Changes in British English pronunciation during the twentieth century

[It will be noticed below that I avoid referring to the least regionally marked varieties of British English pronunciation by the term 'Received Pronunciation', whether or not abbreviated to 'RP', using instead 'General British' (or 'GB')]

The sign ˃ after a pronunciation  indicates that  it  is considered predominant in current usage
 the reverse sign ˂ that it is not so.  The sign ˚ after a form indicates a sole pronunciation.

Many changes over the years need not be taken to be irreversible but may be found rather to be swings of the pendulum.

Many of our "Phonetiblogs" deal with aspects of the topic of this article

 eg   002, 011, 095, 110, 111, 138. 199 and see below.

I. Consonants

  1. The consonant system of three pairs of plosives (p,b;t,d;k,g) four pairs of (supraglottal) fricatives (f,v; θ,ð; s,z; ʃ,ʒ) a pair of affricates (ʧ,ʤ), a trio of nasals (m,n,ŋ), a glottal fricative (h), and four approximants (a pair of liquids and a pair of semivowels: l,r; j,w) was in the twentieth century the most stable part of the English phonological system, having remained the same for centuries.
  2. No doubt to a degree more easily accepted than previously in the atmosphere of greater social permissiveness since the sixties, relaxation of the force of articulation of intervocalic /t/ became more widespread in colloquial styles as can be seen in occasional informal spellings such as gedd off and gerr off for get off . It was particularly observable in function words with orthographic final < t >.
  3. On the other hand glottal reinforcement and even replacement of syllable-final /t/ seemed to become more in evidence. It was completely ordinary for large numbers of especially somewhat younger speakers to use [ʔ] instead of [t] in numerous items such as atlas, apartment, catwalk, chutney, get you, outright, Scotland etc where the /t/ precedes a lateral, approximant or nasal consonant. However, word-internal intervocalic replacement remained stigmatised as dialectal, as in the jokey advertising catchphrase "a bi’ o’ be’er bu’er" ie a bit of better butter. Yet one notes that eg [geʔ] off could now occur (as could be observed eg in the speech of Princess Diana). Apparently, at the first stage in the development of its acceptability, it was permissible only if a paralinguistic [ʔ] began the second word thereby excluding the first [ʔ] from the intervocalic category. Then subsequently it seems to have become simply accepted without that necessity. Compare the way schwa forms of the and to etc might often be heard (eg in to eat the apple) before words with initial-phonological-vowel structure but uttered with the (paralinguistic) consonant [ʔ] which of course was not an item in the phonological consonant inventory.
  4. Failure to realise that paralinguistic and prosodic processes could cut across phonological "rules" resulted in many complaints about broadcasters including the onetime favourite one that they had "wrongly" stressed prepositions.
  5. The j-sound /ʤ/ was increasingly simplified non-initially to that of the middle consonant of pleasure /ᴣ/ especially in foreign or archaic words, eg adagio, liege, management (a type not in dicts), raj and words ending -fuge such as subterfuge, centrifuge though not often refuge and rarely if at all huge, gauge, savage etc. The placename Rugeley might at times be heard with /ʒ/ possibly influenced by association with rouge whose obvious extraneousness has meant that it's always had /ʒ/ unlike the equally exotic gamboge which seems largely to have acquired /ʤ/ as increasingly did garage when not so fully anglicised as to be /`gærɪʤ/. Sometimes simplification was to /d/ eg in dangerous or legislation (also a type not in LPD). Even the specialist pronouncing dictionaries can hardly be expected to record all such tendencies. In extraneous words /ʒ/ was often adopted in an attempt to produce a more "accurate" rendering of foreign sounds. Examples of this commonly attempted mistakenly are Azerbaijan, Beijing, Borgia, doge, Perugia, Sergio and word-initially with Gigli which is usually/`ʒiːli/.
  6. Greater permissiveness no doubt also encouraged the tendency to affricate the sequences /tj/ and /dj/ so that (at one time mainly only word-internally) they became so like the ch and j sounds that they freely interchanged with them. The predominant forms of actually and gradually were never acknowledged in the Daniel Jones dictionary to be so until after Jones's death (in 1967). It was only latterly that eg /`ʧuːzdeɪ/  became widely recognised as fully permissible for Tuesday. LPD1 in 1990 labelled it as not "received". This stigma was only withdrawn in the 2008 LPD3. H. C. Wyld in 1921 at p.215 of his History of Modern Colloquial English had said that writing "chewsdy" for Tuesday expressed "nothing different from the normal pronunciation" tho in his Universal Dictionary of 1932 (which did not aim at very detailed information on variant pronunciations) he showed the word only as pronounced /`tjuːzdɪ/.
  7. The word actually might also commonly be heard with further weakenings of its articulation including having the ʧ as ʃ. This perhaps shows a parallel to the historical development of words like action which may have reached their current form via an intermediate one with /ʧ/. This kind of development is commonly heard but not predominant with other words such as picture. (In GA it's a great deal more common than in GB.)
  8. More permissive attitudes seemed also to account for the increased prevalence of so-called "intrusive r" (as in law /r/ and order etc: see Windsor Lewis 1975 Section 3.6 on this website) and for the yodless forms of many words like suit, sewer, superb etc though eg yodless assume, resume etc were definitely a minority usage with little sign of their spreading in England (though they seemed to predominate in Scotland). Certainly very common words like supermarket came to sound very old-fashioned if spoken with a yod. 
  9. The BBC, or rather certain factions within the Corporation,  often tended to put something of a brake on certain developments partly because influential individuals exerted pressure from time to time (the classic case being that dreadful old bully its one-time Director-General John Reith) and partly because its highly-influential advisory Pronunciation Research Unit in the past found it led to a life freer from tiresome ill-informed listener's complaints of "falling standards" if they eg promoted `controversy and discouraged con`troversy. Latterly the later stressing had been admitted to be "equally if not more common, and equally acceptable" (OBG 2006 p.83).
  10. The velar plosives /k/ and /g/ were known to be subject to weak fricative articulation since Gimson first pointed out the fact in 1962 but it was a phenomenon that went largely unrecognised, no doubt because it didn't happen initially in strong syllables. The word-final cluster /-sts/ became increasingly reduced to /-st/ in all prosodic contexts largely replacing the variant /-ss/ [sː] which seemed to be more commonly heard in the earlier years of the century.
  11. There were signs of a fast increasing minority tendency for General British speakers to favour the use of schwa plus (unsyllabic) consonant where previously syllabic consonants were the norm, eg in cotton, garden, bottle and struggle and even increasingly in such items as assembly, doubly, gambling, cackling etc for which it is doubtful that they ever previously contained a syllabic consonant. These last would strike many as strange but there can be no doubt about their increasing proliferation even though it doesn’t seem to have been much commented on. There evidently had to be a related word with a syllabic consonant to trigger this so that eg duckling, madly, ugly, Wembley etc were not usually affected but eg buckler, burglar, butler, inkling, spindly, stickler etc became increasingly heard with this anaptyctic schwa by GB speakers.

