Sounds Familiar? Accents and Dialects of the UK

Do you call a ‘bread roll’ a cob, batch, bread cake, barm cake or scuffler? How do you pronounce the words cup and plant? And are you sitting or sat at this computer? The UK is a rich landscape of regional accents and dialects, each evidence of our society’ s continuity and change, our local history and our day-to-day lives. This site captures and celebrates the diversity of spoken English in the second half of the twentieth century.

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What you can hear

You can listen to 71 sound recordings and over 600 short audio clips chosen from two collections of the British Library Sound Archive: the Survey of English Dialects and the Millennium Memory Bank. You’ll hear Londoners discussing marriage and working life, Welsh teenagers talking with pride about being bilingual and the Aristocracy chatting about country houses. You can explore the links between present-day Geordie and our Anglo-Saxon and Viking past or discover why Northern Irish accents are a rich blend of seventeenth century English and Scots. You can study changes in pronunciation among the middle classes or find out how British Asians express their linguistic identity.

What you can do

In addition there are interpretation and learning packages relating to the dual themes of language variation and language change within spoken English. These themes are explored using audio clips, supporting texts and interactive maps to illustrate the lexis (vocabulary), grammar and phonology (pronunciation) of contemporary spoken English as well as introducing the concept of social variation. Three case studies are included to provide an in-depth look at specific varieties of English. 7 recordings and a series of audio clips focus on Received Pronunciation, while a set of audio clips is provided to investigate Geordie Dialect. A further 9 recordings feature speakers with Ethnic Minority backgrounds, alongside a series of audio clips to demonstrate the lexis, phonology and grammar of speakers in the UK's Asian and Caribbean communities.

In Regional Voices you can explore the differences that exist in spoken English as you move across the country, while Changing Voices gives you the chance to hear how English has changed in different parts of the country over the last fifty years. The Case Studies section provides an in-depth look at three specific varieties of contemporary English: Received Pronunciation, Geordie Dialect, and English as spoken in the UK’s minority ethnic communities. A selection of suggested activities and research tasks will help you investigate speech in your own community. Your Voices offers you the exciting opportunity to contribute your recordings and language investigations to the site, as part of the BL Sound Archive's ongoing survey of speech patterns across the UK.