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29 October 2014

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The Voices Recordings
Interviewee Michael Sullivan

Born: 1931

Lives: Hornchurch, Essex

Time lived in area: All my life

Occupation: Retired

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Listen to
Michael tries to define the typical Essex accent - out in the countryside it can be like listening to a foreign language.

Language of interview: English

Duration: (mins/secs)

About the interview

The participants were asked to describe how they spoke in their own words.

How do you describe your accent: "Essex."

Have there been other influences on the way you speak: Not Given

Do you have skills in languages other than English?: No

Other languages: None

About this interview
INTERVIEWER: Is there an Essex accent? MICHAEL: Yes, most certainly. I used to have er er a, cou- oh not cousin, an uncle in Clacton and to listen to him speak it was a typical Essex accent, it was always a mumble it was never a plain word, you, you had to listen to him, I mean to say like "yerapple puy" and things like that - and "the piyg ouse" and all that, you had to listen to him. Yes Essex has definitely got its own dialect. ROBERT: But surely Essex being so large a county you got different dialects when you get to North Essex and South Essex they are very different. When you get to the Suffolk border it's very parochial and rural. MICHAEL Er yeah but Ess - when you refer to the Essex, I mean to say, you don't see Essex on the touring map, people don't say, "Essex - um no, don't like Essex" - they haven't been there. Northern North Essex is beautiful, on the Suffolk borders and you can go from Brentwood and if you know the road you can go almost to Harwich without going through a town, you're going through fields and farms and that's Essex. And you listen to some of the dialects there, you think you're in a foreign land.
More about the speech in this clip

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes

It's interesting that people from outside an area talk about a regional accent - you often hear people refer to a Scottish accent or a Yorkshire accent or, as here, an Essex accent and yet there are differences between speakers even within these areas. The real experts are local people who are able to pick up on the subtle differences between speakers from nearby towns and villages. These differences might not be immediately apparent to outsiders, but they are extremely important to locals as they help define who they are in relation to others.

There are a number of features of Michael's speech that are typical of speakers in the south-east of England. Listen, above all, to the way he pronounces the sound in the words uncle, typical, mumble, apple pie and fields. Many speakers in this part of England pronounce words like these using a sound that is more like a vowel or a sound - a process known as L-vocalisation. Listen also to the characteristic vowel sounds he uses in words in the following three sets: north Essex and Suffolk borders; uncle, mumble and Suffolk and Clacton, map and land.

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