II. Vowels

3 present closing diphthongs
Fig. 1
4 victorian closing diphthongs
Fig. 2
present centering diphthongs
Fig. 3
victorian centering diphthongs
Fig. 4

  1. The most noteworthy changes of the last century occurred to vowels but not in the main to the vowel system. Though some  prophesied the early demise of the traditional diphthong /ʊǝ/ of words such as cure, it still persisted firmly though admittedly in a smaller number of words than in the middle of the century when it hardly if at all still prevailed in moor, poor, sure, your and you're. It seems quite possible that spelling consciousness will maintain /ʊə/ indefinitely in most other words. See our Blog 251 where well over two hundred words are mentioned most of which firmly maintain this diphthong.
  2. The last unquestionable systemic change to the General British set of vowels was the loss of /ɔǝ/ the former diphthong of words like four which had disappeared from general use before the thirties (despite the OED2 representations), leaving the General British accent with a less neatly balanced set of centring diphthongs. The diphthong /ɔə/ appears in LPD (the Longman Pronounciation Dictionary by J. C. Wells) only with a sign (originally † later §) that signifies "widespread in England among educated speakers but ... nevertheless judged to fall outside RP". In OED2 (the second edition 1989 of the Oxford English Dictionary) it was shown as the only version of all words such as four and boarder though its compilers observed that the latter "in most varieties of southern British pronunciation has become identical" with border. At its Key to Pronunciation they said that "The pronunciations given are those in use in the educated speech of southern England (the so-called Received Standard)". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of 1990 gave identical versions of the two words. The EPD ie the Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary of 1991 still showed boarder with a diphthongal version in square brackets which indicated that it was current according to the editors, who moreover did not avail themselves of the option exercised at various other items to indicate it as "rare" or "old-fashioned". It was in fact always extremely unusual to come across it as the usage of any radio or television newsreader whose speech did not also fairly markedly in other ways suggest the influence of some region of Great Britain. The new edition of EPD in 1997 abandoned the diphthongal representation entirely. OED3 Online likewise contains no GB /ɔə/ variants in items reached by the ongoing revisions since 2000.
  3. In matters of a (phonotactic) distributional change related to vowel incidence it could no longer be said that GB /r/ occurred only before vowels. Many words not only ones acknowledged to be so in the works of Daniel Jones like barrel and barren, but ones like authority, temperature, embarrassing, terrible, borrowing etc had acquired lexical forms for many speakers where this old rule no longer operates, as was pointed out at some length in Windsor Lewis 1979. See the article preceding the present one (§2.3). Another rule often broken was that closing diphthongs didn't occur before /r/ in the same morpheme but schwa intervened. This was latterly not true of an increasing variety of words including Cairo, gyro, Irish, thyroid etc to give only examples where the newer versions became predominant.
  4. A very famous tendency of realisational change affected rather few British speakers but among them a couple of very well known ones. His weakening of the latter elements of the two back-closing diphthongs as in home and now by Prince Charles was first caricatured by entertainers in the late seventies: they represented him as saying ite and abite arind the tine for out and about around the town. He plainly avoided this tendency in later years. His mother, though also often humorously imitated, was relatively rarely caricatured as having the same tendency. Yet one of her Christmas broadcasts of the 1980s had a sentence beginning "I found it fascinating..." which sounded indistinguishable from " I find..." etc. Regarding the home diphthong, an allophonic variation from [əʊ] to a back open-mid or more open closing diphthong  before dark ells which was recognised in 1982 by Wells as 'near RP' and subsequently displayed in his LPD as [ɒʊ] has become increasingly noticed. In the 21st century it has even been observed in use by Prince William.
  5. The major and almost universal change of the third quarter of the century was the lowering and often also backing of the "ash" vowel /æ/. In the fifties the average value was not as close as it seems to have been in the early decades of the century but the new opener value was as yet mainly the style of débutantes etc. However, by the mid seventies it had become so normal that the kind of quality Gimson diagrammed as the norm in the first (1962) edition of his Introduction had already by then become quite out of date. Old movies with eg John Mills as a young RAF officer saying things like eg that bad chap suggesting "thet bed chep" came to excite considerable mirth. This met a minor advancing movement of the cup vowel head on and sent it into reverse. However, speakers were (and still are) to be heard with regard to whom one may be uncertain whether the name they just uttered was eg Branson or Brunson.
  6. The major realisational change of the first half of the century was the striking lurch forward of the first element of the diphthong of home etc. Only a small minority followed this most of the way to the front and by the middle of the century it had gone into reverse with anything more than slightly front of centre becoming 'old-fashioned-posh'. There is no trace in the literature of any reference to this occurring in the 19th century. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother belonged to the first generation to exhibit it. Her daughters had it but with some inconsistency. There was little trace of it in their children. Very few Americans have ever shown any such tendency. Gimson gave the lead very modestly to acknowledging the abandonment of the Victorian back-vowel value by substituting in 1967 in his first revision of the EPD a schwa symbol [ə] for the [o] that Jones had used in the first sixty years of the EPD to represent its first element.
  7. The only other major realisational movement of the century had been gaining increasing momentum so that by the final decade it had clearly become the predominant usage. This was the tendency for the final unstressed vowel of words like happy to be identified more closely with the /i:/ of see etc. The main descriptions we have of the traditional Victorian/Jonesian and Gimsonian "Received" Pronunciation identify this sound with the vowel of sit. However, they do not present an adequate picture even of nineteenth-century usage (see Windsor Lewis 1990). At any rate, for a long time more and more younger people had been using a quality far too close to be identified with the vowel of sit. The Oxford English Dictionary of 1989, and the EPD (the English Pronouncing Dictionary) of 1991 continued to use that symbol for it but not so the later dictionaries the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1993, The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 1995, the Concise Oxford Dictionary 1995 and also the online third edition of the OED in entries revised from 2000.
  8. The mould was broken in 1978 by the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English whose pronunciation editor, Gordon Walsh, contrived to introduce /i/ with the explanation that it was to be interpreted as either /i:/ or /ɪ/ according to whether the user was adopting a British or an American model of pronunciation. In truth it conveniently provided recognition of the fact that most speakers of minimally regionalisable English of England had come to aim at a quality for their final unstressed happy vowel which was too close to be associated with their /ɪ/ value.
  9. When LPD was published in 1990 the value of the /i/ symbol was not directly equated with /ɪ/ but diagrammed with a latitude that overlaps its range and that of /i:/. It is now hardly to be challenged that a majority of non-elderly speakers of the most general varieties of the English of England have average values for /i/ near to their range of values for their /i:/. This is not to say that any but a small minority of them used with regularity the "strong" /i:/ value (sometimes accompanied by a slight degree of diphthongisation) that is commonplace in the USA and predominant in Australasia and South Africa.

    10. Among other realisational matters are the following:

(i) From the late nineteenth century there was evidence that many speakers made the // of words like care a monophthong [ɛː] though few authorities on GB yet claimed that it was clearly the predominant lexical usage when the phoneme was word-final even if the degree of diphthongisation was often pretty slight. However, the New SOED of 1993 incorporated a monophthongal symbolisation for it. Gimson 1962 referred to a monophthongal variant in careful etc and Windsor Lewis 1969 said it was "Generally realised as a long simple vowel (a) before consonants (b) when unstressed, (c) when stressed but in a structural word". This generalisation held well until the end of the century and still seems widely maintained in the 21st but it has become impossible to insist now that the diphthong is more usual in than the simple vowel in any words. Despite the fact that choice of showing of the diphthong persists in EPD and LPD, the newest major dictionary of pronunciations the ODP of 2001 elected to represent this phoneme with [ɛː] and has been followed by the most important EFL description of GB, the eighth edition of Cruttenden's Gimson's English Pronunciation.
(ii) The height and degree of lip rounding of the saw vowel /ɔː/ increased notably for many people in the second quarter of the century. The phoneme remained very variable both between speakers and within the usage of individuals (eg the Queen sometimes had one in shortly so close as to give some encouragement to those who refer to her as having Cockney features) but the closest variants appeared to be waning in inconspicuous speech.
(iii) In the same period a completely monophthongal value of the page vowel /eɪ/ became noticeable in many speakers especially in words like today, but it did not proliferate.
Hardly anyone in the English-speaking world used a fully back version of /uː/ the too vowel like a Spanish speaker's [u] unless they wished to sound "beautifully spoken" for comic effect. But a very large proportion especially of younger speakers in England acquired very markedly advanced and weakly if at all rounded values, making too true much more like tee tree than it was in more conservative accents. It became possible of many younger speakers to be unsure on occasion whether they’d said the word illumination or elimination or the name Gillian or Julian. Similarly the traditional [ʊ] vowel became for many so centralised and weakly, if at all, rounded that some speakers' expressively lengthened look might be indistinguishable from their lurk.
(iv) The beginning of /aʊ/ the diphthong in how became widely more heard in quite retracted forms by the middle of the century. Gimson chose to recognise this in his symbolisation of it in his Introduction to the Pronunciation of English in 1962 (admirable new versions of which have been produced from 1994 by Alan Cruttenden) but returned to the more traditional representation in his revision of the EPD in 1977 not necessarily to suggest sound change but as much as anything, at that time, to keep the transcription as simple as possible. This and the closing diphthong /aɪ/ have for long had a wide range of near-to-fully-open starting points, the former more often exhibiting the fronter types than the latter but the centre of gravity of the spread of incidences of each of them stayed fairly central. 
(v) The smoothing of the centring diphthong of care has also been matched to a considerable extent by the near and cure diphthongs and notably by the vowel sequences of fire and power which have ofen come very near to far and par. The good news about these for the EFL user is that the unsmoothed versions of them don't sound unusual except when actual "triphthongs" are used in unstressed positions in words like empire and rush-hour or a phrase like the programme title Woman's Hour which was to be heard almost daily but apparently never other than as a rhyme for far.

