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Perceptions of T-glottalling among adolescents in South East England: A sign of 'chavviness', or a key to 'coolness'?

Alderton, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8538-8531 (2020). Perceptions of T-glottalling among adolescents in South East England: A sign of 'chavviness', or a key to 'coolness'?. English Today, 36(3), pp. 40-47. doi: 10.1017/s0266078420000279


Sociolinguistic research has established that glottal realisations of the voiceless alveolar stop /t/ have become increasingly common in accents of British English. The phenomenon, known as T-glottalling, encompasses the production of word-final and word-medial /t/ using glottal articulations, including creaky voice, pre-glottalisation [ʔt] and glottal replacement [ʔ] (Straw & Patrick, 2007), so that words such as but [bʌt] and butter [bʌtə] may become [bʌʔ] and [bʌʔə] respectively. The change has been documented for some time in Scotland (Macafee, 1997) and Norfolk (Trudgill, 1999) but has since been reported in numerous locations across the UK (see Smith & Holmes–Elliott, 2018 for a recent review). Studies of regional dialect levelling (Kerswill, 2003) have argued that T-glottalling has spread from working-class London speech into neighbouring varieties of South East England and beyond as a form of geographical diffusion (Altendorf & Watt, 2004). Together with other variables showing similar sociolinguistic patterns, such as TH-fronting and L vocalisation, it has been identified as part of a set of ‘youth norms’ used by young people in many urban centres to index a trendy, youthful identity (Williams & Kerswill, 1999; Milroy, 2007; though see Watson, 2006 for an exception in Liverpool), which have elsewhere been referred to as ‘Estuary English’ (Rosewarne, 1984; Altendorf, 2017). In terms of perception, T-glottalling is described as highly salient and stigmatised, frequently attracting comments from lay speakers to the effect that it should be avoided (Wells, 1982; Bennett, 2012), to the extent that mainstream journalistic publications can identify and criticise its use by ‘educated’ speakers such as politicians (e.g. Littlejohn, 2011).

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
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