Accents are under threat from the encroaching estuary English

Families moved from London to Thetford in the 1950s, bringing with them a new accent which soon spre

Families moved from London to Thetford in the 1950s, bringing with them a new accent which soon spread across the country. - Credit: EDP, Archant

It's been said for years that the Norfolk accent is under threat – with its advocates declaring the claims 'a load of old squit'.

A map showing the differing pronounciation of the word "scone" across the UK. Picture: Cambridge Uni

A map showing the differing pronounciation of the word "scone" across the UK. Picture: Cambridge University - Credit: Archant

But new research has revealed how regional accents across the UK are under threat from the march of estuary English.

The University of Cambridge, working with the universities of Bern and Zurich, has found that an increasing number of people are pronouncing certain words and colloquialisms in a London or South-East accent.

Examples of words which are changing around the country include those such as 'three' being pronounced with an 'f' or 'scone' being pronounced to rhyme with 'gone' rather than 'cone', according to the research, which was gathered through the English Dialects App, launched in January.

Lead researcher Dr Adrian Leemann, from Cambridge's Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, said: 'When it comes to language change in England, our results confirm that there is a clear pattern of levelling towards the English of the South-East; more and more people are using and pronouncing words in the way that people from London and the South-East do.'


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The research also found that traditional words were on the decline. The use of 'backend' for 'autumn', and 'shiver' for 'splinter' were two examples of words which are dying out.

More than 30,000 people from over 4,000 locations have used the app, with the results compared to data collected in the 1950s.

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Keith Skipper, founder of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect, said the research was no surprise, but that the Norfolk dialect was still going strong.

'I think there are still pockets throughout Norfolk and Suffolk where they respect the language they used when they were younger.

'It lingers much more than you think and people have been ready for its funeral for many years – but it never quite happens,' he said.

What do you think about the shift in accents and dialects? Email andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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