III. Individual Words

Our final changes are miscellaneous ones that have occurred over the years to a wide variety of lexical items. Probably the biggest group of these involve the re-introduction of a sound formerly lost or weakened but which the spelling retains. The obverse of this tendency (11 below) is for a pronunciation to be avoided because it is felt to be inappropriate in respect of its spelling: this "inverse spelling influence" probably accounted for the general disappearance in words like loss of the long vowel "proper" for words like horse.

Constant contrastive use of a word can focus attention on a previously weak syllable resulting in its acquisition of a strengthened value. On the other hand increasing familiarity with words that were formerly perceived as learned items has often led to weakened versions. In the case of many compound words, as the consciousness of the independent identities of their constituents has decreased, they have tended to be accorded a single initial accent instead of two or more major stresses. In some cases, general phonetic processes may be seen at work such as "Vernerism" as I have chosen to call the tendency for stressed syllables immediately following word-initial unstressed ones to be begun with voiced-type consonants. (The Danish linguistician Karl Verner 1846-1896 famously observed spartly similar voicing processes in relation to word stress in Indo-European.)

Among the very considerable numbers of individual words that have undergone changes the following may be taken as typical examples in some of the more noteworthy categories. Some items may belong to more than one of these categories.

At any item the sign ˂ indicates that the form shown is not the predominant usage. 

