A PHONEMIC TRANSCRIPTION KEY


FOREWORD

The function of this page has changed since it was first created in the nineties.  Originally, it dealt with a transcription of my accent into Kirshenbaum ASCII‐IPA, the seven‐bit encoding I was using as a substitute for raw phonetic symbols back in the days when web browsers couldn't be trusted to handle Unicode characters like ə and ʃ, at least when they carried stacks of diacritics.  By 2013 I was finally in a position to stop using ASCII‐IPA on any of my other pages, which meant I could retire it here as well.

The part that's still applicable is that this page is intended to complement the rest of my site in two ways: for British non‐linguists it's a rough guide to how a phonemic transcription works, while for non‐British linguists it's an introduction to my accent.  If you are already familiar with both the International Phonetic Alphabet and twentieth‐century RP you're unlikely to find it very useful; and on the other hand if you don't know what I mean either by “O as in bother” or by “ɒ as in ˈbɒðə” then there's no convenient way I'm going to be able to get the leverage to explain either – or at any rate, not without knowing whether you're from Auckland, Kingston, or Chicago.

This page is fairly technical, but that can't be helped: attempts to explain details like this purely in terms of “hard TH” and “long A sounds” just spread confusion.  You may imagine that all I would need to do is add some audio examples; and indeed I may some day get round to doing that, but it's not a high priority, because the sad fact is that they wouldn't help much.  If you haven't been trained to listen, your ears wouldn't take in the unfamiliar features of my pronunciations any more than your eyes would be likely to notice a trivial typo you're not actively looking for – instead your mother‐tongue perceptual filters automatically reinterpret everything to fit the phonological categories you're used to.

The list of example words and sentences that used to be part of this file hypertrophied uncontrollably and has been broken out into an A to Z of JBR RP, leaving me room to fit in some extra material here.


TERMINOLOGY

Throughout this essay, example spellings and so forth are as usual marked out as follows… (The brackets won't be visible if your browser is ignoring my CSS.)

Key to Notation
Orthodox spellings: angle‐bracketed like this
Phonemic transcriptions: slant‐bracketed IPA lɑɪk ðɪs
Phonetic details: square‐bracketed IPA lɑɪk ðɪs

And before I get started I'll need to explain some of the labels I'm sticking on things:

