Regional accents of English

Spoken English shows great variation across regions where it is the predominant language. This article provides an overview of the numerous identifiable variations in pronunciation; such distinctions usually derive from the phonetic inventory of local dialects, as well as from broader differences in the Standard English of different primary-speaking populations.

Accent is the part of dialect concerning local pronunciation. Vocabulary and grammar are described elsewhere; see List of dialects of the English language.

Secondary English speakers tend to carry over the intonation and phonetics of their mother tongue in English speech. For more details, see Non-native pronunciations of English.

Primary English-speakers show great variability in terms of regional accents. Some, such as Pennsylvania Dutch English, are easily identified by key characteristics; others are more obscure or easily confused. Broad regions can possess sub-forms as identified below; for instance, towns located less than 10 miles (16 km) from the city of Manchester, such as Bolton, Oldham and Salford, each have distinct accents, all of which together comprise the broader accent of Lancashire county; while these sub-dialects are very similar to each other, non-local listeners can identify firm differences.

English accents can differ enough to create room for misunderstandings. For example, the pronunciation of pearl in some variants of Scottish English can sound like the entirely unrelated word petal to an American ear.

For a summary of the differences between accents, see International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects.


English accents are typically divided into two groups: the English of England (BrEng), and English in North America (AmEng).

Dialects and open vowels
word RP GA Can sound change
THOUGHT /ɔ/ /ɔ/ /ɑ/ cotcaught merger
CLOTH /ɒ/ lotcloth split
LOT /ɑ/ fatherbother merger
PALM /ɑː/
PLANT /æ/ /æ/ trapbath split
TRAP /æ/

Dialects differ greatly in their pronunciation of open vowels. In Received Pronunciation, there are four open back vowels, /æ ɑː ɒ ɔː/, but in General American there are only three, /æ ɑ ɔ/, and in most dialects of Canadian English only two, /æ ɒ/. In addition, which words have which vowel varies between dialects. Words like bath and cloth have the vowels /ɑː ɒ/ in Received Pronunciation, but /æ ɔ/ in General American. The table above shows some of these dialectal differences, and gives the names for the mergers and splits that created them.

Great Britain

Main article: British English

Accents and dialects vary widely across the United Kingdom; as such, a single "British accent" does not exist, but someone could be said to have an English, Welsh, or Scottish accent although these all have several different sub-types.


There is considerable variation within the accents of English across England.

Two main sets of accents are spoken in the West Country: Cornish shows some internal variation and is spoken by locally born people who make up varying proportions of the population, while West Country is spoken primarily in the counties of Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Bristol, Dorset (not as common in east Dorset), and Wiltshire (again, less common in eastern Wiltshire), as well as East Cornwall. However, a range of variations can be heard within different parts of the West Country; the Bristolian dialect is distinctive from the accent heard in Gloucestershire (especially south of Cheltenham), for example.

The accents of Northern England are also distinctive, including a range of variations: Northumberland, County Durham, Teesside, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Cumbria, and Lancashire, with regional variants in Barrow-in-Furness, Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn, Manchester, Preston, Fylde, Liverpool and Wigan. Yorkshire is also distinctive, having variations between the three historic ridings (North Riding of Yorkshire, West Riding of Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire).

While many of the Lancashire accents may sound similar to outsiders, the exception is the 'Scouse' accent, as spoken in Liverpool. Prior to the Irish Famine of the 1840s the Liverpool accent was not dissimilar to others in Lancashire, except that with Liverpool being close to Wales, there were some Northern Welsh inflections. However, Liverpool's population of around 60,000 in the 1840s was swelled by the passage of around 300,000 Irish refugees escaping the Famine. Liverpool had this influx due to being England's main Atlantic port and a popular departure point for people seeking to embark for a new life in America. So, while many of the Irish refugees moved on to other parts of Britain and further afield, many remained in Liverpool and the local accent became changed forever over the succeeding years. Today, the Scouse accent is completely distinct from others in the North West of England and bears little resemblance to them. Many Liverpool families can trace their lineage back to refugees escaping the potato famine. The connection between Liverpool and Ireland was recognized by John Lennon in his final interview – with the BBC disc jockey Andy Peebles – on 6 December 1980 (two days before his assassination) when he described Liverpool as "an Irish place".

