Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

The social status of /h/ in English

Ignacio Murillo López



Languages are used as a vehicle of communication in the societies where each of them is spoken. Within those societies there are normally different groups, and each of those groups usually has a particular, or particular ways of communicating and using the language shared by all of them. Differences like this may be of several types: regional uses, a specific lexis depending on each one’s occupation, formal or colloquial uses, social class variation, etc. In this article the issue of social class language variation is explored. Particularly, our focus here is that of the status of the /h/-phoneme in English. Its pronunciation as a voiceless glottal fricative consonant or its absence is a symbol of the social divide in some places where English is spoken. In those places, the absence of the /h/-phoneme is considered erroneous, and the speech of those who do not use it, is not considered correct or appropriate. Here we analyse the origin of that linguistic phenomenon, as well as the reasons for the establishment of the absence of the /h/-phoneme as a symbol of the social divide in some English-speaking territories.


Lenguaje oral; Variación lingüística; Variación fonética; Fonemas; Sociolingüística; Lengua inglesa


Copyright (c) 2007 Ignacio Murillo López

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