During the month of November, we are discussing the topic of social class and English.
On this page you will find a growing list of resources regarding the topic of class English.
If you would like to contribute with a link or links, or a guest post on the topic, please contact us, or leave a comment.
Class English – our blog posts
A class of our own
These days, we like to think that the class system is behind us, and that we live in a classless society with equality of opportunity for all, but there are still divisions within society that are identifiable by the way we speak.
RP and Dortspeak
Nowadays RP is less exalted, and regional dialects are encountered more often in the media. But where there’s cultural difference and social inequality, there will also be prejudice and snobbery; terms like feral underclass were used to describe rioters in England earlier this year.
The fall of the r-less class
The past century has seen American and British attitudes toward non-rhoticity diverge. Where r-lessness was once a prestige feature in both countries, it is a marker of working-class or vernacular speech in 21st-century America … In England, on the other hand, non-rhoticity is stronger than ever, colonizing the country’s last rhotic safe havens.
Through the class ceiling
Standard English is an important and useful variety of English, but its status comes from historical circumstance rather than inherent linguistic superiority. This point is sometimes missed by those who hold that there is an ideal form of English – which typically corresponds to the form they were taught or to which they aspire.
Talking like common people
Language is a huge element in the creation of identity, so it’s not surprising that as well as picking up the cigarettes and pool cues, when the middle classes try to act working class they often pick up some slang terms and drop their h’s and g’s, so “I hate her singing” soon becomes “I ‘ate her singin’”, perhaps with a mate, geezer or bruv chucked in, depending on the age of the speaker.
The rise of the r-ful
Like any local accent in England, these are also associated with being working-class or lower-middle-class. The upper crust have no regional accent. And the way the upper crust speak is non-rhotic.
Your class English words
The question we’ve asked this month was: What word in English is loaded with the most ‘class’ content for you? This was a bit of a difficult one to answer (and some of you told me as much in no uncertain terms, thank you!). But we got some great answers anyway.
Pass the serviettes: dictionaries and class
Today’s dictionaries generally shy away from assigning class markers to words. The Oxford Dictionary of English, for example, has a helpful usage note at its entry for innit, which accepts that this is a word that ‘induces rage and consternation in traditionalists’, but goes on to give a calm, corpus-based account of the word’s use in contemporary English.
Class, accent, variety: north vs south
English accents have both geographic and class divides; America has many of the former but fewer of the latter. Across broad swathes of the country – most of the midwest and west – it’s hard to know at a quick listen whether someone comes from a well-heeled background or a poorer one.
English and class in UK urban centres
It may be argued, then, that class is expressed through an acceptance or rejection of what is perceived as the linguistic standard or norm. Speakers make linguistic choices that reflect their social attitudes and what they see as their place in the society in which they live; they are choices shaped by social class that express social class.