Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Review of English Accents and Dialects, Fourth Edition
AUTHORS: Hughes, Arthur ; Trudgill, Peter ; Watt, Dominic TITLE: English Accents and Dialects, Fourth Edition SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British Isles PUBLISHER: Hodder Arnold YEAR: 2005
Wendy Anderson, SCOTS Project, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow, Scotland
This essential introduction to English accents and dialects was first published in 1979, and now reaches its fourth edition. Each edition has been fuller than the last, but it remains a slim, concise volume, which will be attractive to students and general users alike. Compared with the third edition (1996), the main additions in the fourth are new sections on the speech of Leicester, Aberdeen and Galway, and corresponding new exercises. There is also an updated reference list, and substantially more detail on further reading, including reference to Aberdeen University's portal to online resources (at www.abdn.ac.uk/langling/resources) which is carefully selected and kept up-to-date. A welcome improvement with this new edition is a CD, containing 75 minutes of audio material, rather than the audio cassette which was available with previous editions. The recordings are very varied, in terms of the age of speaker, subject of discussion and level of formality: examples include an Edinburgh schoolboy talking about gang fighting, a Liverpool barmaid discussing pubs, and a middle-aged woman from Norwich on how she met her husband.
Chapters 1 to 4 (together constituting roughly half of the book) introduce the reader to variation in modern British English from the point of view of dialect and accent, with each chapter ending with a useful summary. Chapter 1, Variation in English, provides a descriptivist overview of the parameters of variation, particularly targeted at foreign learners. The notions of dialect and accent and Received Pronunciation (RP) are also dealt with here, and the authors move regularly from general statements to examples of salient features (such as the glottal stop in Estuary English). Despite the main focus on user-related variation, stylistic variation and unconditioned variation also receive attention. Chapter 1 ends with a glance at the notion of correctness: as one would expect, correctness is presented as a matter of appropriateness to the situation.
Chapter 2 focuses in on Dialect Variation, both within Standard English, particularly north-south differences in usage, and non-standard varieties. Lexical features receive only cursory treatment (further examples can be found in Chapter 5 in the sections on individual locations), but salient grammatical features differentiating varieties of Standard English are explained clearly with well-chosen examples. The topics covered in non-standard varieties include relative pronouns, prepositions of place, multiple negation and the past tense of irregular verbs.
Chapter 3 moves on from dialect to accent, setting out a framework for the description of Received Pronunciation, presented here as containing internal variation of its own. A large part of this chapter takes the reader through the individual consonant and vowel sounds of RP, and then presents discussion and transcriptions of three recordings (from the accompanying CD), highlighting the differences between the RP varieties exemplified.
Chapter 4 discusses regional accent variation, particularly the urban variation which foreign learners of English are likely to encounter. It deals in turn with ten consonant or vowels sounds which are central to variation. There follows a very useful table summing up of key phonological characteristics (p. 71).
Students will now be well prepared for the series of snapshots of the speech of individual areas of the British Isles which are offered in Chapter 5. Each of the 16 sections corresponds to material on the CD: recordings of word lists and natural speech for the first 13 representative towns and cities, and a recording of natural speech alone from three areas, namely Devon, Northumberland and Lowland Scotland, representing traditional dialects. Each section contains 10-15 numbered comments on distinctive features of pronunciation and a figure showing vowel qualities. References to the recordings are made where possible. Finally, each section contains an annotated, orthographic transcription of the recording.
The front matter includes the IPA chart and the word list used in the recordings, phonetically transcribed in RP, therefore allowing for direct comparison between accents. Following Chapter 5 on individual accents come a number of suggestions for using the book. This contains general ideas for student activities, as well as exercises on each chapter (answers to which can be found in the relevant chapter). Judging by the suggested exercises, the authors are targeting an audience of both native English speakers (such as undergraduate students of linguistics or phonetics) and learners of English, particularly those who wish to be exposed to a range of British accents (and to a lesser extent, dialects) for the purposes of comprehension rather than production. After the activities the reader is offered notes on the test passages contained in the CD - ten short recordings which may be used to test students' recognition, and three longer passages of varieties which have not previously been introduced, for discussion and identification. Finally, the index includes entries on individual phonemes as well as placenames and the usual key words.
This book is tried and tested and the fourth edition offers greater geographical coverage, the flexibility of a CD and general improvements in maps and phonetic diagrams. It would be an excellent textbook for an introductory course on British English dialects, and also for learners of English keen to familiarise themselves with variation, for example before a study year in Britain.
That said, it is much more useful as an introduction to accent differences than to dialect. Similarly, and with reference to the subtitle of the book, it is much more thorough as an account of regional parameters for variation than other social parameters, although such issues are touched upon and contribute to the book's overall portrayal of variation based on a large number of factors. Some readers may wish for more detail, either fuller comments on individual towns and cities or a larger number of these. However, for such a compact, introductory volume, there is a surprising amount of detail. The book serves as a valuable overview: students should refer to the more specialist works mentioned in the book for fuller details on individual varieties.
For tutors keen to integrate further authentic examples into courses, this book would readily serve as inspiration for numerous corpus studies. It is only a shame that more corpora and online resources covering varieties of English are not available (though see the References section below for details of a few). To use an example close to myself, the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech can provide startlingly clear evidence of the age-related use of 'like' as a pause-filler, focus marker, and in its quotative function (discussed here in Chapter 2). The BNC (particularly through the VIEW interface) can show relative frequency of competing grammatical structures (e.g. the marked and unmarked plurality in ''a hundred pounds'' / ''a hundred pound''). Aberdeen University's extensive language and linguistics links are an excellent starting point for finding online texts and resources to investigate the book's topics more thoroughly. The British Library's Sound Archive and the BBC Voices pages are particularly relevant here (web addresses in the References below).
To summarise, the book is clear and concise, packing a great deal of information into only 159 pages and a CD. As such, it is likely to continue to be of great value to undergraduate students, senior school pupils, and a more general user wishing to familiarise him/herself with geographical variation in British English. For an introductory book of this level, the geographical coverage really could not be bettered.
Hughes, Arthur, Trudgill, Peter (1996). ''English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British Isles''. Third Edition. Hodder Arnold.
Aberdeen University web resources for linguistics: www.abdn.ac.uk/langling/resources
British Library accents and dialects webpage: www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/accents.html
British National Corpus (BNC): www.natcorp.ox.ac.uk
British National Corpus VIEW interface: http://view.byu.edu
Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech (SCOTS): www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Wendy Anderson is Research Assistant on the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech (SCOTS) project at the University of Glasgow. Her Ph.D. (St. Andrews University, 2003) was a corpus study of phraseology and collocation in European Union administrative French. She is also interested in the languages of Scotland and French-English translation.