An analysis of variations in style in comparison to Standard English Essay

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An analysis of variations in style in comparison to Standard English

1. Introduction

As in every language there are many different dialect in British English. It has always been and continues to be a language of dialects. Wherever one goes in England there are very obvious differences between the ways in which people speak in different places. This is often a big shock for people who have been learning Standard English which is the variety of English that is held to be ‘correct’ in the sense that it shows none of the regional or other variations that are considered by some to be ungrammatical, or non-standard English.

Non-English school-kids learn SE at school and expect to understand every English person once they enter the country. But the English they learn at school differs from the language which is being spoken in Britain. Of course, SE is used in the media and by public figures, and therefore it has prestige status and is regarded by many as the most desirable form of the language.1

But the English do not speak like that – linguistic reality is different. Not only the words which are being used sometimes differ from Standard English even the grammatical structures vary at times. This work tries to present the differences between Standard English which is being taught at German schools and the dialects which are spoken in England. Altogether these factors might lead to confusing situations at times. German school-kids could hear words in England which they were told not to pronounce in that way when they were learning English at school.

Hughes and Trudgill2 speak of two ways of dealing with the problem of native Britons not being able to speak their own language correctly. They point out that for learners it is not relevant weather their hear correct English or not. The problem which their are confronted with is to understand what they hear from the native speakers and which language-features they can adapt into their own speech. The second point they speak of is if that “the notion of ‘correctness’ is not really useful or appropriate in describing the language of native speakers.”3

To find those differences I will analyse German English books from a Orientierungsstufe4, literature about dialects in Britain as well as private sources. I will try to analyse the gap between German school English an find possible solutions for that problem.


At the beginning of my approach I will be presenting a selection of different accents regarding their regional usage. In the following point I will analyse Standard English which is being taught in German schools and compare these results with the accents mentioned beforehand. After that I will summarize my approaches and try to find explanations as well as possible solutions.

2. The main dialects

I want to start off with the presentation of the main dialects of the English language. For this I will adapt the Dialectology of Baugh5 who differentiates between Northern, West Midlands, East Midlands and Southern. In Old English they were divided into Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon and Kentish6.

Of course there are far more divisions of accents but this would exceed the length of this piece of work. Additionally, I will conclude Cockney7 in my analysis.

2.1. Northern English

This dialect is also knows as Geordie8. The Northeast area contains the urban centres of Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesborough and neighboring areas. Trudgill9 defines some of the best-known characteristics of the modern Northeast pronunciation which include the following. According to him the accent, as we have seen, does not have the diphthongal pronunciations of the long ‘a’ vowel in made, gate, face that are more typical of the south of England, and the same is true of long ‘o’ as in boat, road, load.

It can be defined as a certain kind of simplification. Instead of the Standard English Combination of two vowels in boat [b�ut] only one vowel is being used: [oo] The same phenomenon can be found within the pronunciation of words like made, which are not being pronounced [m�id] but simplified [mehd].

Trudgill also points out that words that have al in the spelling are pronounced with a vowel of the type ‘ah’, so that all is ‘ahl’ and walk is ‘wahk’.

A Geordie-joke makes this difference clear in a funny way: A non-Geordie doctor who asks his patient if he is able to walk makes the patient interprets as a query about work ans replies “Wawk! I cannot even wahk yet!”


The second part of the Northern area, the Lower North and Central North, covers, according to Trudgill, a large area stretching down from Carlisle to Sheffield and covering Cumbria, most of Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire. He points out that this dialect differs from the Northeast by not having ‘ee’ in very. 10 Another remarkable factor he mentions is that he Central North also contains a sub-area in which an interesting type of consonantal change takes place in certain conditions. What happens is that the voiced consonants ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘g’, ‘v’, ‘z’ and ‘j’ change to their voiceless counterpart ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘k’, ‘f’, ‘s’, and ‘ch’ if they occur immediately before any of these same voiceless consonants.11 The examples “E wood goh” (“He would go”) and “E woot coom” (“He would come”). They would pronounce the expression “I don’t know” like “I doont noo”.

Another point is that this dialect is quite similar to the accent Indians or Pakistanis have when they talk English. Many of these dialectal features also appear in their accent. These shared features could be analysed in future for the Asian community in Britain is increasing steadily is growing. Which words, expressions are being brought into English through them would be interesting to find out.

2.2. West Midlands

The central town for this accent is Liverpool. for the accent is very distinctive for this area called Merseyside. It has been mainly influenced by Irish immigrants during the nineteenth century. Hughes/Trudgill12 describe the Liverpool accent defining several features of which I will be mentioning a few.

