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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Theatre Research Resources: Accents & Dialects

A guide to help students researching topics in theatre.


ACCENT: The cumulative auditory effect of those features of pronunciation which identify where a person is from, regionally or socially. The linguistics literature emphasizes that the term refers to pronunciation only, and is thus distinct from dialect, which refers to grammar and vocabulary as well.

DIALECT: A regionally or socially distinctive variety of language, identified by a particular set of words and grammatical structures. Spoken dialects are usually also associated with a distinctive pronunciation, or accent. Any language with a reasonably large number of speakers will develop dialects, especially if there are geographical barriers separating groups of people from each other, or if there are divisions of social class.

-- from The Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics

Accent and Dialect are often used interchangeably. But more specifically, accent is the way a person or a group of people pronounces words. Dialect refers to both the accent and the grammatical rules of the language. Further insight into the distinction is discussed by Ben T. Smith on his post on the dialect blog:  Babbel also dives into the discussion as well:

Finding Books

Conducting a keyword search in the library catalog is always a great place to start. Use the filter to the right to limit your results to "Book." After finding a relevant book in the catalog, use the topics listed in the record to find related materials. Below are generic topics to help you browse the online catalog.

English language - Dialects.* English language - Pronunciation by foreign speakers.
English language - Phonology.* Acting. 
Phonetic alphabet.  Voice culture.

*other languages can be substituted, such as Italian, Spanish, etc.

Always take a look at the topics listed in the catalog record to get hints for searching for related materials!

Finding Articles

Search the databases linked below for articles relating to accents and dialects. Try some of these keywords to get started:

Accents Language Syntax Voice culture
Accentuation Linguistics Voice Phonology
Dialects Speech Voice-overs Phonetics

Finding Plays

Looking for a play that features a specific dialect? Use Play Index (linked below) and type the dialect you're looking for in the search box, for example, "dialect Cockney" or "dialect Scottish." Then, search our library catalog for the Title of the play to see if we have it in our collection!

Audio Archives

Free Online Resources

Additional Resources

For a more thorough overview of accents and dialects, check our research guide on the topic.