  1. Re-introduction of a consonant: forehead /`fɒrɪd → `fɔːhed/, Hertford /`hɑːfəd → `hɑːtfəd/, often /ɒfn ɒftən/ (but contrast soften), Sandwich /`sanɪʤ → `san(d)wɪʧ/, schism /`sɪzm → skɪzm/.
  2. Restoration of a lost or introduction of a stronger vowel: alphabet /-bɪt → bet/,  bollard /-əd ɑːd/ (so also blackguard and mallard), boycott /-kət → kɒt/, breeches /`brɪʧɪz → `briːʧɪz/, consequences /`kɒnsɪkwənsɪz → ensɪz/, docile /-ɪl → aɪl/ (also many other words with this suffix), Elgar /-gə → -gɑː/, fortune /-ʧən → ʧuːn/, hurricane  /-kən → -keɪn/ magistrate /-strɪt → -streɪt/ metaphor/-fə → fɔː/, portrait/-trɪt → -treɪt/, Somerset /-sɪt → -set/, steadfast /-fəst → -fɑːst/, synod /-əd → -ɒd/, vacation /və- → veɪ-/, vineyard /-jəd → -jɑːd/. 
  3. Notional spelling-value adoption: issue /`ɪʃu → ɪsju/ (though lately in this word the tendency seems to have gone into reverse); laudanum /`lɒdnəm → `lɔːd-/, Lombardy/`lʌmbədi → lɒm-/, nephew /`nevju → `nefju/ (first recorded as predominant in LPD 1990),  retch  /riːʧ → reʧ/, strafe/strɑːf → streɪf/,  year/jɜː→ jɪə/, ˃bequeath and ˃booth /-ð → -θ/, ostrich /-ɪʧ → -ɪʤ/.
  4. Re-modelling to presumed or actual original-language value (including "Continentalisations"): acoustic /-aʊs-/ →/-uːs-/, armada /ɑː`meɪdə → ɑː`mɑːdə/, banal /`beɪnl → bə`nɑːl/, desperado, strata, suave, virago etc, bulimia˂, memorabilia˂, Cecilia /sɪ`sɪliə/ → /sə`siːliə/, cortège, tête-à-tête, crêche /kreɪʃ/, spontaneity, deity /`diː- → `deɪ-/ demise˂ /-`maɪz → -`miːz/, forte /fɔː t `skaɪ  fɔːteɪ/, Majorca /mə`ʤɔːkə → maɪ`ɔːkə/, Lyons˂ /`laɪənz → `liːɒn/, Marseilles˂ /mɑː`seɪlz → mɑː`seɪ/,  Munich˂ /-ɪk → -ɪx/ , niche /nɪʧ → niːʃ/, schizo-/ `skaɪzəʊ → `skɪtsəʊ/, `Seville Se`ville trauma /trɔːmə → traʊmə˂/.
  5. Re-modelling (anglicising) of items now not at all or less completely perceived as extraneous: detour, envelope, garage, gigolo, profile, questionnaire, restaurant, rucksack, sauna, ski, trait.
  6. Re-modelling on the analogy of related or similar words: bastard /bæs- → bɑːs-/ (only /æ/ in EPD1), contrast /ɑːst/ ( /-æst/ dropped from EPD since Jones's day) /→-ɑːst/,  cer`vical → `cervical, o`besity (OED1 in 1902 gave only /-`bes-/→ -`biːs-/), re`monstrate → `remonstrate, salve /sɑːv → sælv/, scenic /`senɪk → `siːnɪk/, se`cretive → `secretive, umbi`lical → um`bilical, varicose /-kəʊs -kəs/.
  7. Elisions due to speeded articulation from increased familiarity: actually/-ʧʊəli → -ʧəli/, deteriorate /-`tɪərɪəreɪt →`tɪərjəreɪt/, government /-vənmənt → vəmənt/, manufacture /-njʊf → nəf-/ obviously /`ɒbvɪəsli → `ɒbvɪsli/, particularly /-kjʊləli → /-kjəli//,  seriously /-rɪəs- → -rəs-/, temperature /-pərəʧə → -pəʧə//, temporarily becomes indistinguishable from temporally, usually /`juːʒʊəli → /`juːʒli/, vaccuum /-kjuːəm → -kjuːm/, vulnerable /`vʌlnrəbl → `vʌnrəbl/. See also Blogs 243 & 244.
  8.  Conversion to earlier tonic syllable : de`corous → `decorous, de`fect → `defect, quan`dary → `quandary,  so`norous →  `sonorous, super`vise → `supervise, tin`nitus → `tinnitus, va`gary → `vagary, ver`tigo → `vertigo.
