Almost all over the world, all regions have their own accent and/or dialect. The United States, China, India, Australia, even England. These two terms do not mean the same as many believe. An accent refers to the way a person says something that’s different from the standard way of saying it. A dialect refers to a whole new version of a standard language spoken in a specific region. In terms of England, the standard language is English or as many people call it, British English. Some dialects in England include: Estuary English, Cockney English, Northern Irish, and Brummie. Out of the few dialects mentioned, I will be focussing on Cockney English and how it is perceived by people living in England, specifically the upper class, who don’t speak this dialect.
To begin with, the region of England where Cockney English originated was from the East End of London. This dialect is mostly spoken is by the working class. It was supposedly created by them so they could “…outsmart fancy upper classes, as well as outsiders in general” (kqed.org). Basically, the working class created Cockney English so that they could have their own language that was different from the standard and so that they could I guess make fun of the upper class. Some features of Cockney English include: A raise in vowels which means that the word “trap” would sound more like “trep”, and certain vowel sounds are moved around so the word “day” would be pronounced similarly to the American style of “die”. Cockney English is also perceived as “…devious and aggressive” (Morrish).
Now, what do people who don’t speak Cockney English think about this dialect? Well, since Cockney English is used mostly by the lower working class, the people and the language are generally looked down upon by the upper class. “..many working-class dialects, like those of the Cockney of East London, have vocabularies unto themselves. “The old bill was after a nicked motor’” may not be immediately apparent to an outsider as, ”The policeman chased a stolen car’” (Rattner). From this sentence example, you can see how the way the statement, “The policeman chased a stolen car” was said with words that had no relation to the statement. Or so we, as non Cockney English speakers would think. Obviously, someone who spoke Cockney English would understand “The old bill was after a nicked motor” meant. But, just as we wouldn’t be able to understand it, I think someone in England, or even London, who didn’t speak the dialect would also not understand it. This raises the question of how do Cockey English speakers actually speak Cockney English? Well,` “The principles of cockney rhyming slang are simple: instead of saying the word you want to convey, you say something that rhymes with it instead” (kqed.org). For example, instead of “facts”, you would say “brass tacks”.
As far as attitudes go about how this dialect is perceived by the upper class is again, the speakers of this dialect are not that high in status. The upper class also associate the speakers with working low wage jobs. The upper class perceives Cockney speakers this way because since their speech style involved rhyming words, it makes the language seem childish and that the people who speak it are not that educated, when that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, many rich business owners in England speak Cockney English or have a Cockney accent. So, from what I learned from my research, Cockney English was once looked down upon by the upper class in England but now, not so much. Mainly because it isn’t spoken as much today but people have become used to the dialect that they don’t think as negatively about it or its speakers. Still, there will be some people who think that they are superior to those that speak Cockney English all because they don’t speak a “childish” language.
To find out how Cockney English speakers are perceived by the upper class, I did a lot of research and went on several websites from the U.K. and I learned a lot about the varying accents and dialects present. I learned that Cockney English is not the only dialect/accent that is looked down upon by the upper class and even sometimes the middle class. By doing research, I learned that there are many prejudices as to a certain accent and/or dialect which I don’t necessarily understand. I mean, yes, we’re all human and every now and then, we’re bound to think negatively about the way someone speaks or the language they’re speaking but why do we do this? Why do we judge someone solely on the way they talk? This is a very stereotypical situation but someone from the South would be perceived as “uneducated” by someone living in say New York or California. How do we know if they’re uneducated? They could probably be more educated than us but they speak that way because they grew up speaking that way. It’s hard to change your speaking style especially if that is how you grew up speaking. In fact, in my first reflective essay, I talked about how my parents are able to switch their speaking styles depending on how they’re talking to whereas I have trouble doing so. A lot of people make fun of me for that, but why? It’s not my fault I didn’t grow up in the same environment as you and was never around relatives that required me to change my speech style. Overall, by doing this assignment and by just being in Introduction to Language, I learned that you shouldn’t just a person by the way they speak and begin to assume things about them. Especially if you are just hearing their voice and have no idea what they look like.
- Does anything seem repetitive in my paper?
- Is there anything else that I can include?
Alexandra, Rae. “How to Make Sense of English Cockneys, One Pop Culture Clip at a Time.” KQED. KQED ARTS, 27 Mar. 2018, www.kqed.org/pop/98046/how-to-make-sense-of-english-cockneys-one-pop-culture-clip-at-a-time.
Morrish, John. “Focus: The Accent that Dare not Speak its Name.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 23 Oct. 2011, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/focus-the-accent-that-dare-not-speak-its-name-1082144.html.
Steven Rattner. “To the British Ear, Accents are All-Revealing.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Aug. 1982, www.nytimes.com/1982/08/22/world/to-the-british-ear-accents-are-all-revealing.html.