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Which English Accent is Closest to the Spelling?

» Which English Accent is Closest to the Spelling?

November 2nd, 2007 by admin

Which English accent is closest to the spelling?
Answer provided by Anthea Fraser Gupta (With input from other panelists), School of English, University of Leeds
English spelling is based on the pronunciation of the fourteenth century. No one speaks in that way now. English spelling therefore represents all accents of English equally well, or equally badly. As there are so many accents of English, it is fortunate that we have such an old spelling system which we can all use; otherwise we would be arguing about which accent we should base our spelling on!

No modern English accent is exactly like any accent of the past. All accents change over time. It has been suggested that some isolated rural accents (such as in rural Virginia) preserve more features of older accents than do cosmopolitan and mixed urban accents. This is controversial.

A very large change took place in some accents of England that seems to have started in the seventeenth century. Speakers in parts the south and east of England started to pronounce /r/ only when it was followed by a vowel. This ed to changes in the way the vowels were pronounced. This change has spread over most of England, and is also found in accents (like Australian, Singapore, and New Zealand English) which developed from English accents of the last 300years (in these accents ‘sauce’ might be pronounced the same as ‘source’ and ‘spa’ pronounced the same as ‘spar’). But accents which developed from English accents older than that (such as most US accents of English) still pronounce /r/ at the ends of words and before consonants. Because this is such a large change, the accents that have kept this ‘post-vocalic r’, like most kinds of US English, Scottish English, and Irish English, seem more like accents of the seventeenth century than do those of accents which have lost the /r/. But in those accents too, there have been many other changes in the last 400 years.


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English Pronunciation

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