1. a) There is no contrast between pairs of words like put and putt, both being

pronounced [put].

b) [�] occurs in words like dance, daft etc. […]

c) Words like book and cook have the vowel [u:]

2. Unlike in other northern urban accents (but in common with Newcastle), the final vowels of words like city and seedy is [i:]

3. A relative infrequency of glottal stop occurs.

4. [h] is usually absent, but is sometimes present (him an her)

5. The suffix -ing is [in]


2.3. East Midlands

Based on own experience I can say that one of the clearest markers for the East Midland accent can be defined as a kind of parallelism to German which also appear in the Liverpool accent at times. The word bus, for instance, is not being pronounced [bas] but [bus]. Here, the vowel [u] is being pronounced the same way as in German. The same phenomenon can be found in words like. Another marker for East Midland accent is the pronunciation of the vowel combination [oe] like in shoes, where it is being changed to [�] – [sh�z].

Speakers in this area may even have short ‘e’ at the end of words like coffeh13. Trudgill mentions a diagnostic sentence for this area: “Veri few cahs mayd it up the long ill.”14

2.4. Southern English

Some of these dialectal features of Southern English are similar to the welsh accent. Trudgill states that the Bristol speech is famous for the presence in this accent of a phenomenon called the “Bristol I”. He explains that in the Bristol area, words such as America, India, Diana, Gloria are pronounced with a final ‘I’. Undoubtedly, foreigners would be quite confused hearing words like Americal, Indial and Dianal. This feature might be a result of hypercorrection, according to Trudgill.15

In the South the glottal stop is very common as a pronunciation of ‘t’ which can be found in words like better, water, bet and what. This feature can also be found in Cockney or Midland areas. Trudgill mentions the diagnostic feature of the South are the lack of ‘y’ in few, which differentiates it from all other English regions except the Northeast, although today ‘h’ is rapidly being lost.16 He also notes that it a typical factor for East Anglia is “the lack of distinction between the vowels of here and there, so that peer sounds like pair, here like hair and deer like dare.”17

2.5. Cockney

Cockney can be counted as a very special dialect because it can only be found amongst people who live in and around the London area. Let alone the name for this accent is special because it does not refer directly to the region.


The term Cockney originally stems from the middles ages where it was applied to an effeminate person, simpleton or a particularly weak man from a town as opposed to a countryman who was regarded as tougher. In the 17th century the term changed and came to mean specifically a Londoner.

The six most striking features of Cockney are18:

1. r is pronounced only when followed immediately by a vowel-sound. So, in the demonstration below, no r is pronounced in flowers. (Some New England accents and Southern U.S. accents have this same feature.)

2. h is usually omitted (home in the demonstration words); in self-conscious speech it’s articulated very strongly.

3. l is pronounced only when a vowel-sound follows (so no l is pronounced in hole, etc.).

4. Voiceless th is often, but not always, pronounced as f (breath, etc.).

5. Voiced th is likewise often but not always pronounced as v (breathe, etc.) This feature is also found in Southern U.S. lower social class speech.

6. The long vowels are all diphthongs, as one can hear from the demonstration words. Notice especially the difference between force etc. (spelled with r followed by a consonant, though the r is not pronounced) and poor etc. (spelled with r not followed by a consonant, though again the r is not pronounced).

More examples for this would be:

price [proi�]

mother [mawa]

little [li’ou] –> with a glottal stop in the middle

note [no’] –> with a glottal stop at the end

bowl [bao]

Cockney has another speciality. It consists of a special vocabulary which is called Cockney rhyming slang. It has been evolving in the East End of London since the sixteenth century. It is thought to have originated from the seamen and soldiers who used the London docks, from the Gypsies who arrived in the fifteen hundreds, from the Irish residents and the Jewish faction and from all the other ethnic minorities which have made up the population of the city.19


It is said to have started as a way for costermongers20 to communicate without letting their customers know what they were saying. The slang usually consists of two words, e.g. butcher’s hook = look but sometimes only the first word is used in conversation.

For example, someone might say “I had a butchers at her barnet and her titfer” meaning I had a look at her hair (barnet fair) and her hat (tit for tat). One has to know, though, when to use the whole phrase and when to abbreviate. Another example: “Would you Adam and Eve it? I was on me Jack Jones when I saw me old china half inching a whistle from the market. Well, I ain’t no grass and he’s borassic, so I kept me north and south shut.”

Translation: “Would you believe it? I was on my own when I saw my old mate (friend) pinching (stealing) a suit from the market. Well, I’m not a nark (informer) and he’s skint (got no money, hard up) so I kept my mouth shut.”

