Phonological variation

Lesson rationale

We can observe phonological variation by comparing English pronunciation in different places, among different social groups or by monitoring the same speaker’s pronunciation in different circumstances. All native speakers adjust their speech according to context: from relaxed conversation in familiar surroundings to more formal situations, but the range of any given speaker’s pronunciation is defined by their geographic and social background. The vowel we use in words like glass may be determined by where we grew up, while some of us may vary the way we pronounce the final consonant in words like morning depending on context and audience. These tasks are designed to encourage students to explore phonological variation captured in sound recordings on this site and to investigate phonological variation in their own community.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How do factors like age, gender, ethnicity, geographic background and/or social context affect our pronunciation?