Phonetic
Of or pertaining to the precise articulatory and acoustic properties of speech sounds, irrespective of the way they're used in particular languages.  For instance, the first T in tents is released with a little puff of breath as , while the second isn't.  We can hear the difference if we listen carefully, but we don't normally notice it.
Phonemic
(Here I go again trying to define “phoneme” in a nutshell… compare the attempts on my Espe‐Ranto, Spelling Reform and Futurese pages)
Of or pertaining to phonemes, the sounds treated as basic units in a given lingo.  What the two Ts in tents have in common is that both are forms of one English phoneme, t: the phonetic distance between them is never used for telling English words apart (so anglophones learn to disregard it).  The difference between dents and tents, on the other hand, is that the first begins with a voiced d and the second with a voiceless t – a subtle phonetic distinction that English does recognise as phonemically significant.
IPA
The alphabet of the International Phonetic Association, providing a standard notation of characters and diacritics for representing the sounds of human languages, either on a phonemic level or in phonetic close‐up.  Not to be confused with radiotelephony codes such as the so‐called “NATO Phonetic Alphabet” on the one hand or with India Pale Ale (and indeed IsoPropyl Alcohol) on the other.
RP
“Received Pronunciation”, an accent better known perhaps as “BBC English”.  Like “General American” it is socially dominant as a standard “educated” accent; but unlike GA, RP is strongly associated with a particular region and social class, that of the southern English (upper‑)middle class.  The name originally meant “accepted in polite society”, so it has aged poorly, but we seem to be stuck with it.
JBR RP
As the son of a Church of England vicar, I myself am definitively middle‐class; I went to a primary school in rural Norfolk, then was unlucky enough to win a scholarship at a public (i.e. private) secondary school in Norwich before coming to Edinburgh.  As a result my accent is fairly “posh”, though by no means up to Hollywood villain standards.  It has a few traceably East Anglian traits, and lacks several features that have become common in more southern areas; see my listed pronunciations of Norwich, quarter, valleyed.
Standard English
…Has nothing to do with this.  I'm not talking about “correct” grammar, or vocabulary, and certainly not spelling; I'm talking about accent, meaning how things are pronounced – you can quote Bob Marley or P. G. Wodehouse in any accent!
Voiced/voiceless
Standard labels for consonants, classifying them in terms of whether they are accompanied by vocal‐cord buzzing.  If you don't recognise this idea, clutch your throat and go “SSS‑ZZZ‐SSS‑ZZZ”!
Bilabial/alveolar/velar/etc.
Standard labels for consonants, classifying them in terms of the part of the mouth involved (lips, teeth‐ridge, soft palate, or whatever).  In the case of the ones that are important for distinguishing between phonemes, their meanings should be clear enough from the examples, but there are also some more exotic alternatives that come up in the detailed phonetics.
Plosive/fricative/approximant
Standard labels for consonants, classifying them in terms of how thoroughly they block the flow of air.  During a plosive like “T”, no air can escape the mouth (until it's abruptly released); it scrapes through turbulently in fricatives like “F”; and approximants like “W” hardly impede the airflow at all.
Nasal/lateral/affricate/etc.
Specialised variants on the above.  Nasals are like plosives, but involve air escaping through the nose (“MMM”); laterals involve airflow around the sides of a central blockage (“LLL”); and affricates turn from plosive to fricative (“TCH”).  Other possibilities come up mostly for “R”‐sounds, which may be taps (with a momentary blockage) or trills (the rolling version).
Front/central/back
Standard labels for vowels, classifying them in terms of where in the mouth they are articulated; that is, whether the front or back of the tongue is held closer to the palate.  Again, you may never have noticed this; but say “AY‑AW‐AY‑AW” and pay attention to what your tongue's doing.
Close/close‐mid/open‐mid/open/etc.
Standard labels for vowels, classifying them in terms of the gap between tongue and palate at its narrowest point – smallest in “close” vowels like “OOO” and greatest in “open” vowels like “AAH”.
Rounded/unrounded
Standard labels for vowels produced with or without lip‐rounding.  This distinction is obvious in vowels like “OOO‐EEE”, but trickier in the middle, especially with the way different dialects can't agree which ones are rounded.
Short/long
This has nothing much to do with all those spelling rules you learned in school dealing with “short” and “long” interpretations of vowel letters, a system left over from the days when bid and bide really did use minor variants of the same sound.  What the IPA length diacritic ː marks is actual phonetic duration, which is complicated enough already thanks to the way vowels vary from their typical length depending on context: badly is phonemically ˈbædliː but can end up realised as something nearer to ˈbæːdli.
Stressed/unstressed
Stressed syllables are given prominence relative to their neighbours, meaning that they're louder, higher‐pitched, and slightly prolonged.  In any English word of more than one syllable, one of them is entitled to “primary” stress, marked in transcriptions with a preceding ˈ, and another may bear a lesser, “secondary” stress, marked ˌ: thus CHAracteRIStically is ˌkærəktəˈrɪstɪkliː.  The pattern of prominence inherent in each word is then overlaid with a stress contour for the utterance as a whole, possibly including contrastive emphasis that overrides the normal pattern: “I said CHAracteRIStically, not MILitaRIStically!”

INVENTORY

JBR RP features the following supply of consonants and vowels, here listed in an order which is more or less “systematic” rather than quasi‐alphabetic.

