Attitudes towards accents in the United Kingdom: a sociophonetic analysis
Landivar Landa, Nadia
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The United Kingdom is widely known for having a large number of accents, but what is the social attitude towards them? In order to answer this question, we need to analyse the importance of accents on identity. Accents portray not only the speakers’ region of origin but also the social class or cultural groups to whom they belong. This leads to the emergence of stereotypes and prejudices towards accents, which have been perpetuated through decades. This consolidated sociolinguistic perception of accents is reflected in society and has a huge impact on speakers. Accent discrimination is present in many areas of the labour market. Received Pronunciation is the model in teaching and the dominant accent in mass media. Furthermore, negative attitudes towards regional non-standard accents are still present in politics. Similarly, both the advertisement and translation industries take this sociolinguistic phenomenon into consideration in their creative processes. As a consequence, we can find different reactions among speakers of the least desirable accents: from feeling ashamed and accommodating to a more standardised accent, to feeling pride and celebrating the way they speak. Furthermore, as in recent years there has been an increase in awareness on this issue, some institutions have emerged with the aim of eliminating linguistic discrimination and promoting linguistic diversity. Taking this social background into consideration, we will present a phonetic analysis of audios by three Northern public figures who suffered accent discrimination. They display different profiles which vary in profession (politician, TV presenter, and influencer), and age. We will examine the presence or absence of features from the speakers’ accents of origin in order to check if the accent discrimination they suffered generated a modification in their original accent. Results show different reactions to linguistic discrimination among the three speakers: from linguistic accommodation to pride and celebration of linguistic diversity. These results together with the literature review reveal that in recent years there has been an interesting development both in speakers’ reactions towards their own accent and attitudes towards accents in the UK, which may develop into a great transformation in British society’s attitudes towards accents in the following decades.