Recently I started to notice how diverse English pronunciation in my YouTube subscribes become and I started wondering is there an easy way to detect which dialect is which since I am no linguist. Well, Jimmy Carr references kinda good, but they are not written/explained and used in a different way and do not cover up all of them. Is there some kind of resource that helps to detect the accent/dialect in a steady pace or is it still easier to ask about concrete people?

  • I know that you're asking about BrE, but I'll just note that several years ago the NY Times published a tool for American dialects: archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/12/20/…. (It wasn't perfect for me, but still surprisingly accurate!) Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 21:50
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    Jimmy Carr's performance might be funny, but his attempts to imitate British regional accents are as bad as the average Hollywood actor! Watch him for laughs, not for learning about accents. And I'm told that any 50-mile square within the UK probably contains more distinct accents than the whole of the USA. (So there's plenty to learn! :) Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 21:52
  • Anyway, this is a request for resources, so it belongs on ELU Meta (where we have pages devoted to "resource lists"). Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 21:55
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    ...I overstated it - that's that's more phonetic variation in any hundred mile square of Great Britain, not 50. Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 21:59
  • You could make (a slightly dated) one from John Wells' book "Accents of English", which has never been surpassed. Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 22:13
  • What's going on here? 25 minutes ago I voted to migrate this Q to ELU Meta, while explaining my action in the above comment. There were already 2 closevotes (for other reasons; I didn't really look), and I think my vote caused the Q to be closed. Now it's been reopened without explanation, and the vote history has been erased. So I've voted to migrate again. I've never seen anything like that happen before in over 10 years of me being active on this site. Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 22:27
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    @FumbleFingers I agree. I watched some Carr after reading this question and he is bad. His pronunciation of Welsh, for example, is primitive and simply wrong. His Northumbrian is clearly an imitation and not a representation. It’s all music hall stuff and is not a model for linguistic study.
    – Anton
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 23:09
  • Look at library.leeds.ac.uk/info/1607/projects/181/dialect_and_heritage
    – Anton
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 23:13
  • @FumbleFingers yes, Carr probably bad, but he makes it for comedy, not for science, but it actually makes some good scratches to dig into the subject. I also watched some other folk speaking about it. From some teacher, who spoke about RP spread over the GB, up to something like "how to sound like cockney". I wanna try something more systematic, like thing Anton suggested
    – Sugar
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 1:02
  • Non-answer in comment: There's classifying one person's accent by listening and knowing intuitively, and there's a decision tree or 'key' that you ask for. I don't think the latter exists (yet?). But easier would be to just have a set of questions (not in a tree form) - do they pronounce r's at word end? do they pronounce 'with' as 'wif'? etc etc. That is, there might be -one- distinguishing characteristic for each dialect.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 14:00
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    A key could possibly made simply from vowel differences shown here: IPA chart for English dialects. Most English dialects differ by vowels (even though consonant differences may be much more salient)- this chart gives the vowel inventories of each one by 'lexical set'. This isn't a -method- but rather the source data on which to build a method.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 15:23
  • @Mitch - your questionnaire is actually a decision tree. You just eliminate unnecessary question branches and narrow candidate list. IPA charts are pretty close to the thing I'm looking for, maybe I can use them. Thanks.
    – Sugar
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:39
  • @Sugar By questionnaire, I meant something that is a degenerate decision tree, a tree... well a forest of unrelated questions, each question singling out a dialect. If one can then find a pattern in these questions, (eg rhoticity) where you can ask the question of -all- dialects and yesses and noes split the dialects, then it becomes a more interesting decision tree. The table could be used to make a decision tree (on vowels only), but is a bit unwieldy to use as is. Most 'keys' (decision trees) are optimized to get to a leaf (a particular dialect) with as few questions on average as possible.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 17:05
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    @Mitch yes, obviously. That's why I asked for sources if any. And since currently there's actually none of interactive kind exist I probably should make one myself, maybe out of table and maybe some sources from heritage dudes if they will care to share some. Will answer this question if I manage to make one.
    – Sugar
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 18:08
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    @Mitch Ha, you caught me. I found the question via an unrelated search, hunted down the paper in the answer, and formed my answer here based off the most relevant source in the paper. I think the paper is entirely based off data from that source.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


While it's not exactly what you're looking for, Sound Comparisons — Exploring Diversity in Phonetics across Language Families provides an interactive map of different pronunciations for various words in dialects across the globe. (Also available in chart form.) If you can't read the IPA, you can listen to the associated sound clip.

Not only is there British English, there's American English and a few other world Englishes. Other parts of the site have other languages.

Here's "what":

"what" IPA for UK Englishes

Some context, from the website description:

Our website offers powerful tools for linguist researchers (to search and filter the database, download all detailed phonetic transcriptions and sound files, create citable links, etc.), but is also multilingual and user-friendly for the general public who actually speak all of these languages, many of them endangered.

  • That site is great.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 19:06
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    Absolutely brilliant. Especially the scouse audio files, if you want to pinpoint a scouse accent listen to the word "hunger" it's really peculiar to that region.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 19:41
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    this is awesome, but corpus is really small and most of the words are just one syllable. Aside of kinda weird word choices.
    – Sugar
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:40
  • I can't believe the site is dead less than a month later. You can't even download it from GitHub now because it relied on the site to load all the data. I hope this is temporary.
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 18:02

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