In the Internet a whole dictionary can be found consisting of old and new Rhyming-Slang. The freshest contribution was the expression “Becks and Posh” for food. Food is also called nosh which rhymes with the nicknames of the famous David and Victoria Beckham, nationwide known as “Becks and Posh”21.

This last example makes it clear that the rhyming slang does not have and economical reasons behind. It is more or less result of playing with words which the English are very fond of (for example in newspaper headlines). Additionally it is of course, the sense of togetherness, a kind of linguistic fellowship by defining a secret language as a code of London residents whereas this point, regarding the high population rate, refers more to small groups of people.

3. Standard English – English-teaching in lower-saxony

English has the status of a global language – nearly everybody applying for a good job needs to prove his or her English skills. The competition is getting harder and harder. This is one of the factors leading to the current discussion whether to introduce English to schoolchildren at an even earlier age then 10. Some primary schools offer this already. Another interesting fact is that more and more schools offer bilingual teaching. The Ricarda-Huch-Schule in Braunschweig, for instance, offers several subjects being taught in English to make the children learn both, biology and English, at once.


Like this English finds its way into our life in more and more ways. But coming back to education a problem arises. Of course, children cannot learn every single accent being spoken in England, so that is why there are set forms for the learning process. They are identical to the language understood by the term of Standard English.

Different then in Germany there cannot be found any accent-free regions in England. In comparison to that you can find unofficial figures which tell us that Hanover is most likely to be accent-free. Standard English, on the other hand, is more of an indicator for an upper social status, it can be seen as a class-dialect, owing it’s origin in the main not to geographical but to socio-economic causes. At the end it is quite a thin border between the English which is being taught at foreign schools and the English which is meant to represent “poshness”.

Wakelin22 marks “that a distinction must be made between Standard English, which is a dialect in use by educated speakers of English throughout the world, and ‘Received Pronunciation, which is the accent of English usually associated with a higher social or academic background, with the BBC and the professions, and that most commonly taught to students learning English as a foreign language.”23 So one has to clearly differentiate between Received Pronunciation (RP) and Standard English (SE).

So, why is Standard English so different from the other accents then? Wakelin defines that “Standard English is the sort of language used when communicating beyond the family, close friends and acquaintances, whereas dialect is nowadays often kept for intimate circles.”24 So it can be seen as the most relevant English accent which can be understood everywhere and is compatible to every region in England.

This type of English as being called “normal English” by Randolph Quirk25 is being taught children and adults all around the world. The following graphic tries to illustrate the violation which arises when both Standard English and regional accents clash.


People with different mother tongues learn English as their first or as another foreign language. They all refer to the same Vocabulary, use the same grammar and expressions which have been set by the Standard English-norm.

3.1. Comparison to English accents

The chapter of “English Sounds” prepares the learning schoolchildren with the explanation that English words are often being pronounced differently than they are written and defines some words by using the phonetical alphabet.26

I want to show the differences of Standard English and English accents by directly comparing several words to each other. Referring to the pronunciation I want to compare the word but which is being pronounced with a short [u] in South England and with a long [oo] in Northern England27 whereas schoolchildren learn to pronounce the word but with an [??28?

There is one area of England where the ‘y’ sound has been lost as a result of a historical process. This can be found in words like beauty [booty], music [moosic] and few [foo]29 and is probably going to spread more with the years.


Whereas in foreign schools it is still being taught that music should be pronounced [‘mju:zik]30 and beautiful [‘bju:t?f?l]31.

The pronunciation of milk also differs. “Camden Market” teaches the children to pronounce it [m�lk]32 but the pronunciation according to the modern dialectology says that “in a large area of southeastern England this consonant has aquired a short ‘oo’-like vowel in fron of it, or, especially in London itself, has disappeared altogether, leaving only the ‘oo’ behind.”33 So in this case the word milk is being pronounced [mioolk] which is being defined as a quite a recent change but spreading rapidly through the country.

Now shifting over to the less problematical field of lexical variations it can be said that there are several words with the same meaning – but regionally fixed.

Words like the Standard English term gymshoe are known as the general term but in England they have more expressions for that. In the southern region they are called plimsolls, in middle English they are called pumps and people living in and around Newcastle talk about sandshoes.34

The word ear has also has different regional variations. In the North they talk about lugs and around Nottinghamshire one can also hear them talking about tabs. The Eastern part of England also might use lug. Standard English, of course, only teaches ear.

