Joanna Przedlacka

Dr Joanna Przedlacka
Institute of English Studies
University of Warsaw
Nowy Swiat 4, 00 497 Warsaw, Poland
Telephone: + 48 22 6252862
Fax: +48 22 6252931

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I am currently Lecturer in Linguistics at the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw. I did my Ph.D. research at Phonetics Laboratory, University of Oxford, where I was based in 1997 - 1999.

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Ph.D. research

My doctoral project was a sociophonetic study of a putative variety of Southern British English, popularly known as Estuary English. To work out the exact phonetic nature of this variety, I did fieldwork in four Home Counties: Buckinghamshire, Kent, Essex and Surrey. Fourteen sociophonetic variables were investigated in the study. I looked at differences between the counties, male and female speakers and two social classes. All data came from a word elicitation task from sixteen teenage speakers.

The study showed that there is no homogeneity in the accents spoken in the area, given the extent of geographical variation alone. Tendencies observed include: vowel fronting, as in GOOSE or STRUT, and syllable non-initial t-glottaling, which are led by female speakers. Contrary to speculation in other sources, th-fronting is present in the teenage speech of the Home Counties, the variant being used more frequently by males. Generally, social class turned out not to be a good indicator of change, there being little differences between the classes.

The current data were compared to data taken from the Survey of English Dialects. Glottaling, in popular opinion a distintive feature of Estuary English, shows a pattern not dissimilar to that of fifty years ago, as shown in the SED data, but l-vocalisation has increased. A comparison was also made between the Estuary English data and recordings of RP and Cockney speakers. It was demonstrated that Estuary speakers are in a sense indeed 'between RP and Cockney' as regards the incidence of t-glottaling and l-vocalisation. However, this is an oversimplification of the issue as factors such as geographical variation or idiosyncratic characteristics of the speakers should be taken into consideration.

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Here are a few items selected from my recordings, which show different phonetic realisations. To hear them, click on the underlined words in the text below.

1. Vowel fronting

The word BLUE uttered by a speaker from Buckinghamshire, has a front realisation of the vowel, other front realisations can be heard in BOOTS, pronounced by a Kent female and ROOF, said by a female from Essex. A central vowel can be heard in NEW, uttered by a male teenager from Essex. Back realisations of the vowel, like in CUCUMBER, uttered by a Kent teenager are infrequent.

The vowel in BUTTER has a back realisation in the speech of an Essex speaker, but can be realised a front vowel, as in DUST or COUSINS, both uttered by teenage girls from Buckinghamshire.

2. Glottaling

Glottaling of syllable non-initial /t/ is not the main variant in Estuary English. Here it is exemplified by the word FEET, uttered by a Kent female. realisation where the /t/ is not 'dropped' are more frequent - as in BAT, said by a Surrey speaker. Intervocalic /t/ glottaling is virtually absent from the Estuary English data. Here is one of the very few instances of it in the word FORTY, uttered by a Buckinghamshire female. It is frequently found in Cockney, as in DAUGHTER, said by a teenager from the East End of London.

3. L-vocalisation

The majority of tokens with a syllable non-initial /l/ have a vocalised realisation, as in MILK, uttered by a Kent speaker. Dark l, which is the usual RP realisation, exemplified here by an RP speaker's pronunciation of ANKLE, is also present in Estuary English, alongside clear tokens, like in PULL, uttered by an Essex teenager. However, clear realisations of /l/ are infrequent in the data.

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