What is Estuary English techinically? I know it's spoken in Southeast England, but by whom? Is it the accent of the everyday working-class people, or just about everybody from that region? Is it at all similar to Cockney?
I've also heard that it's becoming more influential across England. Is this true?
As an Englishman who prides himself on speaking the Queen's English but actually speaks Estuary English, maybe I can help.
Like cockneys, we drop a lot of t's and h's but we also mispronounce the l's at the end of words.
For example, fool becomes fooww and hell hole becomes hew hoeww.
<Is it the accent of the everyday working-class people, or just about everybody from that region?>
You can hear many different accents in the south-east of England; "estuary" is by no means prevalent.
In fact, I wouldn't myself call it an accent; rather, I would say that it consists of several features, which may give an "estuary" flavour to the base accent.
Sometimes speakers deliberately adopt "estuary" features in particular contexts. Thus Tony Blair affects glottal stops in informal tv interviews, for instance, but not in House of Commons pronouncements.
This topic has been discussed ad nauseam on this forum and elswhere, too. You can find a lot of articles and even dissertations on this if you type in the keyword 'Estuary English' into Google.
<<if you type in the keyword 'Estuary English' into Google.>>
just 'type', without 'in'
Just google estuary english ;)
Oi Liz you spoil sport!!! I'm more than happy to see people discussing my rather dodgy addition to the English language thank you!!!
To answer the question, generally speaking Estuary English is as close as you'll get to Cockney these days (bar one or two enclaves of East London) and can be correctly summed up as a 'poor man's Cockney'.
We do tend to drop our H's (like the French??) but this is starting to change (I think). We also do drop alot of our T's (like the Americans??).
The working class areas of Mid & South Essex do tend to have a more 'cockney' sort of accent whereas the middles classes (if there are any??) tend to work out of town (such as the city - like my bruv) and talk more RP(ish). Actually RP is probably a bad example, they just talk less .......estuary?
Sorry about the grammer people - at work and half asleep (dead).
Grammar - not grammer, hopefully I got there before anyone else did.
We thought grammer was cockney, you spoiled it now ;)
"Like cockneys, we drop a lot of t's and h's but we also mispronounce the l's at the end of words. "
How dare you insinuate that the English do not pronounce English correctly. Perhaps we should take Elocution lessons from the Germans?
<<We do tend to drop our H's (like the French??) but this is starting to change (I think). We also do drop alot of our T's (like the Americans??).>>
We Americans don't drop our T's, per se. We actually tend to pronounce intervocalic T's as an aveolar tap, which sounds like a D ("latter" sounds like "ladder", thus making them homophones).
Also, thanks for the info. Would typical Estuary English be like the stereotypical English or "British" accent to Americans?
<Would typical Estuary English be like the stereotypical English or "British" accent to Americans?>
That's quite difficult to answer. Which e.g. actors seem to have a stereotypical British accent, to your ears?
All the best,
>>We Americans don't drop our T's, per se. We actually tend to pronounce intervocalic T's as an aveolar tap, which sounds like a D ("latter" sounds like "ladder", thus making them homophones).<<
That is not entirely true; it is common to drop /t/ and /d/ in certain words in North American English dialects today ("little", "ready", etc.), and in some more progressive forms of some dialects such as my own, much more widespread elision of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ before unstressed vowels and in word-final positions occurs. Similarly, it is the norm in NAE to simplify certain consonant clusters, especially in more common words like "just" or "most", such that many instances of /t/ and /d/ are lost along the way.
Note that this is not necessarily the complete loss of /t/ and /d/, though, as in dialects like my own they still have a significant influence over vowel length and palatalization even if they are not directly realized (certain consonant clusters are inherently palatalized in some NAE dialects, and the loss of consonants often does not reverse such palatalization). For instance, "sort of" in my dialect is [ˈsɔʁəː(v̥)] (from /sortə(v)/) rather than the [ˈsɔːʁəː(v̥)] one would expect if it were /sorə(v)/. and likewise "faster" is commonly [ˈfɛ̯æsʲːʁ̩ː]/[ˈfɛ̞sʲːʁ̩ː] (from /ˈfæstər/), whereas if it were /ˈfæsər/ it would be [ˈfɛ̯æsʁ̩ː]/[ˈfɛ̞sʁ̩ː].
<<That's quite difficult to answer. Which e.g. actors seem to have a stereotypical British accent, to your ears?>>
The first person who comes to mind is Keira Knightley, but with less precise T's and glottal stops.
I don't remember KK's natural accent; but her accent in "Atonement" is quite some way from Estuary English. (It seems to be based on Celia Johnson's "Brief Encounter" accent.)
That said, glottal stops and less precise Ts can certainly give an ordinary RP accent an Estuary flavour; though the full EE tends to be associated with slightly lower social status than RP. I'll try to think of a full-EE-speaking actor or public figure whose accent might be familiar to you.