British accents: Cockney and mockney


The Cockney accent is used mostly by the Londoners, whose population is around 7.5 million people (plus the huge area of outer London, where about 12 million people live).

            Cockney’s most characteristic feature is the extensive glottalisation (Wells 1992, 302). It can be manifested in various ways. The first one is a /p, t, k/ glottalling, especially in final positions, e.g. cat [‘kæ?t], up [‘??p] and sock [s??k]. It can also be a bare /?/, which would realise the internal intervocalic sound /t/, e.g. in words like: Waterloo [‘wo:??l??], waiter [‘wai??], city [s???i], water [wo:??], butter [‘b???]. As a result, like and light can be homophones. As to the Estuary English accent, its speakers do not use so many glottal stops as Cockney ones, but much more than people speaking RP. Yet, glottaling is in the case of some words widely accepted. These are: Gatwick, Scotland, statement or ne

            Monophthongisation is very common in Cockney. It concerns words with a diphthong /a?/, e.g. while the RP pronunciation of a word mouth is [ma?θ], in Cockney it is a monophthong [mæθ], [mæf] or [ma:f]. Apart from this, in London there is one more lower-class accent called Popular London (but it will not be described in this paper). Wells believes that “the ‘mouth’ vowel is a touchstone for distinguishing between” the two, as the last mentioned has a diphthong and uses the pronunciation [mæ?θ] or [mæ?f]. The other characteristic feature of Cockney is h-dropping at the beginning of some words. The usage of it is very much stigmatised at schools and by RP-speakers, yet /h/ is still not pronounced by many in: house, hammer, hat or hole. As a result, the pronunciation of words: heart and art is the same: [?:?]. What is interesting, there are words in Cockney, where /h/ at the beginning is pronounced, e.g. hospital (Collins 2008, 164). Very similar to h-dropping is g-dropping. It occurs in words like: talking [‘t?:k?n] or singing [‘s???n]. In other cases we can notice nt-reduction, like in: twenty [‘tweni] or want to [‘w?n?].

            Cockney speech is full of vocalisation of /l/. A post-vocalic /l/ is dark and sounds like /?/ or /o/, e.g. in milk, terminal, wall, usual. Next feature that Londoners use is th-fronting. It is nothing else but replacing dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ with labiodentals /f/ and /v/, e.g. thin [f?n], brother [br?v?], bath [b?:f], three [fr?i] three feathers [‘fr?i ‘fev?z]. The same happens with th-stopping, where the sound /ð/ in initial position becomes /d/, e.g. the [d?] or with this [wiv d?s]. Just like in Estuary English, Cockney uses yod-dropping (it can be heard for example in words: knew, tune, reduce). Together with another feature – yod-coalescence – it creates a bit different pronunciation of: tune [t?u:n] or reduce [‘r?d?u:s]. Like many other accents in England, Cockney is non-rhotic and uses vowel lowering. Very open /?/ is present in words like dinner [‘d?n?] or marrow [‘mær?]. In addition, final sounds in words like: comma and letter are merged, and others, like see you, use weak forms [‘si: j?].

            As to the other features of Cockney vowels, /?:/ sound (used in e.g. nurse) is a bit fronted and lightly rounded, which creates [?+:] or [œ:]. Triphthongs also occur and are mostly in sentence-final position, like in: over here [‘œ?vr’?j?], clean it out [kl?in?? æj??], floors [fl?:??z] and upstairs [a?pst?j?z]. What is more, while comparing RP and Cockney, we can notice the diphthong shift, shown below in a bit simplified way (Wells 1992, 305-308):



Chosen diphthong and monophthong shift: (Wells 1992, 305-310)

Contemporary Received Pronunciation



(e.g. like in a word: beet [b?i?])


(e.g. “the r[a?]n in Sp[a?]n st[a?]s m[a?]nly in the pl[a?]n”[1])


(e.g. like in a phrase: I write it)


(e.g. like in a word: choice [‘t?o?s])


(e.g. like in a word: mouth or town)


a – ?
(e.g. like in a phrase:
phone home [‘f??n ‘??m])


?? ~ ?:
(e.g. like in a word: boot [‘b?:?])


? / ??
(e.g. like in words: back [‘b?k] or bad [b?:?d])

(when in non-final position)

o: / o? / ?o
(e.g. like in words: sauce and source [‘so?s])

Fig. 3. Chosen diphthong and monophthong shift

            Popularity of the Cockney accent brought widespread affectation of the working-class speech. The phenomenon created by middle and upper-middle class was based mainly on Cockney pronunciation, without adoption of non-standard grammatical forms. Such hybrid has been criticised and called Mockney (the word is a portmanteau of two words: mock and Cockney). However, the trend for using more “vigorous” language has not stopped and many famous singers and film stars decided to pronounce sounds in a Cockney way. These are for instance: Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Guy Ritchie or Mike Skinner.

[1] Song: “My Fair Lady”


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