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Talking ProperThe Rise of Accent as Social Symbol$
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Lynda Mugglestone

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199250622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199250622.001.0001

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/h/ and Other Symbols of the Social Divide

/h/ and Other Symbols of the Social Divide

(p.95) 4 /h/ and Other Symbols of the Social Divide
Talking Proper

Lynda Mugglestone (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the patterns of both usage and language attitudes which came into existence in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It shows how the use of /h/ in modern English became one of the foremost signals of social identity, its presence in initial positions associated almost inevitably with the ‘educated’ and ‘polite’, while its loss commonly triggers popular connotations of the ‘vulgar’, the ‘ignorant’, and the ‘lower class’. Surrounded by social values and attendant value judgements, the dropping of [h], now operates as ‘the single most powerful pronunciation shibboleth in England’, a ready marker of social difference, a symbol of the social divide.

Keywords:   English language, speech, accent, social status, social values

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