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New research reveals prejudice against people with Northern English accents

People form judgements about others from the way they speak, yet listeners are often unaware of their deeply embedded ‘implicit’ biases.

That’s one of the findings from the British Academy-funded Speaking of Prejudice research project led by experts from Northumbria University, which has compiled responses from hundreds of people from across England when they listened to Northern English and Southern English accents. Analysis of the explicit self-reported and implicit – or unconscious – biases uncovered evidence of prejudice against Northern English speakers.

“People do think that speakers in the north of England are less intelligent, less ambitious, less educated and so on, solely from the way they speak,” said sociolinguist Dr Robert McKenzie, who carried out the four-year study with Dr Andrew McNeill and Dr Mimi Huang. “On the other hand, people in the south are thought to be more ambitious, and more intelligent.”

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