  9. Increasing perception of compound as unified: bank `note → `bank note, country`side → `countryside, deck `chair → `deckchair, fountain `pen → `fountain pen, great`coat → `greatcoat, sea`side → `seaside, sponge `cake → `sponge cake, tom`cat → `tomcat, top`coat → `topcoat, week`end →  `weekend. This last word underwent movement of stress to the front only for some speakers. For others it showed retention of final-syllable stress, yet often capture of the medial /k/ onto the final syllable, as witnessed by its aspiration. (This last type oddly not in LPD etc).
  10. Re-positioning (usually postponement) of tonic : `applicable → ap`plicable, `combatant → com`ba/æ/tant, `comparable → com`pa/æ/rable, `conversant → con`versant,  con`tribute → `contribute˂, `despicable → de`spicable˃, `disciplinary → disci`plinary, di`stribute → `distribute˂, elec`toral˂, ex`quisite˃, for`midable˃, ho`spitable, in`tegral˂, in`ventory˂, justi`fiable, `mandatory → man`datory˂, `Monaco → Mo`naco˂, `peremptory → pe`remptory, `Seville → Se`ville, `Uranus → U`ra/eɪ/nus, `urinal → u`rinal, `Westminster → West`minster. In the case of Tra`falgar we see the "amphibrachicising" tendency found in many words such as ro`coco (Italian roco`co), Ta`ranto etc. A poem by Thomas Hardy clearly shows that he stressed the word Trafal`gar as in Spanish. The verb at`tribute hasn't gone the way of  `contribute and `distribute as they have become at least as equally often heard.
  11. Weakening of unstressed sit vowel to schwa or zero: Allen, Athens, Belinda /bə-/, celebrate cruel, cushion, evil, felicity /fə-/, foreign, goodness, Helen, Kennedy, listlessness /-ləsnəs/, peril, pollen, portrait, system, waitress, woollen. Further developments still are commented on at Blog 105.
  12. Strengthening of the suffix /-ɪs/ to /(`)es/: `countess˃, `goddess, `hostess, `Jewess, `lioness, manage`ress, mayo`ress, tailo`ress. Some words in this category only strengthened the final vowel; many moved the stress to the suffix. Any might do so if positive contrast was indicated.
  13. Vernerisms ie products of voicing of voiceless fricatives beginning stressed syllables following upon weak ones: absolve˃, absorb˃, absurd˂, adsorb, chrysanthemum˂, discern˂, luxurious, resource, Oxonian˂. 
  14. Assimilative tendencies: have to /`hæf-/, of /əf/ course, supposed /-əʊs/ to; absolute /`æp-/, advertise /`ævvə-/obviously /`ɒvvɪsli/, hospital /`hɒspɪdl/.
  15. Inverse spelling influence ie re-modelling chiefly according the notional value of o before certain consonants as opposed to the "appropriate" value of o in words like horse, orphan, etc : broth, cloth, cross, lost, often etc were converted from earlier /ɔː/ to /ɒ/. This tendency even perhaps led  many speakers to adopt /ɒ/ in such words as auction, Austin, Australia, caustic˂, claustrophobia
  16. Cross-variety influence: `dispute (frontstressed until the latter 60s only by Northern and Midland speakers), `research (probably reinforced by American influence), ha`rass (a rare case of indisputable American influence from the late 60s onward, though this had long been the usual stressing in Scotland and Ireland), involve (with the -ol- as more traditionally in revolt). This  item is representative of a small group of words which were mainly Londonisms until the 70s. Perhaps in reaction against this last tendency some speakers have adopted /ɒl/ in a few words that may have previously normally taken /əʊl/ eg extol, toll.

