A survey of accents of English in Britain and Ireland

This page gives preliminary results of an on-line survey of accents of English in Britain and Ireland. This survey, launched in March 2009, is designed to determine whether this kind of questionnaire can be used to reveal patterns of variation in English, what it can tell us about the distribution of phonological distinctions and mergers in English accents, and to test the efficacy of particular kinds of questions for eliciting these patterns.
The survey can be viewed at the following address:
Note that the survey is primarily designed for native speakers of English from Britain and Ireland (and the islands around about), but anyone is welcome to take it.
The questionnaire elicits speaker judgments using three kinds of questions:
  1. Minimal Pair tests, e.g. Do you pronounce fur and fair the same?
  2. Rhyme tests, e.g. Do mate and eight rhyme for you? 
  3. Three-way minimal pair and rhyme tests, e.g. How do merry, Murray and Mary rhyme for you?
The Minimal Pair and Rhyme tests have three possible answers (Always/usually, Sometimes, and Never/Rarely), whilst the three-way questions have five possible answers.

In addition, a range of social data are gathered for each respondent in order to put the results in context.


A  majority of respondents to the questionnaire thus far have attended university. As a consequence, it is unlikely that the results are representative of the most localised forms of speech found in Britain and Ireland, and it is quite possible that the degree of phonological variation revealed in this survey under-estimates that which can be found in society at large.


The following maps summarise responses to four questions from natives of Britain and Ireland. These results are only preliminary - not all responses received so far have been included, and responses have not been otherwise checked.


  • Chambers, J. and Trudgill, P. (1980) Dialectology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Harris, J. (1985) Phonological Variation and Change: Studies in Hiberno-English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Wells, J. (1982) Accents of English, 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Williams, A. and Kerswill, P. (1999) “Dialect levelling: change and continuity in Milton Keynes, Reading and Hull”. In Foulkes, P. and Docherty, G. (eds.), Urban Voices: Accent Studies in the British Isles, 141-162. London: Arnold.
  • The maps were drawn using the program DMAP by Alan Morton (http://www.dmap.co.uk/).
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