2. Accents of Southeast England
Continued from 1. The Problem.
|Figure 4. Pronunciation of the MOUTH diphthong in southeast England: regional accents (left) and RP (right).|
Southern British English (SBE) is the regional dialect spoken right across southern England from Norfolk to Cornwall, south of an isogloss from the Wash to the Severn Estuary, distinguished from neighbouring Northern British English (NBE) by the TRAP-BATH split and the FOOT-STRUT split (Wales, 2006; Britain, 2012). There are several SBE regiolects, generalized by Wells (1982§§4.2-4.3) from east to southwest as East Anglian, London, Home Counties, and Western. The accent of interest here is Home Counties SBE (HCSBE). Ellis (1889) referred to the earlier dialect of Kent and East Sussex as Eastern Southern English, already giving way to contact with London pronunciation. For the present study, these regional accents are distinguished as Kentish SBE (19th century, transitional) and Home Counties SBE (20th century) following Wood (2017) , although they combine to make a single continuum.
RP and regional HCSBE are identified by referring to their respective vowel phoneme systems. RP was described by Jones (1909, 1918)), other revisions are provided by Gimson (1962) and Wells (1982). HCSBE was stigmatized until about the 1960s and very little had been published on it until Rosewarne (1984) mentioned Estuary English. Consequently, Wells (1982:§4.3.1) found little to report on home counties pronunciation. Since then this region has attracted more attention, summarized by Jansen & Amos (2020). Wood (2017) described a shibboleth that has distinguished regional HCSBE from non-regional RP at least since the late 19th century. This concerns the respective pronunciations of the MOUTH lexical set (Fig. 4) that had taken different paths through the Great Vowel Shift. The “polite educated” community (Cooper, 1687) shifted MOUTH down the back vowels to current RP [aʊ-ɑʊ] (Luick, 1896; Jespersen, 1909, Wolfe, 1973), while the “provincial” community shifted mouth down the front vowels to regional [ɛʉ] (Britain, 2008; Cooper, 1687), eventually to open [æː~æɒ] in London and the South East (Wells, 1982; Wood, 2017), while [ɛʉ] still occurs in the South West.
To be continued