All
Complications (I'm using expandable sections like this to handle various kinds of optional extra details.)
Resonants A set of voiced sonorants that can all become syllabic, and are all produced by stopping airflow while letting it escape by an alternative route; sloppy timing in a nasal articulation can result in neighbouring sounds being nasalised.  Mind you, velic closure – which is what normally prevents nasal airflow – must be one of the simplest, commonest, and best understood phenomena that Wikipedia can tell you nothing about.
m as in IMP, MUM
characteristically a voiced bilabial nasal This is partially devoiced after s, and may become a labiodental ɱ in words like triumph.  Unstressed əm may be realised as a syllabic consonant as in rhythm.
n as in ANT, NUN
characteristically a voiced alveolar nasal This partially devoices after s, and depending on neighbouring sounds it can be anything from dental (in words like month) to postalveolar (relationship).  Unstressed ən may be a syllabic consonant as in mustn't.
ŋ as in INK, HANGING
characteristically a voiced velar nasal Plenty of people from northern England treat hanging as hanɡɪnɡ, with ŋ as a mere predictable allophone of n.  For everyone else it qualifies as a phoneme, albeit one that's limited to appearing after one of a small set of vowels.  Unstressed əŋ doesn't get many opportunities to be a syllabic consonant ŋ̍, but may in words like inconclusive.
l as in ILK, LULL
characteristically a voiced alveolar lateral This is highly variable: it can be devoiced or nasalised or lip‐rounded, ranging from dental to postalveolar and from approximant to fricative, and then again the allophone that occurs in syllable coda is a “dark” version, with velarisation – my unstressed əl in ankle is a syllabic dark ɫ̩.  Irish accents may use the “light” l everywhere, while many Americans stick to the “dark” one; meanwhile much of southern England (which includes most of my family) has adopted an even more modified pronunciation weakening any l at the end of a syllable into a back semivowel (so that skilful becomes something like ˈskɪɤ̯fɵʊ̯).
Voiced Plosives Well, mostly plosives… and they're generally rather weakly voiced (to the point where it's sometimes called a “lax/tense” AKA “lenis/fortis” distinction rather than voiced/voiceless).
b as in EBB, BIB
characteristically a voiced bilabial plosive Very occasionally becomes labiodental in words like obvious.
d as in ADD, DID
characteristically a voiced alveolar plosive Ranges from dental (in words like bathed) to postalveolar (dress).  One variation I mostly don't have is the one that turns d or t into an alveolar tap ɾ, as routinely occurs in North American pronunciations of wader and waiter.
as in EDGE, JUDGE
characteristically a voiced postalveolar affricate A really pedantic transcription would use a tie‐bar (d͡ʒ) to make it explicit that the two characters go to form a single phoneme, but I don't see why I'd want to do that if I'm not doing the same for diphthongs (like ɑ͡ɪ).  Instead I just adjust the spacing any time things get ambiguous.
ɡ as in EGG, GIG
characteristically a voiced velar plosive Unicode insists that there's a special phonetic character U+0261 = ɡ, though this seems to be a misunderstanding: the official IPA Handbook is clear that the voiced velar plosive symbol is just a lowercase letter G, and the typographic distinction between ɡ and g isn't significant.
Voiceless Plosives When standing at the start of a stressed syllable (but not when preceded by s) these are so enthusiastically voiceless that it spills over as an aspirated release.  At the end of a syllable they don't have this and may be reinforced and/or partly replaced by a glottal stop ʔ, with the result that for instance act is pronounced æʔkt.  The k there has no audible release; other fancy possibilities include nasal or lateral release (as in witness, witless) and of course affricated release (as in ).
p as in UP, PIP
characteristically a voiceless bilabial plosive This has a relatively obvious aspirated allophone , and can sometimes become labiodental (for instance in the middle of flip‐flop).
t as in IT, TIT
characteristically a voiceless alveolar plosive The place of articulation can vary in the same way as d.  Before a non‐alveolar stop as in litmus I may entirely replace the t with a glottal stop even in careful speech; other accents in both England and Scotland take this to the point of regularly using a glottal stop in little.
as in ITCH, CHURCH
characteristically a voiceless postalveolar affricate Like , and indeed ɔɪ and so on, this is a compound sound that counts as one item (there are alternative analyses that fractionate them into their subcomponents, but to me those always look unconvincing).  Note that the in (and the in ) matches the fricative part's retracted place of articulation.
k as in AWK, KICK
characteristically a voiceless velar plosive This is affected by adjacent vowels (and the same goes for ɡ): the initial consonants in keyed and cooed involve different areas of the soft palate, as well as different lip postures.
Voiced Fricatives As usual these are a bit weakly voiced, especially in final position.
v as in OF, VERVE
characteristically a voiced labiodental fricative It gets a bit devoiced sometimes, but that's about it.
ð as in EITHER, THE
characteristically a voiced dental fricative Realising that “TH” was really two different things parallel to v and f, and that my teachers were unaware of this, is one of my biggest memories of primary school.  Some English speakers use an interdental articulation, but for me it only involves my tongue touching my upper teeth.
z as in AS, ZOOS
