if Estuary is here to stay and spreading relentlessly, so that many people are convinced it will become the new RP of England, certainly in the South of England and most of the Midlands and East Anglia and down into the West Country. Speaking with a posh RP accent is now regarded as a handicap, certainly socially in England.

Scottish and Welsh accents are in a totally different scenario and unaffected by the "English situation". I can't see the Estuary tide lapping at the shores of Scotland and Wales though, not in the immediate future anyway. Although even here glottal stops are part of the linguistic scene....certainly in Edinburgh, which has always been trendy anyway! ;-)
Ben   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 15:00 GMT
You really know that RP is dying when the BBC doesn't actually speak "BBC English" anymore. Even the rather refined accent of Mishal Hussein (drool) on BBC World News would still be more Estuary than RP--she doesn't speak with glottal stops, but her dipthongs are much more "lengthened" than would have been allowed in the old days.
Agnes   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 19:23 GMT

Thank you for your kind help!

I was checking up those links you attached earlier on, and they were quite useful in somewhat.

I'm not from England, and therefor I can't just drop by Milton Keynes and catch up with the natives' accent....

Looking foward to the other links.


Prob   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 20:07 GMT
Another thing that hasn't been mentioned about Estuary English yet is the consonant palatalization of stop clusters.

For example,

''tr'' is pronounced ''chr''. ''train'' is pronounced ''chrain''

''dr'' is pronounced ''jr''. ''drug'' is pronounced ''jrug''.

''due on Tuesday'' is pronounced ''joo on Choozday''.

''stupid'' is pronounced ''shchoopid''

''str'' is pronounced ''shchr''. ''string'' is pronounced ''shchring''
Prob,   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 21:25 GMT
Everyone pronounces "Drug" as "jrug"....
Prob   Wednesday, November 03, 2004, 21:58 GMT
Fake me, No, only in Estuary English is ''drug'' pronounced ''jrug''.
Jim   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 05:22 GMT
No, real Prob, I pronounce "drug" as /dZr^g/ and I don't speak Estuary.
Damian   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 08:29 GMT

I haven't had much time to find a link which concentrates on Estuary yet, but see what you think of this one:

I hope you are able to download it successfully. There is an example of Cockney, from which Estuary originated, but I think the recording must be a wee bit old as it seems rather upmarket from present day East Enders Cockney! The obligatory glottal stop is not so evident. Anyway, try it and see what you think.

There are loads of other accents you can listen to, if you wish. RP and adopted RP. I'm not really sure what that is until I have time to listen to it. Maybe a former Cockney who wants to go upmarket and "speak proper".
vincent   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 11:53 GMT
if there is such phonetic unstability within english language, it will soon explode in many different languages.In comparison, spanish is stronger, its phonetic more stable and, moreover, there is a linguistic norm and an academy to protect it.
Damian   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 15:59 GMT
Vincent: good thinking!
Damian   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 16:09 GMT
Ben: I never tune into the BBC World Service, but whatever her accent is, rest assured Mishal Hussein would not be reading the news if she used glottal stops! The BBC has a policy of never discriminating against regional accents per se, but within reason. I refer to domestic channels and stations here.

On the World Service it's important that the English of all the broadcasters is clear and intelligible so that listeners all over the world are able to understand it. So current RP here would be the best type of English.

Domestically or in the WS, hardline Estuary or any glottal stops on the BBC would not be permitted. Not at the present time anyway, but who knows how trends will develop! ;-)
Easterner   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 16:59 GMT
vincent said: >>if there is such phonetic unstability within english language, it will soon explode in many different languages.In comparison, spanish is stronger, its phonetic more stable and, moreover, there is a linguistic norm and an academy to protect it.<<

It may be the result of the phonetic peculiarities in English itself, more specifivcally to the tendency to weaken unstressed vowels into a schwa and to substitute dental and palatal consonants with glottal stops. For myself, I still find it the safest to stick to a neutral variety of RP.

Damian, one of my teachers back at university said that the Scottish accent as spoken in e.g. Edinburgh is the most intelligible accent of English for foreigners. I wonder what is your view on this.
Easterner   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 17:01 GMT
By the way, the proper spelling of that newscaster's name is Mishal Hussain, isn't it?
Damian   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 18:47 GMT

Good evening.
I can't say what her exact name be honest, I have never heard of the lady as I never tune into the WS.

As for the Edinburgh accent, I suppose it is quite clear and not so broad as to be difficult for foreigners to understand. It is quite soft and not anything like as harsh as that of our "rivals" in Glasgow ;-) I've never heard of anyone from outside the region or the country (ie Scotland) having problems.

I have just heard on the news about three guys from the Black Watch regiment...the pride of Scotland..have been killed in a rocket attack near Baghdad. Scotland is VERY angry this evening. I am sad and if I say any more this post will be deleted! ;-( ;-(
Damian   Thursday, November 04, 2004, 18:54 GMT
Cockney.....the real thing and nothing to do with it's watered down offshoot Estuary.

Cockneys talk about their Barnet fair especially when they go up the apples and pears with their trouble and strife where they may close their mince pies and kick off their plates of meat and then try to get some bo peep.