What’s in a London accent?
London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. But what does a London accent sound like? Whether you call it ‘Cockney’, ‘Estuary’, ‘Mockney’ (if you’re faking it), or simply ‘London’, here are 10 key features:
1. Silent ‘h’
A London accent does not use the sound /h/ at all!
hope, have, healthy, happy, holiday, handsome
2. Glottal Stops
This is a really noticeable aspect of London accent, change your /t/ for a glottal stop /ʔ/ when it comes after a vowel:
bottle water hat Tottenham
In stronger accents, it will even replace a /k/ and a /p/ before another consonant sound:
3. /l/ changes to /w/ after a vowel.
If /l/ appears at the end of the syllable, it is pronounced like a /w/ or /ʊ/
always fall bottle handle minimal
4. ‘th’ becomes /f/ or /v/
The two dental fricatives are not pronounced in a London accent, /θ/ is replaced with /f/ and /ð/ is replaced with /v/:
Thanks for the theatre, brother.
5. /ŋ/ is /n/ at the end of words:
The ng sound is replaced with /n/ if it’s at the end of a word.
We’ve been fishing, relaxing, nothing exerting.
6. Short Vowel Sounds
/æ/ in ‘bat’ is pronounced more like /e/ in ‘bet’:
thanks, ham, sank, ran
/ʌ/ in FUN moves to a position more frontal like /æ/ in FAN:
lovely, nothing, London, fun
7. Long Vowel Sounds
/iː/ starts with a neutral vowel, more like [əiː]
She needs some green leaves.
/uː/ starts with a neutral vowel, more like [əuː]
soon, few, shoe, choose
/ɔː/ becomes a diphthong, like [ɔʊ] or a triphthong like [ɔʊə] if it’s at the end:
bought, talk, force, important
paw, law, saw, raw
8. Double (diphthong) vowel Sounds
/əʊ/ starts further towards the front, like [æʊ]
Don’t go slow, Joe.
/aʊ/ is not a double vowel, it’s a long /æː/
How’s the ground now?
Words & Grammar
The following 2 points are more associated with a London dialect as they involve grammatical and lexical changes:
9. Negatives & ‘innit’
A Londoner might use two negatives, which wouldn’t occur in standard English:
There ain’t nothing we can do about it.
Don’t give him no trouble, alright?
The question tag ‘innit’ is used instead of any other tag even if it creates a double negative:
That’s great, innit?
We go every week, innit?
10. Rhyming Slang
This is a famous feature of cockney, but certain phrases have crept into a more widespread London lexican (see our article on Cockney Rhyming Slang for more).
Let’s have a butchers.
The comparisons in this article are made with GB English.