For this MA thesis I have chosen to investigate the accent known as Estuary English (EE). Even though it is having a massive impact on the development of the English language (especially in Britain) there are few extensive sources regarding this accent, and even though studies have been conducted they are few and hard to come across. Even linguists agree that there are few sources regarding EE, which makes it an interesting research topic. Due to the structure and (lack of) status of EE it is being discussed by linguists and commoners alike, and the media has acted as a linguistic “battlefield” of sorts where linguists and members of the general public have presented their arguments, suggested definitions, and frustrations regarding the new accent. The fact that the general opinions differ greatly and that definitions are changing continually makes it a very interesting base for research. It is a dynamic topic, a linguistic phenomenon which is happening in our time.
As my thesis is being written over the course of only one semester I have chosen not to do field work or conduct a survey, although I will attempt to refer to studies conducted by other researchers where this is feasible. Because of the time limit I have chosen to focus mainly on theoretical aspects, such as the problems regarding a proper definition of EE and the discussion around which phonemic traits are part of the accent. In addition to this I chose to look at the spread of EE (which is a vital part of the issues regarding a uniform definition) and how the accent is perceived in terms of development and importance. I have chosen to include information on general dialect stigmatization as well, focusing on the way the speakers of scouse (Liverpool accent) and RP (Received Pronunciation) are perceived. The relationship between the “parental accents” of EE, RP and Standard London/Cockney, is also crucial in order to understand how EE has gained such a strong foothold in Britain.