4. Summary

On the whole it there is a big gap to be found between the English which is being taught in schools and the English which is being spoken in England. My analysis makes it quite clear that several difficulties occur when a person who has been learning English for five years and thinks he is now prepared for the linguistic challenge in England.

The reality is different, as my paper shows. There is nearly nobody who speaks accent-free English but on the other hand Standard English mixes into the accents more and more. The loss of pure dialects is being mourned about in the whole country. The dialects are no longer ‘pure’, if they ever were, but contain a large admixture of Standard English or pseudo-Standard forms, as Wakelin35 mentions. The main reason for this development might be the result of the following problem:


In England is that people often get discriminated because of their language. The dialect is a clear social marker these days. Many countries have problem with racism, but in England people sometimes get discriminated against if they sound different.

For example:

A Scouse accent refers to a very rough area and there are chances are that the speaker is a thief

A Posh accent: If people talk like this then they are supposedly educated, and can be trusted. Others would think your a rich person, and that your stuck up and you went to a boarding school.

A Brummie accent: If a person speaks like this, then chances are that people think he is stupid.

A Geordie accent: For some reason, the geordie accent is more comforting to southerners in England out of all the northern accents. Even though a Geordie can live in just as much a rough area, than a scouser if not rougher.

A Yorkshire accent: There is a saying about this dialect called “Yorkshire born, yorkshire bread, thick in the arm and thick in the head?”

A Cornish accent: If somebody talks like this most people think they are a farmer.

The significance of accents and their cultural and social associations is well represented in films and on television in Britain. The critically acclaimed 1964 file “My fair Lady” based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1912 play, Pygmalion is often referenced in linguistic discussions as a example of how social class and accent were, and are still, inextricably linked in Britain. Over the past years, numerous television series have also provided viewers with a glimpse of the lives and accents of the Cockney population of London. The Cockney English section talks more about the current, very popular long running television series “EastEnders”.

This opposes my supposition that Standard English might not be the right form to teach people English or should only form the basis of the linguistic education. The fact that the dialects are slowly dying and Standard English is spreading all over the world questions this. Additionally, more and more immigrants from mainly the Asian region bring in a new Standard English which I have been mentioning in point 2.1.

At the end, I would say that English language teaching should be more concerned about real life and the real speech avoiding throwing the young learners into a cold pool when they enter the country.


A possible solution for this could be to strengthen the bonds of international relations between schools. Pen-friendships and school-exchanges could provide the basis of a more reality-based teaching which would undoubtedly also have the effect of arousing the children’s enthusiasm of learning English.

5. Literature

Baugh, A.C.: A History of the English Language, p. 235

Davis, Lawrence M.: English Dialectology. Alabama/USA: 1983, p. 8

Edelhoff, Christoph (Hrg.): Camden Market. Hannover: 1998, p. 146

Hughes, Arthur and Trudgill, Peter: English Accents and Dialects, London: 1996. p. 1

Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 51

Wakelin, Martyn F.: English Dialects. An Introduction. London: 1977, p. 5

Quirk, Randolph: The Use of English. London: 1962, p. 95



2Hughes, Arthur and Trudgill, Peter: English Accents and Dialects. London: 1996, p. 1

3s. a.

4Orientierungsstufe Westhagen/Wolfsburg

5Baugh, A.C.: A History of the English Language, p. 235

6Davis, Lawrence M.: English Dialectology. Alabama/USA: 1983, p. 8

7Most common accent in and around London


9Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 67

10Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 67

11see above

12Hughes, Arthur and Trudgill, Peter: English Accents and Dialects. New York (1996), p. 92

13Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 71

14see above, p. 72

15see above, p. 73

16see above, p. 72

17see above, p. 74



20= street and market sellers


22Wakelin, Martyn F.: English Dialects. An Introduction. London: 1977

23Wakelin, Martyn F.: English Dialects. An Introduction. London: 1977, p. 5

24Wakelin, Martyn F.: English Dialects. An Introduction. London: 1977, p. 5

25Quirk, Randolph: The Use of English. London: 1962, p. 95

26Edelhoff, Christoph (Hrg.): Camden Market. Hannover: 1998, p. 146

27Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 51

28Edelhoff, Christoph (Hrg.): Camden Market. Hannover: 1998, p. 146

29Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 57

30Edelhoff, Christoph (Hrg.): Camden Market. Hannover: 1998, p. 179

31see above, p. 173

32see above, p. 178

33Trudgill, Peter: The dialects of England. Oxford: 1990, p. 60

34see above, p. 102

35Wakelin, Martyn F.: English Dialects. An Introduction. London: 1977, p. 5

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