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Variety of English accents

What does accent mean?

Accent generally refers to ‘variation in pronunciation’.

In phonetics, accent is the relative prominence given to a particular syllable of a word over its adjacent syllables, or to a particular word in a phrase. The emphasis can be heard through the use of stress or pitch.

In sociolinguistics, an accent is a characteristic way or manner for pronunciation, which is distinctive to an individual, an area, or a nation. It may represent the regional or geographic locality of its speakers (i.e. where they reside), the socio-economic status of its speakers (i.e. their ethnicity, caste and social class), or the influence from speakers’ first language.

The English language, its speakers and the variety of accents

English, as a global language, is being used by about 335 million native speakers and 505 million second-language users worldwide. It is an official language of 79 countries and many regions. It is also the official language of many political, social and sport organisations.

Speakers with a native variety of English are mostly from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, where English is the de-facto official language and primary language. Other speakers from former colonies or territories of the United Kingdom, or speakers of English as a second/additional/foreign language who learn a model of Standard English (accent) through education, usually carry an accent influenced by their first language.

Let us listen to a selection of English accents below. You may refer to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) chart and the pronunciations on this website: https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/content/ipa-chart

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