Comment: Phonetics expert comments on 'British' accent of man in James Foley murder video
Release Date 21 August 2014
Professor Jane Setter, professor of phonetics at the University of Reading's Department of English, said:
"The speaker displays many of the features of a British accent known widely as Multicultural London English, such as producing vowels in e.g. FACE and PRICE as monophthongs, not dropping /h/ sounds (h-dropping is common in Cockney), having a more syllable-timed speech rhythm and producing the 'th' sound in e.g. 'the' as a /d/. There are glottal stops, which are less common in Afro-Caribbean or African English accents, as well as /l/-vocalisation.
"It's impossible to say how many speakers there are of this accent, but it is common among younger working-class speakers of English in the London area, and features of the accent have also been observed in other urban areas of the UK. It is not at all exclusive to speakers from an Afro-Caribbean background but is also spoken by e.g. white and Asian speakers wishing to identify with a certain demographic group.
"I would say that it is probably a UK or fully bilingual speaker of English rather than a second language learner or someone with an indigenised variety (e.g. Nigerian English). The speaker has probably been educated in the UK system. I would be surprised if he was from outside of the greater London area but this is an accent which is socioculturally attractive and so he may be from further afield. I would also suggest that he is lower middle-class rather than working class owing to the educated language he uses.
"It should be noted, however, that we cannot actually see him speak in the film. Most of his face including his mouth is entirely covered. It could, therefore, be a voice-over."