Other accents include a range of accents spoken in the West Midlands (in the major towns and conurbations (The Black Country, Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton) and in rural accents (such as in Herefordshire and south Worcestershire)); the accents of the counties comprising the East Midlands (Derby, Leicester and Rutland, Lincoln, Northampton, and Nottingham), East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire) and the Home Counties (typically Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Berkshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire.)

There is also great variation within greater London, with various accents such as Cockney, Estuary English, Multicultural London English and Received Pronunciation being found all throughout the region and the Home Counties.


The regional accents of Scottish English generally follow a similar pattern to that of the dialects of Modern Scots:[3][4]

The Hebrides islands for the most part do not fall into what is now considered a typical Scottish accent, here the linguistic heritage is Gaelic and Old Norse resulting in an accent that is frequently considered to sound more Irish or Welsh than stereotypically Scottish.

A number of pronunciation features set most Scots apart from neighbouring English dialects. The Scots pronunciation of come [kʌm] contrasts with [kʊm] in Northern English. The Scots realisation [kʌm] reaches as far south as the mouth of the north Esk in north Cumbria, crossing Cumbria and skirting the foot of the Cheviots before reaching the east coast at Bamburgh some 12 miles north of Alnwick. The Scots [x]–English [∅]/[f] cognate group (micht-might, eneuch-enough, etc.) can be found in a small portion of north Cumbria with the southern limit stretching from Bewcastle to Longtown and Gretna. The Scots pronunciation of wh as [ʍ] becomes English [w] south of Carlisle but remains in Northumberland, but Northumberland realises “r” as [ʁ], often called the burr, which is not a Scots realisation. Thus the greater part of the valley of the Esk and the whole of Liddesdale can be considered to be northern English dialects rather than Scots ones. From the nineteenth century onwards influence from the South through education and increased mobility have caused Scots features to retreat northwards so that for all practical purposes the political and linguistic boundaries may be considered to coincide.[6]


Main article: Welsh English

The accent of English in Wales is strongly influenced by the phonology of the Welsh language, which more than 20% of the population of Wales speak as their first or second language. The North Wales accent is distinct from South Wales and north east Wales is influenced by Scouse and Cheshire accents. South Wales border accents are influenced by West Country accents. The Wenglish of the South Wales Valleys shows a deep cross-fertilisation between the two.

The Cardiff dialect and accent is also quite distinctive from that of the South Wales Valleys, primarily:


Main article: Hiberno-English

Ireland has several main groups of accents, including (1) the accents of Ulster, with a strong influence from Scotland as well as the underlying Gaelic linguistic stratum, which in that province approaches the Gaelic of Scotland, (2) those of Dublin and surrounding areas on the east coast where English has been spoken since the earliest period of colonisation from Britain, and (3) the various accents of west, midlands and south.

Ulster (Northern Ireland)

The Ulster accent has two main sub accents, namely Mid Ulster English and Ulster Scots. The language is spoken throughout the nine counties of Ulster, and in some northern areas of bordering counties such as Louth and Leitrim. It bears many similarities to Scottish English through influence from the Ulster varieties of Scots. Some characteristics of the Ulster accent include:

Connacht, Leinster, and Munster (Republic of Ireland)

The accent of these three provinces fluctuates greatly from the flat tone of the midlands counties of Laois, Kildare, and Offaly, the perceived sing-song of Cork and Kerry, to the soft accents of Mayo and Galway.

Historically the Dublin City and county area, parts of Wicklow and Louth, came under heavy exclusive influence from the first English settlements (known as The Pale). It remained until Independence from Britain as the biggest concentration of English influence in the whole island.

The Corkonian accent has a unique lyrical intonation. Every sentence typically ends in the trademark elongated tail-off on the last word. In Cork heavier emphasis yet is put on the brrr sound to the letter R.

Similar to the Cork accent but without the same unmistakable intonation, Kerry puts even heavier emphasis on the brrr sound to the letter R. For example: the word Forty. Throughout the south this word is pronounced whereby the r exhibits the typified Irish brrr. In Kerry however (especially in rural areas) the roll on the r is enforced with vibrations from the tongue (not unlike Scottish here). "Are you?" becomes a co-joined "A-rrou?" single tongue flutter (esp. in rural areas). This extra emphasis on R is also seen in varying measures through parts of West Limerick and West Cork in closer proximity to Kerry.

