Segments in this Video

Cockney English Throughout the World (02:46)


In the 19th century, large numbers of people in and around London left for Australia, New Zealand, So. Africa, and the Falklands. They carried with them Cockney English, one of the most influential of English dialects.

Dictionary of Cockney English (05:03)

Today, Cockney English influences the English of 10 million Londoners. A Cockney historian compiles a dictionary of Cockney English and has collaborated on "The Muvver Tongue," an insider's account of the speech and traditions of their fellow Cockneys.

Cockney Slang (03:06)

At the centuries-old Spittlefields Market, Cockney speakers use a variety of slang, such as rhyming slang and back slang. A produce seller haggles over prices with wholesalers.

Elizabethan Roots of Cockney English (04:31)

Cockneys enjoy big words that can be enunciated with grandness. Many Cockney words were brought from outsiders like Jewish and Hindustani immigrants. An Elizabethan diary reveals through its spelling mistakes just how English may have sounded in Shakespeare's day.

Importance of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary (03:43)

In 1755, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary appeared in two folio volumes, establishing for the first time a standard authority on the English language. Cockney English then became the speech of the lower classes that lived in the dockside district of East London.

English Accent of the Upper Classes (04:11)

By Victorian times, accent and class became synonymous, and speech, education, and advancement went together. English public schools took boys from all over England and gave them a standard English accent.

Cyclical Language Changes (02:45)

Cockney English today is the most important source of new pronunciations in England. Each time a new pronunciation of Cockney arises (and people condemn it as vulgar), it finds its way "up market" and becomes "received pronunciation."

Pidgin English in Australia (02:38)

In 1788, the first ship full of British prisoners arrived in Australia through Sydney. They borrowed words from the native aborigines and incorporated others into their language. At first, the new arrivals and natives spoke .

London English in Australia (04:16)

The first visitors to Australia noticed the dominating tones of London English, a result of the influx of prisoners who came primarily from the London area. Early sheep farmers and others added new vocabulary to Australian English.

Egalitarian English Accent in Australia (03:38)

In Australia, from Perth to Sydney, there is only one kind of accent described as having a "proud and egalitarian toughness." Sheep-shearers demonstrate and describe their jobs. The older generation excepted, 90% of Australians speak Australian English without a qualm.

Australian English (04:03)

Australian English is part of a family of English accents. New Zealanders and Australians sound nearly the same. Despite its Cockney beginnings, much of Australian English is unique.

Australian Humor Builds Pride in Australian English (04:44)

By exaggerating the nuances of Australian English Australian comedians mock their fellow countrymen and the British, who have tended to condescend towards Australian English. Viewers of this segment are treated to Australian humor.

Australian English and Cultural Identity (03:08)

An Australian films television commercials in Australian English, though the advertising industry had always used Standard English before. Australians are celebrating a new confidence in their own cultural identity with a "booming" literature.

Australians: Proud of Their English (05:23)

The sound of Australian dialog is changing. One characteristic is the speech habit is the "rising inflection." An Australian writer critiques American English and stereotypes the British. A comedian loves the rich and expressive characteristics of Australian English.

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The “Muvver” Tongue

Part of the Series : The Story of English
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $149.95
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3-Year Streaming Price: $149.95



In the 19th century, English spread throughout the British Empire—but which English? This classic PBS program traces the roots of white Commonwealth English to Cockney, the language of London’s working class. Explaining the influence of Cockney on modern, standardized speech, the program shows how, in fact, the accents of BBC English are gradually becoming modified by Cockney speech characteristics like the glottal stop. Resemblances between the accents of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands are also explored, highlighting major aspects of the colonial language—along with traces of aboriginal tongues nearly eclipsed by English. (58 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL36929

ISBN: 978-1-4213-6093-5

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.