characteristically a voiced alveolar fricative This often gets opportunities to display final devoicing, and can be coloured by adjacent vowels to give lip‐rounding or the like.  The phonemes z s ʒ ʃ dʒ tʃ all count as sibilants, and all have similar effects on (for instance) how words form plurals.
ʒ as in SEIZURE, VISION
characteristically a voiced postalveolar fricative The postalveolar sibilants are also known as shibilants (but no, nobody ever calls f a fibilant).  This is my rarest consonant, though it still turns up almost twice as often as ʊə.
Voiceless Fricatives These don't have the aspirated release that's characteristic of the voiceless plosives.
f as in OFF, FIFE
characteristically a voiceless labiodental fricative The only way this varies is that words like comfortable may very rarely have a bilabial ɸ.
θ as in ETHER, THIRTIETH
characteristically a voiceless dental fricative There are of course accents that convert some or all dental fricatives into labiodentals (leading to a free = three merger), and I don't mean just in the East End of London; for a start it turns up here in Scotland, and it's reaching the levels of acceptance where BBC presenters can get away with it.
s as in ASS, SAUCE
characteristically a voiceless alveolar fricative Pronounced with the blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge; using the tongue‐tip instead gives a Sean Connery impression.
ʃ as in ASH, SHISH
characteristically a voiceless postalveolar fricative Probably for acoustic reasons, all these postalveolar sounds tend to be accompanied by lip‐rounding even when there's no lip‐rounded vowel about.  Words like species may instead have an alveolo‐palatal ɕ, not that I can usually hear the difference.
Approximants A set of phonemes sharing an aversion to syllable‐final position.  Those of them that are voiced in the first place easily become devoiced.
r as in FREE, RAH‑RAH
characteristically a voiced postalveolar approximant The main thing you need to know about this phoneme is that my accent is “non‐rhotic”, meaning that I don't use it in words like court.  Where it does occur it's usually plain ɹ̠.  I don't have either the tongue‐bunching or retroflex colouring common in US accents; I don't use the labiodental approximant ʋ that a recent Cockney flatmate of mine consistently produced; and nor, despite the traditional lazy use of r to label this phoneme, do I ever use the trilled r sometimes heard here in Scotland.  However, in words like breakthrough I do very occasionally substitute the tap ɾ, which is the usual Scottish realisation of r (though in New World dialects it mainly appears as an allophone of d or t).
j as in VIEW, YO‑YO
characteristically a voiced palatal approximant No, not y; that's the symbol for a German Ü sound.  The main kind of allophonic variation j displays is devoicing, as in words like hue; but there's also major disagreement over which words have it at all.  In my grandparents' day there was a j in the RP pronunciation of suit, dropped in more modern versions (including mine); most Americans omit j generally after alveolar consonants, turning do and due into homophones; but Norfolk dialect goes further and drops j after any consonant, merging food with feud.  Another option is for tj to fuse into and dune into June (a phenomenon known by the gloriously opaque name of “yod coalescence”); I sometimes find myself doing this in casual speech, but not systematically as Londoners do these days.
w as in QUA, WAH‑WAH
characteristically a voiced labiovelar approximant As all the ventriloquists reading this will be well aware, besides the obvious lip‐rounding this phoneme also involves an articulation with the back of the tongue (that's the “‑velar” part).  The distinction between which and witch is long lost in England, but I still hear it from Scots – not that this means they have an extra voiceless labiovelar phoneme; it's just an unsimplified hw sequence.
h as in HUE, HA‑HA
characteristically a voiceless glottal approximant This can only occur at the start of a syllable (the opposite of ŋ), and even there plenty of English dialects tend to drop it and talk about “ard‐eaded ouse‐unters” – a trait that unlike a lot of other Londonisms hasn't yet managed to get established as an accepted feature of RP (and East Anglians, like Scots, don't do it anyway).  The sound may be considered a glottal fricative in some languages, but for me it rates as an approximant at most, or equally plausibly just a voiceless onset to the syllable.
Simple Vowels These are commonly known as “short vowels”, but that just invites confusion.  One widely used alternative is “lax vowels”, which would be perfect if only I could find any real‐world yardstick that makes æ less tense than ɑː.  Then again there's “checked vowels”, named from the phonotactic rule that prevents them appearing without a following consonant; but that isn't quite the right set, since the omnipresent unstressed ə ignores that rule (as do other unstressed simple vowels in some strains of RP).
ɪ as in HIT, BID
characteristically a near‐close front unrounded vowel I use unstressed ɪ in a lot of words where other dialects use ə, while also keeping it distinct from unstressed , which must sound fairly ridiculous to people who don't (see putted, puttered, puttied).
ɛ as in HET, BED
characteristically an open‐mid front unrounded vowel A hundred years ago this was often close‐mid e, and UK dictionaries tend to stick with that convenient ASCII label, but even in my generation the dominant pronunciation is more open.
æ as in HAT, BAD
characteristically a near‐open front unrounded vowel Modern RP tends to have a fully open a here; my own vowel is either old‐fashioned or East Anglian, though it's a bit less of a pure æ than many American accents have.
ə as in HUT, BUD