Another feature in the Kerry accent is the S before the consonant. True to its Gaelic origins in a manner similar to parts of Connacht "s" maintains the shh sound as in shop or sheep. The word Start becomes "Shtart". Stop becomes Shtop.

Irish Travellers

Irish Travellers have a very distinct accent closely related to a rural Hiberno-English, particularly the English spoken in Connaught from where they originate. Many Irish Travellers who were born in parts of Dublin or Britain have the accent in spite of it being strikingly different from the local accents in those regions. They also have their own language, which strongly links in with their dialect/accent of English, see Shelta.

North America

North American English is a collective term for the dialects of the United States and Canada; it does not include the varieties of Caribbean English spoken in the West Indies.

The United States does not have a concrete 'standard' accent in the same way that Britain has Received Pronunciation. Nonetheless, a form of speech known to linguists as General American is perceived by many Americans to be "accent-less", meaning a person who speaks in such a manner does not appear to be from anywhere. The region of the United States that most resembles this is the central Midwest, specifically eastern Nebraska (including Omaha and Lincoln), southern and central Iowa (including Des Moines), parts of Missouri, Ohio and western Illinois (including Peoria and the Quad Cities, but not the Chicago area).


Main article: Canadian English

Three major dialect areas can be found in Canada: Western/Central Canada, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland.

The phonology of West/Central Canadian English, also called General Canadian, is broadly identical to that of the Western US, except for the following features:

The pronunciation of certain words shows a British influence. For instance, shone is /ʃɒn/; been is often /biːn/; lieutenant is /lɛfˈtɛnənt/; process can be /ˈproʊsɛs/; etc.

Words like drama, pyjamas, pasta tend to have /æ/ rather than /ɑ/~/ɒ/. Words like sorrow, Florida, orange have /ɔr/ rather than /ɑr/; therefore, sorry rhymes with story rather than with starry.

United States

West Indies and Bermuda

For discussion, see:

Southern hemisphere


Main article: Australian English

Australian English is relatively homogeneous when compared to British and American English. There is however some regional variation between the states, particularly in regard to South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

Three main varieties of Australian English are spoken according to linguists: Broad Australian, General Australian and Cultivated Australian.[10] They are part of a continuum, reflecting variations in accent. They can, but do not always reflect the social class, education and urban or rural background of the speaker.[11]

New Zealand

Main article: New Zealand English

The New Zealand accent is most similar to the Australian accent but is distinguished from the Australian one by the presence of three "clipped" vowels, slightly resembling South African English. Phonetically, these are centralised or raised versions of the short "i", "e" and "a" vowels, which in New Zealand are close to [ɨ], [ɪ] and [ɛ] respectively rather than [ɪ], [ɛ] and [æ]. New Zealand pronunciations are often popularly represented outside New Zealand by writing "fish and chips" as "fush and chups", "yes" as "yiss", "sixty-six" as "suxty-sux". Scottish English influence is most evident in the southern regions of New Zealand, notably Dunedin. Another difference between New Zealand and Australian English is the length of the vowel in words such as "dog", and "job" which are longer than in Australian English which shares the short and staccato pronunciation shared with British English.

Geographical variations appear slight, and mainly confined to individual special local words. One group of speakers, however, hold a recognised place as "talking differently": the South of the South Island (Murihiku) harbours a "Celtic fringe" of people speaking with a "Southland burr" in which R is actually pronounced everywhere it appears. The area formed a traditional repository of immigration from Scotland.

The trilled 'r' is also used by some Māori, who may also pronounce 't' and 'k' sounds without aspiration, striking other English speakers as similar to 'd' and 'g'. This is also encountered in South African English, especially among Afrikaans speakers.

South Atlantic

Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands have a large non-native born population, mainly from Britain, but also from Saint Helena. In rural areas, the Falkland accent tends to be stronger. The accent has resemblances to both Australia-NZ English, and that of Norfolk in England, and contains a number of Spanish loanwords.

