Accent and the manifestation of spatialised class structure

Mike Donnelly (Lead), Sol Gamsu (Collaborator), Alex Baratta (Collaborator)

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There is long standing interest within sociological debate to understand social class inequality spatially. We contribute to this debate by using a spatially differentiated understanding of accent, used here as a ‘window’ to observe the formation of socio-economic difference across space. From a spatial perspective, using the work of Doreen Massey, we draw on a unique multi-sited qualitative data-set, which contains the narratives of over 200 young people (aged 16/17) across 17 UK localities, spanning all 9 English regions and the 3 ‘home’ nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was a purposefully designed sample intended to capture the field of social relations across geographic space. Accent emerged as a signifier of the spatial manifestation in class boundaries and points of socio-economic difference. Diverse groups are complicit in the construction of normative accents, and the ‘othering’ of accents belonging to historically dominated places and regions. We observe here not only spatial differentiation within social class groups, but the ethnic solidarities that emerge as a consequence of marginalisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1100-1118
Number of pages19
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number6
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Bourdieu
  • Massey
  • accent
  • class
  • spatial class structure
  • spatial inequality


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