characteristically a mid central unrounded vowel My ə stands for three subtly different sounds, each occurring in abundance.  Transcriptions traditionally distinguish the form that occurs in stressed syllables as a separate vowel ʌ, but in JBR RP the different sounds are entirely predictable allophonic variants of one phoneme.  If I'm going to merge them and throw away one of the symbols then the one that gets priority is the commonest sound in the language: ə, known as the “schwa”.  Besides, the label ʌ for the stressed variant is a century or more out of date; my own pronunciation is closer to ɐ.
ɒ as in HOT, BOD
characteristically an open back rounded vowel This is a vowel distinction most Americans (and Scots) don't have.  Modern RP speakers tend to make it less open, more like ɔ, while the vowel that I have as ɔː shifts to make room.
ʊ as in HOOD, BULL
characteristically a near‐close back rounded vowel Speakers of RP variants less outdated than mine (such as my nieces and nephews) all seem to use a more central vowel here, closer to ɵ.  The label I originally learned to use for this was old‐fashioned in a different sense, since it was the IPA ɷ character, now deprecated.
rFamily Vowels Sometimes called the centring diphthongs, which is accurate for at best half of them.  These sounds often reflect a vanished r, which may make a comeback if the following word happens to have an initial vowel (so it's “caapaak” but “caaralaam”).  This easily generalises into a rule that just as the families below get automatic semivowel off‐glides before a following vowel, these vowels (plus schwa) get a rhotic one; for me this means at most an occasional “intrusive R” as in “laura norder”, but other accents even allow it word‐internally in cases like gnawing and Dadaism.
ɪə as in HERE, BEARD
characteristically a glide from ɪ towards ə Just like the affricates dʒ tʃ above and all the other diphthongs below, this is phonetically compound but functions as a single phoneme.
ɛə as in HAIR, BARED
characteristically a glide from ɛ towards ə Instead of a diphthong moving from front to central this may be realised as a long monophthong ɛ̈ː.
ɑː as in HEART, BARD
characteristically a long open back unrounded vowel Why do I represent all these vowels with length marks when the labels would still be distinct without them?  US analyses often do leave them out, while UK ones traditionally keep them, if only because they help to mark the difference between the simple vowels and the long/diphthongal ones, which form relatively meaningful phonological families in RP.
ɜː as in HER, BIRD
characteristically a long open‐mid central unrounded vowel Americans commonly make this vowel retroflex‐coloured… though it doesn't exactly involve their r phoneme, so Scots who pronounce fur ruff as a palindrome get to look down on them as only semi‐rhotic.
ɔː as in HAWK, BOARD
characteristically a long open‐mid back rounded vowel In twentyfirst‐century RP variants, this seems to have shifted similarly to ɒ and ɔɪ, giving something closer to ; but I'm lagging behind even the younger, more fashionably accented members of the royal family on this one.
ʊə as in MOOR, CURED
characteristically a glide from ʊ towards ə This is the phoneme I use least, often replacing it with ɔː, and where it does survive it may become a long monophthong approximating ɵː.
jFamily Vowels A family made up of fronting diphthongs and a front mostly‐long mostly‐monophthong.  They all have a j‐like off‐glide before a vowel, which I might write pedantically as ɪ̯… but it turns out even in the 2020s that can still give browsers the hiccups.
as in HEAT, BE
characteristically a long close front unrounded vowel In words like bees this is a genuine long , but before a vowel as in being it breaks up into something more like ɪj, and in unstressed contexts it's just i.  Other major branches of RP have a rule replacing unstressed with ɪ and thus merging taxes with taxis, but mine retains that distinction.
ɛɪ as in HATE, BAY
characteristically a glide from ɛ towards ɪ It's more traditional in British phonology to write this as , but that's certainly not what I say.
ɑɪ as in HEIGHT, BY
characteristically a glide from ɑ towards ɪ Older RP had , but for once I seem to have been ahead of the crowd (or maybe just Normal for Norfolk) in using a back vowel for the first element, a pronunciation which is now widespread.
ɔɪ as in HOIST, BOY
characteristically a glide from ɔ towards ɪ Kids today turn this into , but people who complain about kids today today tend to be oblivious to such subtleties, which is terrible.
wFamily Vowels Backing diphthongs, or something in that general direction, with a w‐like off‐glide before a vowel.
æʊ as in HOUSE, BOUGH
characteristically a glide from æ towards ʊ Old‐fashioned RP has ɑʊ, which has evolved towards ; my own pronunciation reflects a definite East Anglian influence, though this label may be a slight exaggeration (the Kirshenbaum system was a bit wobbly on open front vowels).
əʊ as in HOSE, BEAU
characteristically a glide from ə towards ʊ Some RP and RP‐adjacent accents realise this in words like gold as ɒʊ, but for me the first element stays unrounded.
as in HOOT, BOO
characteristically a long close back rounded vowel Another case where a pronunciation that's extinct in the wild is fossilised in the traditional label, surviving just because a more accurate ʉː is too much effort (especially in an ASCIIification).  Like it has a diphthongal allophone used with a following vowel, and a shortened one used in unstressed syllables – such as executive, where it's particularly fronted by the preceding j.  Accents that turn unstressed into ɪ often do something similar with (so you can become ), but for me it either stays slightly tenser than that or reduces all the way to ə, my only simple vowel that can be word‐final.
Conspicuously Absent Things that don't get onto the above list.