Saint Helena

"Saints", as Saint Helenan islanders are called, have a variety of different influences on their accent. To outsiders, the accent has resemblances to the accents of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

"Saint" is not just a different pronunciation of English, it also has its own distinct words. So 'bite' means spicy, as in full of chillies; 'us' is used instead of 'we' ('us has been shopping'); and 'done' is used to generate a past tense, hence 'I done gorn fishing' ('I have been fishing').[13]

Television is a reasonably recent arrival there, and is only just beginning to have an effect. American terms are becoming more common, e.g. 'chips' for crisps.[13]

Southern Africa

South Africa

Main article: South African English

South Africa has 11 official languages, one of which is English. Accents vary significantly between ethnic and language groups.[14] Home-language English speakers (Black, White, Indian and Coloured or Cape Coloured) in South Africa have an accent that generally resembles British Received Pronunciation (modified with varying degrees of Germanic inflection due to Afrikaans).[15]

The Coloured community is generally bilingual, however English accents are strongly influenced by primary mother-tongue (Afrikaans or English). A range of accents can be seen, with the majority of Coloureds showing a strong Afrikaans inflection. Similarly, Afrikaners (and Cape Coloureds), both descendant of mainly Dutch settlers, tend to pronounce English phonemes with a strong Afrikaans inflection. The English accents of both related groups are significantly different and easily distinguishable (primarily because of prevalent code-switching among the majority of Coloured English speakers, particularly in the Western Cape of South Africa). The range of accents found among English-speaking Coloureds (from the distinctive "Cape Flats or Coloured English"[16] to the standard "colloquial" South African English accent) are of special interest. Geography and education levels play major roles therein.

Black Africans generally speak English as a second language, and accent is strongly influenced by mother-tongue (particularly Bantu languages). However, urban middle-class black Africans have developed an English accent, with similar inflection as first-language English speakers. Within this ethnic group variations exist: most Nguni (Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi and Ndebele) speakers have a distinct accent, with the pronunciation of words like 'the' and 'that' as would 'devil' and 'dust', respectively; and words like 'rice' as 'lice'. This may be as a result of the inadequacy of 'r' in the languages. Sotho (Tshwana, Northern Sotho and Southern Sotho) speakers have a similar accent, with slight variations. Tsonga and Venda speakers have very similar accents with far less intonation than Ngunis and Sothos. Some Black speakers have no distinction between the 'i' in determine and the one in decline, pronouncing it similarly to the one in 'mine'.

Black, Indian and Coloured students educated in former Model C schools or at formerly white tertiary institutions will generally adopt a similar accent to their white English-home-language speaking classmates.[17] Code-switching and the "Cape Flats" accent are becoming popular among white learners in public schools within Cape Town.

South African accents also vary between major cities (particularly Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg) and provinces (regions).[18] Accent variation are also observed within respective cities, for instance, Johannesburg, where the northern suburbs (Parkview, Parkwood, Parktown North, Saxonwold, etc.) tend to be less strongly influenced by Afrikaans. These suburbs are more affluent and populated by individuals with tertiary education and higher incomes. The accents of native English speakers from the southern suburbs (Rosettenville, Turffontein, etc.) tend to be more strongly influenced by Afrikaans. These suburbs are populated by tradesmen and factory workers, with lower incomes. The extent of Afrikaans influence is explained by the fact that Afrikaans urbanisation would historically have been from failed marginal farms or failing economies in rural towns, into the southern and western suburbs of Johannesburg. The western suburbs of Johannesburg (Newlands, Triomf, which has now reverted to its old name Sophiatown, Westdene, etc.) are predominantly Afrikaans speaking. In a similar fashion, people from predominantly or traditionally Jewish areas in the Johannesburg area (such as Sandton, Linksfield or Victory Park) may have accents influenced by Yiddish or Hebrew ancestry.

South African English accent, across the spectrum, is non-rhotic.

Examples of South African accents (obtained from

Additional samples of South African accents and dialects can be found at

Regardless of regional and ethnic differences (in accents), South African English accent is sometimes confused with Australian (or New Zealand) English by British and American English speakers.[19][20]


In Zimbabwe, native English speakers (mainly the white and Coloured minority) have a similar speech pattern to that of South Africa. Hence those with high degrees of Germanic inflection would pronounce 'Zimbabwe' as zim-bah-bwi, as opposed to the African pronunciation zeem-bah-bweh. Zimbwabwean accents also vastly vary, with some Black Africans sounding British while others will have a much stronger accent influenced by their mother tongues, usually this distinction is brought about by where speakers grew up and the school attended. For example, most people that grew up in and around Harare have a British sounding accent while those in the rural areas have a more "pidgin-english" sort of accent

Example of a Zimbabwean English accent (obtained from


Namibian English tends to be strongly influenced by South African English. Most Namibians that grew up in and around the capital city (Windhoek) have developed an English accent while those in the rural areas have an accent strongly influenced by their mother tongue particularly Bantu languages.


