English accents 4. Estuary English

English accents
4. Estuary English
• The 1980's: a claim that a new variety of English
has arisen, Estuary English
• The 1990's: the name enters popular usage. The
existence of EE is taken as a fact.
• The 2000's: scholarly accounts based on
substantial research appear. They show that EE
as previously defined does not exist.
The claim
'"Estuary English" is a variety of modified regional
speech. It is a mixture of non-regional and local
south-eastern English pronunciation and
intonation. If one imagines a continuum with RP
and London speech at either end, "Estuary
English" speakers are to be found grouped in the
middle ground.'
David Rosewarne 1984
'The heartland of this variety lies by
the banks of the Thames and its
estuary, …'
Rosewarne, 1984
…but it seems to be the most
influential accent in the south-east
of England. Rosewarne 1984
The hype
'Estuary English can nowadays be
heard throughout London and the
Home Counties and well beyond …
as far as the north Norfolk coast, …
the Dorset coast, … the south Kent
coast … beyond the northern
boundaries of Cambridgeshire,
Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.'
Coggle 1993
My view is that Rosewarne is misguided in very many respects.
For a start, it's is not a new variety, it's just a standardised form of
speech with Southeastern phonology. People have spoken like
that for years and years. EE retains some regional low-level
phonetic features. What MAY be new is the fact that the nonstandard urban dialects are being levelled in the whole SE
region, so that it is increasingly hard to tell even where
nonstandard speakers come from. Rosewarne completely
misleadingly tries to associate EE with certain discourse features,
such as stressing prepositions and using tags. This is nonsense,
and seems to be based on his dependence on local radio for his
data. What we can say is that, although attitudes to it are still not
positive, it is becoming more and more used in high-status
occupations, including broadcasting. It lacks the snobbery
associated with some forms of RP.
Kerswill Linguist List 5.527, 08 May 1994
JCW's proposed definition
EE = Standard English spoken with a non-RP,
London-influenced accent
(a) has standard grammar, and
(b) does not have stigmatized characteristics such
 h-dropping
 [æ:, a:] in MOUTH words
 [ʔ] for [t] between vowels within a word
TH fronting (??)
The spread of Cockney features to Estuary and RP
Cockney Estuary
- no
± perhaps
+ yes
Transcribing Estuary English:
differences from RP
• for -ing optionally write EE /ɪn/; for -thing optionally write EE /θɪŋk/
• for RP dark /l/, write EE /o/
• for RP /t/ when between {a vowel or sonorant} and {a consonant or
word boundary}, write EE /ʔ/
• for RP /tj, dj/, write EE /tʃ, dʒ/
• for RP /aɪ, aʊ/, write EE /ɑɪ, æʊ/
• for RP /n̩/ in various positions, write EE /ən/
• for twenty, plenty, want(ed, ing, it, us), went (before a vowel), in EE
optionally omit the /t/
The confusion
Stylistic variability
degrees of formality
there you go!
Good or bad?
● EE 'has street cred', is 'modern, up-front,
● EE is 'a bastardized version of Cockney
The truth
Percentage of glottalling by
teenagers (Przedlacka, p. 87)
Bethnal Green 85
Aylesbury, Bucks
Lit. Baddow, Essex
Farningham, Kent
Walton/Hill, Surrey