SOAS University of London

Centre for Media and Film Studies

Helen Ashton

  • Overview


Helen Ashton
Ms Helen Ashton
Email address:
Thesis title:
Listening to Indian Accented English in Film (1960-2013)
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

This research explores how accents are used to construct identities in film. The particular focus is the relationship between India and ʻThe Westʼ. The significance of voice and accent in film are under-explored in academia. This is part of a wider neglect of the acoustic in film, which has begun to be redressed in the last thirty years. Where accents have been considered it has usually been in a national context, rather than as a tool to explore the space beyond the national. This study draws on theories of the transnational, to contextualise linguistic choices in a post-national, gloablised era. This research is interdisciplinary in nature, situated at the interface of sociolinguistics, film studies and postcolonial studies. Uniting these three disciplines will create an awareness that accents in film are constructed rather than incidental, and constitute cultural meaning(s) which exist beyond the films themselves. Very little attention has been paid to language in Indian cinema, and even less to the use of English. This is surprising given the extensive academic discussion surrounding the position of English in India in general, and the lengthy history of its use in Indian cinema. Theorists have long been occupied with how communities imagine and categorise each other, and how films contribute to this. Accents are a powerful agent in this process: they indelibly establish information about a characterʼs identity. It is thus surprising that they have gone unexplored and unchallenged as agents of postcolonial ideology in the Anglo-Indian relationship for this long.


  • 2011 ‘Incorporating Asian Principles and Practices with Western Voice Training’The Voice and Speech Review New York: Applause Books
  • 2012 (co-authored with Sarah Shepherd) Work on Your Accent, London: HarperCollins
  • I am Southern England Associate Editor of the International Dialects of English Archive


  • ‘Your Essential Pronunciation Toolkit’, IATEFL Conference, Liverpool, UK, April 2013
  • ‘The Politics of Pronunciation’, British Council English Effect Conference Series, UK (and global webcast), May 2013
  • ‘The Politics of Pronunciation’, Keynote presentation at FAAPI Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 2013. (As part of a week of other events various cities in Argentina organised by the British Council)
  • ‘Practical Pronunciation’, FAAPI Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 2013.


  • Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA)