Dialects:  Appendix



International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) was created in 1997 as a repository of primary source recordings for actors and other artists in the performing arts. Its home is the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Kansas.  All recordings in English are of Native speakers


International Phonetic Association (IPA)


Useful Books

Non-English Accents

  • All first-year foreign language text books contain a section on the sounds of the target language.

Prononciation Dictionaries

  • Gimson, A C, and Daniel Jones.   Everyman’s English Pronouncing Dictionary: Containing Over 58,000 Words in International Phonetic Transcription.  London: Dent, 1964.

Daniel Jones and A.C. Gimson were professors of Phonetics at University College London.  Their dictionary provides pronunciations of British English in IPA.
Accompanying tapes recorded by native speakers are available.

  • Kenyon, John S, and Thomas A. Knott.   A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English.  Springfield, Mass:. & C.
    Merriam Co, 1953.

Accent Books

  • Trudgill, Peter, and Jean Hannah.   International English: A Guide to Varieties of Standard English.  London: E. Arnold, 1994.
  • Hughes, Arthur, and Peter Trudgill. English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of British English. London: E. Arnold, 1987.

Both these books were written by professors of Phonetics and Dialectology.  They define the accents but do not attempt to teach them.

  • The central branch of Seattle Public Library also has a large selection of recorded books, plays and folk music.


Tips for How to Learn a Dialect

  • Recordings.  Only ever listen to recordings of native speakers. Non-native speakers cannot ever completely imitate the intonation pattern of a native.  N.B. Many of the commercial materials for dialects do not use native speakers.
  • Phonetics.  It is a good idea to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet, which will enable you to isolate and identify the sounds.
  • Vocal Placement. Work not only with the phonetic substitutions, but also with the placement of the mouth: how the mouth is shaped, whether the lips are spread or rounded, tongue placements, whether the soft palate is lowered or not, whether the air flow hits at the back of the throat or at the front. Having the correct placement will create the resonance of the accent.
  • Doctor you script.  It is best to doctor your script before you read it, by writing in all of the phonetic substitutions.   Given the irregular nature of English spelling, looking at the written text is likely to confuse you.  Know exactly which sounds change and which do not. Read in rehearsal from a doctored script.
  • Foreign Accents.  If it is a foreign accent, make a decision with your director as to whether the character learned American English or British English. Nowadays, educated Europeans and East Indians all learn British English. Generally you have to pronounce the word as a Brit would then overlay it with the foreign accent. Less educated immigrants to America and all Latin Americans learn American English.
  • If you are having trouble with pronunciation and the intonation pattern, sing it. It is extremely effective.
  • Folk Music.  The musicality of folk songs comes from the intonation pattern of the dialect from which the folk music evolved. It is very helpful to listen to folk music.
  • Listen to as much of the accent as you can. Go to the library–there are lots of recorded plays and other materials.    N.B. Buying books and tapes where 50 accents are on one cassette tape usually means that only one minute of each accent is recorded, which is not enough and probably does not contain all the sounds which have to be changed.
  • Speak as you listen.  One of the most effective ways to learn an accent is to listen to a recording with headphones on and talk along with it, taking that nanosecond to figure out what they are saying.  Or listen to a recorded play and read the script while speaking the lines. It is physiologically impossible to maintain one’s own accent while one has head phones playing.
  • Before you try to work on an accent, have a good vocal warm-up with particular attention to articulation exercises, especially those which build up the muscularity in the tip and blade of the tongue.



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