“Mr Tickle proves British accents not becoming more American” is the headline introducing an article in today’s Guardian. (The version on the website, dated yesterday, is longer than the one published in the paper, which the subs must have cut rather severely.)
As is often the case with newspaper reports of scientific and scholarly research, you have to exercise a certain scepticism about the headline claims and try to discover what the research findings actually were and on what evidence they were based.
As far as I can see, the findings so far reported of British Library’s survey — admirable as it is, and constituting a great resource for present and future researchers into British speech — do not prove anything at all about what British accents might or might not be “becoming”.
What the reported research does demonstrate is that certain words have a prevailing BrE pronunciation that differs (in a non-systematic way) from that prevailing in AmE. The article mentions controversy, applicable, harass and scone. (The web version also adds garage and neither.)
These are some of the words included in my own preference surveys, reported in LPD. Of the four, the only one for which my own figures justify a claim of a change over apparent time (as detected by comparing results for different age groups) is harass, for which older speakers preferred initial stress, younger speakers final stress. The same change can be detected in both AmE and BrE, with AmE leading the way by a generation or two.
As for garage, my figures show a clear BrE trend from ˈɡærɑː(d)ʒ to ˈɡærɪdʒ, with a very small number of each age group opting for the American ɡəˈrɑː(d)ʒ. For (n)either, the youngest age group in my survey showed an increase in BrE iːð-, but only to 13%. For all BrE age groups, aɪð- easily prevails.
I'll naturally be interested to hear in due course whether the BL survey, when properly analysed by age group, confirms my findings or not.
* * *
I'm off to Sheffield now, to speak at their International Languages Festival.