What does your accent say about you?

All accents can provoke prejudice, according to a language expert

 

Rose Troup Buchanan
Thursday 29 October 2015 14:30
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The 'Queens English' has fallen out of favour in recent years
The 'Queens English' has fallen out of favour in recent years

No single British accent fails to provoke a measure of prejudice, a language expert has claimed.

So, what does your accent say about you?

Robert Cauldwell, who teaches English as a foreign language and who has spoken on the the effects of regional accents, claims while there have been huge shifts in the perception of accents in recent years, some stereotypes do remain.

“People from Birmingham are uneducated, thick, louts. That would be one that I come across most often,” he said. Bad luck if you are from Birmingham.

But, should you hail from either Northern Ireland or Edinburgh, you may be in luck. “Educated Scottish English and educated Irish English are always an attractive accent, people find.”

“There is no prejudice neutral accent,” he told The Independent. “There is no accent that is immune from prejudice – but prejudice jumps both ways, so can be positive and negative.”

He also cautioned there was no “best” accent. “It depends on the social group that you want to impress or work with.”

And, Mr Cauldwell added peoples reaction to accent said more about them than the accent itself. “Every accent excites prejudices… they lie with the hearers.”

A 2014 YouGov survey polled 2000 applicants and found the most attractive accent was from Southern Ireland, closely followed by the Queen’s English accent, with the Brummie and Scouse accents polling at the bottom.

Mr Cauldwell told there had been a “shift” in recent years away from the “precious or what was known as Received Pronunciation [RP]” accents.

“Previously those accents were thought of as highly educated and trustworthy,” he said. “But, the perception of toffs and of, say, the Bullingdon Club, means those accents can now be seen [as] having privileges they don’t deserve.”

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