British Library to chart how English language evolves

  • 28 October 2010
  • From the section UK
A gate of the British Library in London
Image caption Linguists at the British Library say pronunciation is a matter of fashion

The British Library is asking the public to help it track how pronunciation is shifting in Britain.

Volunteers are being asked to record a chapter from a Mr Man book to see how certain words and accents are changing.

The library wants as many people as possible to record the opening paragraphs of children's book Mr Tickle to track differences in vowel sounds.

It says youngsters are now more likely to say "haitch" than "aitch" when pronouncing the letter H.

When saying the word "mischievous", they prefer to pronounce it "mischeevy-us" rather than "mischivus", curators add. Young people are also more likely to have different way of saying words such as garage, schedule, migraine and harass.

The library is preparing to launch an exhibition called Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices.

BBC arts correspondent David Sillito says its linguists have drawn no conclusions on which pronunciations are right or wrong.

They say it is simply a matter of fashion, adding that in Victorian Britain the common pronunciations for hospital and herb, were 'ospital and 'erb.

The library says the exhibition will be the first to explore the English language "in all its national and international diversity".

It says iconic books and manuscripts set alongside everyday texts will show "the social, cultural and historical strands from which the language has been woven".

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