LEXICAL SETS

Okay, so I've told you what phonemes my accent uses, but what words do I use which phonemes in?  Originally, this was where I included my wordlists, now broken out into the A to Z; in their place I'm quoting a standard system of phonological equivalence classes for English dialectology.  This table was devised by J. C. Wells back in 1982, and in retrospect I should have been taking advantage of it all along, but somehow I didn't notice how useful it was until bloggers started using it in the noughties.  It should be enough to give a good general idea of how my accent behaves, though it doesn't account for subtleties like the strange way I pronounce eggplant; for those you'll need to check the wordlists.

set examples jbr rp
01: KIT ship, kid, limp, myth, build ɪ
02: DRESS step, ebb, tent, bread, friend ɛ
03: TRAP tap, rag, hand, lapse, plaid æ
04: LOT stop, odd, box, swan, wash ɒ  (=08)
05: STRUT cup, bud, lump, come, touch ə  (=2627)
06: FOOT put, bush, good, wolf, could ʊ
07: BATH staff, class, ask, fasten, laugh ɑː (=1221)
08: CLOTH off, cross, soft, cough, Austin ɒ  (=04)
09: NURSE hurt, birth, church, verb, word ɜː
10: FLEECE creep, need, cheese, brief, field   (=25)
11: FACE tape, fade, waist, play, reign ɛɪ
12: PALM calm, ma, hurrah, façade, Java ɑː (=0721)
13: THOUGHT cause, taunt, hawk, chalk, broad ɔː (=2223)
14: GOAT soap, joke, host, toe, mauve əʊ
15: GOOSE loop, mood, tomb, two, fruit
16: PRICE ripe, side, child, try, eye ɑɪ
17: CHOICE boy, noise, spoil, employ, hoist ɔɪ
18: MOUTH out, crowd, cow, round, bough æʊ
19: NEAR beer, here, pier, fear, pierce ɪə
20: SQUARE share, fair, bear, where, scarce ɛə
21: START far, sharp, carve, heart, safari ɑː (=0712)
22: NORTH for, orb, form, quart, cord ɔː (=1323)
23: FORCE fore, soar, floor, court, sword ɔː (=1322)
24: CURE moor, your, sure, gourd, fury ʊə
25: happY copy, khaki, movie, coffee, money (=10)
26: lettER paper, sugar, standard, anchor, martyr ə (=0527)
27: commA quota, visa, panda, sofa, saga ə (=0526)

This framework makes it much easier to describe the ways that dialects vary phonologically, so here are some summaries for comparison.

