The south-east of England is often closely associated with varieties like Cockney and ‘the Queen’s English’. People from the South-East may be expected to speak one of these dialects, perhaps using some Cockney rhyming slang, or so-called ‘Received Pronunciation’ (RP). While the language of the capital has coloured south-eastern speech over the last 50 years, this has also led to the development of new dialects. As a result, the South-East is home to considerable dialect diversity and change. At the same time, much of the traditional regional dialect vocabulary, phrases and grammar recorded by Survey of English Dialects fieldworkers can still be found today, if you know where to look – and listen!
Fieldworkers from the University of Leeds set out to record the huge variety of dialects spoken across England. They were motivated by the fear that these might disappear after the Second World War, “due to the pressures of modern movement and communication” (Stanley Ellis citing Harold Orton). With London at its epicentre, this was of particular concern in the south-east of England.