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Accents of Britain: The Phonetics & Phonology of English Dialects - LAN00076H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dominic Watt
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module looks in detail at the diversity of accents of English in the United Kingdom and the British Isles more generally, and explores the historical development of selected varieties of the language. The phonetic and phonological properties of UK Englishes are examined in terms of the interplay of language-internal structural forces (mergers, splits, chain shifts, etc.), and external factors such as social identity, migration patterns, economic developments, (counter)urbanisation, and the role of the media. The module also touches upon how the study of accent informs work in the clinical, technological, forensic, and entertainment spheres.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Additional information

It may also be an advantage to have taken Intermediate Language Variation & Change.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • to give students a detailed understanding of variability in the phonetics and phonology of varieties of UK English
  • to introduce students to changes currently in progress in UK Englishes
  • to allow students to apply principles of phonetics and phonology to linguistic phenomena in varieties in which they have native or near-native competence
  • to acquaint students with a diversity of methods of data collection and analysis in the study of phonetic/phonological variation
  • to develop in students an appreciation of how the study of phonetic/phonological variation in English is of value to ‘real-world’ issues in the clinical, technological, forensic and entertainment spheres
  • to give students the experience of working in small groups of mixed background, offering one another mutual support
  • to enhance students’ abilities in critical thinking and argumentation, and to allow them to refine their written and oral presentation skills

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should:

  • have an understanding of a number of linguistic-theoretical problems, with an emphasis on their relevance to some aspect of English phonetics and phonology
  • have experience of applying aspect/s of linguistic theory to the analysis of English language data, and as a result, gain a better understanding of the relationship between data and analysis
  • have an understanding of best practices in data collection, including audio capture methods and survey design
  • have developed the ability to deploy a variety of analytical techniques to the auditory and acoustic examination of speech recordings
  • understand how accent research can inform practices in non-linguistic areas of economic and social activity such as medicine, high technology, forensic science, and the creative arts

Module content

This module is likely to be of particular interest to students with an interest in sociolinguistics and English language, and to those who are considering careers in areas such as speech and language therapy, English teaching, speech and language technology, forensic speech science, or the media and communications sector.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay (1000 words)
N/A 20
Essay (3000 words)
N/A 80

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay (3000 words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive continuous verbal feedback during class time. Written feedback on summative work will be provided within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

Beal, J.C. (2010). An Introduction to Regional Englishes: Dialect Variation in England. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Britain, D. (2007, ed.). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Foulkes, P. & Docherty, G.J. (1999). Urban Voices: Accent Studies in the British Isles. London: Arnold.

Hughes, A., Trudgill, P. & Watt, D. (2012). English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British Isles, 5th edn. London: Hodder Education.

Kortmann, B. & Upton, C. (2008, eds.). Varieties of English, vol. I: The British Isles. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Milroy, J. & Milroy, L. (2013). Real English: The Grammar of English Dialects in the British Isles. London: Routledge.

Munro, M.J. (2021). Applying Phonetics: Speech Science in Everyday Life. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Wells, J.C. (1982). Accents of English, vol. I: The British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.