British English (BrE) or UK English is the standard dialect of the English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland, North East England, Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas the adjective little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken and so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language.
Don't Forget about Dialects!
Dialects and accents vary amongst the four countries of the United Kingdom, as well as within the countries themselves.
The major divisions are normally classified as English English (or English as spoken in England, which encompasses Southern English dialects, West Country dialects, East and West Midlands English dialects and Northern English dialects), Ulster English (in Northern Ireland), Welsh English (not to be confused with the Welsh language), and Scottish English (not to be confused with the Scots language or Scottish Gaelic language). The various British dialects also differ in the words that they have borrowed from other languages. Around the middle of the 15th century, there were points where within the 5 major dialects there were almost 500 ways to spell the word though.
What is Received Pronunciation?
Most people in Britain speak with a regional accent or dialect. However, about 2% of Britons speak with an accent called Received Pronunciation (also called "the Queen's English", "Oxford English" and "BBC English"), that is essentially region-less. It derives from a mixture of the Midlands and Southern dialects spoken in London in the early modern period. It is frequently used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners.
In the South East there are significantly different accents; the Cockney accent spoken by some East Londoners is strikingly different from Received Pronunciation (RP). The Cockney rhyming slang can be (and was initially intended to be) difficult for outsiders to understand, although the extent of its use is often somewhat exaggerated.
Estuary English has been gaining prominence in recent decades: it has some features of RP and some of Cockney. In London itself, the broad local accent is still changing, partly influenced by Caribbean speech. Immigrants to the UK in recent decades have brought many more languages to the country. Surveys started in 1979 by the Inner London Education Authority discovered over 100 languages being spoken domestically by the families of the inner city's schoolchildren. As a result, Londoners speak with a mixture of accents, depending on ethnicity, neighbourhood, class, age, upbringing, and sundry other factors.
Since the mass internal migration to Northamptonshire in the 1940s and given its position between several major accent regions, it has become a source of various accent developments. In Northampton the older accent has been influenced by overspill Londoners. There is an accent known locally as the Kettering accent, which is a transitional accent between the East Midlands and East Anglian. It is the last southern Midlands accent to use the broad "a" in words like bath/grass (i.e. barth/grarss). Conversely crass/plastic use a slender "a". A few miles northwest in Leicestershire the slender "a" becomes more widespread generally. In the town of Corby, five miles (8 km) north, one can find Corbyite which, unlike the Kettering accent, is largely influenced by the West Scottish accent.
In addition, many British people can to some degree temporarily "swing" their accent towards a more neutral form of English at will, to reduce difficulty where very different accents are involved, or when speaking to foreigners.
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