An item in the inventory of vowel phonemes referred to in Wells (1982) as "London-flavoured ... Near-RP"  underwent a re-classification to "RP" by him (something which I could not personally confirm though did not necessarily doubt to be reasonable). Since publishing that 1982 text, Wells's subsequent observations have led him to the decision that it is no longer appropriate to classify as merely "London English" products of the split by which speakers may have a phonemic difference between eg wholly and holy with the former having a diphthong beginning much opener. Accordingly in the LPD from 1990 he has offered it as an alternative model for the EFL learner.


Bauer, Laurie (1994) Watching English Change Harlow, Essex, UK: Longman.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1911,1995 etc).

Cruttenden, Alan (2008, 2014) Gimson's Pronunciation of English. 7th & 8th Editions. London, UK: Hodder Education. 

Gimson, A. C. (1962) An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English London: Edward Arnold. Fifth edition, 1994, edited by Alan Cruttenden 

Jones, D. (1991). Edited by A. C. Gimson and S. Ramsaran. English Pronouncing Dictionary. Cambridge: CUP. ("EPD")

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1978/1987) Harlow, Essex, UK: Longman.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1995 etc & Online). Oxford: OUP.

The Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition. (1989) prepared by J. S. Simpson & E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: OUP. (OED2). Third edition online (OED3) editor John Simpson.

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