India and South Asia

A number of distinct dialects of English are spoken in South Asia. There are many languages spoken in South Asia like Nepali, Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, Marathi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Maithili, Malayalam, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu, Tulu, Urdu and many more, creating a variety of accents of English. Accents originating in this part of the world tend to display several distinctive features, including:


Main article: Philippine English

Philippine English employs a rhotic accent that originated from the time when it was first introduced by the Americans during the colonization period to replace Spanish as the dominant language used in politics. However, there are no 'f' or 'v' sounds in the Tagalog language and 'f' is pronounced as a 'p' and 'v' as a 'b' so that the words fifty and five will be said pip-ty and pibe by a Filipino.

Apart from the inability to pronounce 'f' and 'v', in reality, there is no single Philippine English Accent. Many indigenous languages affect the English that is spoken throughout the Islands. For example, those from Visayas may generally interchange the /e/ and /i/ also the /o/ and /u/ as their distinction is not very pronounced in the Visayan languages.

Those coming from the North may pronounce the /r/ with a strong trill instead of the flap as it is one of the features of the Ilocano language. Some Ilocanos also pronounce the /ə/ better as there is a sound in their language that is close to this.

Hong Kong

Main article: Hong Kong English

The accent of English spoken in Hong Kong follows mainly British, with rather strong influence from Cantonese on the pronunciations of a few consonants and vowels, and sentence grammar and structure.


Main article: Malaysian English

Malay is the lingua franca of Malaysia, a federation of former British colonies and similar dependencies. English is a foreign language with no official status, but it is commonly learnt as a second or third language.

The Malaysian accent appears to be a melding of British, Chinese, Tamil and Malay influences.

Many Malaysians adopt different accents and usages depending on the situation; for example, an office worker may speak with less colloquialism and with a more British accent on the job than with friends or while out shopping.

See also: Manglish


Main article: Singapore English

Singapore is effectively a multi-lingual nation. The Singapore government recognises four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.

Students in primary and secondary schools learning English as the language of instruction also learn a second language called their "Mother Tongue" by the Ministry of Education, where they are either taught Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil. A main point to note is while "Mother Tongue" generally refers to the first language (L1) overseas, in Singapore, it is used by the Ministry of Education to denote the second language (L2).

There are two main types of English spoken in Singapore – Standard Singapore English and Singlish. Singlish is more widely spoken than standard English. It has a very distinctive tone and sentence structure which are both strongly influenced by Malay and the many varieties of Chinese spoken in the city.

A 2005 census showed that around 30% of Singaporeans speak English as their main language at home.[21]

There is a large number of foreigners working in Singapore. 36% of the population in Singapore are foreigners and foreigners make up 50% of the service sector.[22] Therefore, it is very common to encounter service staff who are not fluent in English. Most of these staff speak Mandarin Chinese. Those who do not speak Mandarin Chinese tend to speak either broken English or Singlish, which they have learnt from the locals.

See also


  1. Trudgill & Hannah 2002, pp. 4–6.
  3. Mairi Robinson, ed. (1985). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. xxxi.
  4. "Phonetic characteristics of dialect districts". Dictionary of the Scots Language. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  5. Mairi Robinson, ed. (1985). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press.
  6. "SND Introduction – Phonetic Description of Scottish Language and Dialects". Dictionary of the Scots Language. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  7. Google Books | The phonetics of Cardiff English. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  8. 1 2 "Accents and dialects of the UK: Cardiff". 1935-12-15. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  9. Wells, p. 494
  10. Robert Mannell (2009-08-14). "Robert Mannell, "Impressionistic Studies of Australian English Phonetics"". Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  11. "The Macquarie Globe ::". 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  12. "regional accents — Australian Voices". Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  13. 1 2
  15. "Microsoft Word – Census in Brief Ros updates 28 Oct 2012.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-02-01.
  17. "Varsity Newspaper Online". Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  18. Schneider, E.W. Post-colonial English: Varieties around the world, Cambridge Press.(2007)
  19. Hopwood, D. South African English pronunciation, McGrath Pub. Co (1970)
  20. "Dialects of English". Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  21. "Education and Language" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2010. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  22. "Population Trends 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-08.


External links

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