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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful book, 10 April 2013
This review is from: Accents of English: Volume 2 (Paperback)
This is a very useful book. It is clear and concise. It starts with Received Pronunciation (sometimes called "BBC English"), then goes through the other accents, comparing them to RP throughout. He uses lexical sets to group words with the same vowel together. This is a useful way of saying that a set of words have one sound in one accent and another sound in another accent. He acknowledges that accents vary according to many factors (location, age, sex, class). John Wells is a world authority on pronunciation and phonetics. There are one or two accents that are not covered (e.g. Hull), but the main ones are in here.

There are some downsides. One is that its coverage is very uneven. London speech gets a very thorough examination, but the other counties of the south-east are barely mentioned. I felt that Wells's attitude to "traditional dialect" varied throughout the book. In the early chapters, he was very critical of the Survey of English Dialects and argued that the speech it recorded was archaic. However, his chapter on the West Country was based almost entirely on the Survey of English Dialects, and he also quoted it frequently when discussing the north of England.

Another problem (hardly the fault of the author) is that parts of the book are dated now. The section on U-RP would baffle most younger readers. When the book was written, there was a much stronger relationship between social class and accent than there is now. There cannot be many people left who make an effort to speak like the upper-classes.

I'm not sure why he published it in three separate volumes. The first volume is much more academic than the other two, and the only accents that it covers are Received Pronunciation and General American. I would only recommend volume 1 to serious linguists. Volumes 2 and 3 are more fun.
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