Broad Norfolk
Visitors from foreign parts (such as London) often complain that Norfolk placenames like Costessey and Happisburgh and Wymondham are hard to pronounce.  What they mean is that centuries of erosion have left them so easy to pronounce that they're hard to spell!
Along with the East Anglian j‐dropping rule, the three vowel mergers I was familiar with during my Norfolk childhood were NURSE = CURE, NEAR = SQUARE, and GOOSE = GOAT; or to put it another way, purr = pure, beer = bear, and news = nose.  That last one used to be complicated by an extra nose versus knows distinction, but that was on its last legs when I was young.  As for the extra pane versus pain distinction mentioned in some older sources, I've never encountered any evidence that it survived into my own lifetime.
Northern English
The various dialects of the north half of England have a range of features of their own, but some traits that are common to many of them are widespread even in otherwise RPified northern speech: TRAP = BATH, STRUT = FOOT, and the lack of the phoneme ŋ.  In each of these cases what might appear to be a lost distinction (ant = aunt, putt = put, clanger = clangour) is in reality a preserved feature of the Middle English phonological system.  Then again, one northern innovation that has proved popular outside the UK is the reduction of unstressed ɪ to ə, so that ferris = ferrous (and in a non‐rhotic accent this also implies putted = puttered).
Scottish English
(By which I mean a set of dialects of English varying widely in how likely they are to need subtitles for a non‐UK audience; I don't mean Scots, which is a whole separate language.  Educated professionals in Scotland often speak something that sounds superficially like Standard English in RP, right down to having a TRAP versus BATH distinction, while nonetheless retaining one or more of the following features.)
The three key Scottish vowel mergers are: TRAP = PALM (cam = calm); LOT = THOUGHT (Edinburgh dialect adds GOAT to this set too for a full cot = caught = coat merger); and above all, FOOT = GOOSE (pull = pool).  Scottish English is also usually fully rhotic, meaning the “‑R” sets from NURSE through to lettER are each pronounced as some other vowel off the list straightforwardly followed by r.
American English
This of course covers an awful lot of ground, though there's nothing as divergent as you get in the British Isles.  US accents are generally rhotic, with TRAP = BATH and LOT = PALM (bomb = balm); the big divide is between the accents with a separate THOUGHT vowel and the ones with a full cot = caught merger.  There are also plenty of conditional features that only affect particular phonetic contexts in particular regional accents, such as the marry = merry = Mary and pen = pin mergers.

2014 POSTSCRIPT

Recently, the people who write to me asking for audio versions have also started insisting I should answer the following list of questions, which apparently are part of a YouTube fad for amateur dialectology.

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
A “psychotic break”.  Or are you implying this is something sane people have been known to do?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
That's not a bug, it's a feature!  Presumably you're thinking of woodlice, or maybe pill millipedes; but those aren't even insects, let alone specifically bugs.
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What, you only have one in your country?  Over here they're called by their names, which we arrange to have conveniently printed on the packaging, and the nearest thing to a generic term is “fizzy drink”.
What do you call gym shoes?
Either “plimsolls” (as worn by schoolchildren doing PE) or “trainers” (as worn by people who never go near a gym).
What do you say to address a group of people?
I say “hello!”, but I suspect what you meant to ask is what pronoun I use to refer to a group of people while I'm talking to them.  That's “you”, that is.
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval‐shaped body and extremely long legs?
Well, you're closer!  Harvestmen aren't spiders, but at least they're arachnids.  Unless you mean spider crabs.
What do you call your grandparents?
Is this another identify‐the‐species round, or do you want to know how I addressed my individual grandparents before they went extinct?  If it's the latter, “Granma” and “Grandad”.
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
At first I assumed you meant “shopping trolley”, but if I wasn't putting my groceries in a basket, I wouldn't claim to be carrying them, so the solution to your riddle must be “mobility scooter”.
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
The only word I know for drizzly but incompletely overcast weather is “summer”!  Do you call it “time to add another layer of toilet paper to the roof” or something?  Come to think of it, maybe this is another trick question – rain always falls (if it isn't falling, we don't call it rain), and the sun won't stop shining for aeons.
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
I remember the days when it used to be “the dial”.  Then it was “a channel button”, then “whatever you call that remote controller thing, wherever it's gone”, then “no, the other remote, the one for the set‐top thingy”, but now if there was ever any telly I wanted to watch it would be “the mouse”.

You may have gathered that I'm not hugely impressed by these questions.  I grew up surrounded by people who spoke a genuinely obscure rural English dialect – one that gets so little media exposure that I can't think of a single celebrity or well‐known fictional character that I could suggest as an example of a Norfolk accent (or even of the dilute version common in Norwich).  But there's only one question in this survey that would be answered interestingly by the broadest of East Anglian regional dialect speakers: that toype o' creepy‐crawly wut cull up in a ball, thass a “chaarleypig”.