Photograph of a young woman speaking

Your Voices: Contemporary accents of the UK

Explore this sound map to hear recordings of contemporary voices submitted to the British Library by speakers of all ages from all over the UK and beyond.

The recordings on this map were submitted by members of the public in response to the British Library’s desire to capture present-day varieties of spoken English. The recordings were created in two complementary phases and the content of each differs slightly.

Recordings made between 2007 and 2009 were supplied by teachers and A Level students in schools and colleges in the UK and consist of either a standard reading passage or a group conversation. The reading passage is an abridged version of Mr Tickle (© 1971 Roger Hargreaves), with the text adapted to include a comprehensive set of vowel and consonant variants and a number of connected speech processes that enable a comparison of accents between speakers. Selected recordings include observations that draw attention to interesting aspects of the speaker’s accent, written by the Library’s Lead Curator of Spoken English, Jonnie Robinson. The group conversations are spontaneous discussions of topics of interest to the students.

Recordings made in 2010 and 2011 were created during the Library’s exhibition, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. Visitors to the exhibition and to a number of participating regional libraries in England were invited to contribute a sound recording to create an archive of contemporary English voices. Participants could either read the complete, unabridged text of Mr Tickle (© 1971 Roger Hargreaves), or submit a word that they considered ‘special’ in their variety of English, such as local and regional dialect, slang terms, nonce-words and idiolectal forms used within families or friendship groups.

For additional guidance analysing these accents and dialects, download the Your Voices guide.

  • Jonnie Robinson
  • Jonnie Robinson is Lead Curator for Spoken English at the British Library. He has worked on two nationwide surveys of regional speech, the Survey of English Dialects and BBC Voices, and is on the editorial team for the journal English Today. In 2010/11 he co-curated the British Library exhibition Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. His latest publication Evolving English WordBank: a glossary of present-day English dialect and slang (2015) draws on sound recordings made by visitors to the exhibition.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.