Trudgill was born in Norwich, England and grew up in the area of Thorpe St Andrew. He attended the City of Norwich School from 1955. Trudgill studied modern languages at King's College, Cambridge and obtained a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1971.
Before becoming professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Essex he taught in the Department of Linguistic Science at the University of Reading from 1970 to 1986. He was professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, from 1993 to 1998, and then at the University of Fribourg, also in Switzerland, from which he retired in September 2005, and where he is now Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics.
He is Honorary Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, England. On 2 June 1995 he received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Humanities at Uppsala University, Sweden. He also has honorary doctorates from UEA; La Trobe University, Melbourne; the University of Patras, Greece; and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
He has carried out linguistic fieldwork in Britain, Greece and Norway, and has lectured in most European countries, Canada, the United States, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Fiji, Malawi and Japan. Peter Trudgill has been the president of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect society since its inception in 1999. and contributes a regular column on language and languages in Europe to the New European newspaper.
He has carried out studies on rhoticity in English, tracking trends in British rock music for decades; the Beatles’ decreased pronunciation of Rs over the course of the 1960s, while American vocalists increased pronunciation of Rs to emulate British artists.
Trudgill is also the author of Chapter 1 ("The Meanings of Words Should Not be Allowed to Vary or Change") of the popular linguistics book "Language Myths" that he co-edited.
Since July 2015, Trudgill has written weekly columns relating to European languages in the weekly newspaper The New European. At the end of 2017, he signed the Declaration on the Common Language of the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Montenegrins.
His works include:
- 1974 The Social Differentiation of English in Norwich (based on his Ph.D. thesis)
- 1974 Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society
- 1976 Introduction to Sociolinguistics
- 1975 Accent, Dialect and the School
- 1979 English Accents and Dialects (with Arthur Hughes)
- 1980 Dialectology (with J. K. Chambers)
- 1982 International English (with Jean Hannah)
- 1982 Coping With America (Blackwell, 2nd edition 1986)
- 1983 On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives
- 1984 Language in the British Isles
- 1984 Applied Sociolinguistics
- 1986 Dialects in Contact
- 1990 The Dialects of England
- 1990 Bad Language (with Lars Andersson)
- 1992 Introducing Language and Society
- 1998 Language Myths (with Laurie Bauer)
- 2001 Alternative Histories of English (with Richard J. Watts)
- 2002 Sociolinguistic Variation and Change
- 2003 A Glossary of Sociolinguistics
- 2003 Norfolk Origins 7: The Norfolk Dialect
- 2004 New-Dialect Formation: The Inevitability of Colonial Englishes
- 2004 New Zealand English: Its Origins and Evolution (with et al. Elizabeth Gordon, Lyle Campbell, Margaret Maclagan, Andrea Sudbury, Jennifer Hay)
- 2010 The Lesser-Known Varieties of English: An Introduction (with Daniel Schreier, Edgar W. Schneider)
- 2011 Sociolinguistic Typology: Social Determinants of Linguistic Complexity Oxford University Press
- 2016 Dialect matters: respecting vernacular language. Cambridge University Press
- 2018 Norwegian as a normal language and other studies in Scandinavian linguistics. Novus: Oslo
- "Talking Norwich". University of East Anglia. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
- Trudgill, Peter. "Social differentiation of English in Norwich". Edinburgh Research Explorer. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
- "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden". Uu.se. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Scheer, Victoria (26 June 2019). "LONGER READ: Will the Norfolk dialect survive in years to come?". Diss Express. Cambridge: Iliffe Media Ltd. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
- Trudgill, Peter (1974). The social differentiation of English in Norwich. Cambridge [England]: University Press. ISBN 0-521-20264-7. OCLC 866011.
- Hanley, Lynsey (16 May 2016). "Why are schools trying to wipe out regional accents?". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
sociolinguist Peter Trudgill noted as long ago as the 1970s that language use had begun to change, and to some extent to level out, in smaller towns due to the undue influence of larger, more culturally dominant cities... The urge to devalue regional accents is part of a deliberate process.
- Trudgill, Peter (2006). Dialects in contact. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-21942-0. OCLC 255822483.
- Hillard, Nat (13 February 2010). "Dance Wiv Me: Accent and Identity in Dizzee Rascal". Cherwell. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
- Anderson, L. V. (19 November 2012). "Why Is American English the Lingua Franca of Pop Music?". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
- "Gruppe 5: Filologi og språkvitenskap" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "Peter Trudgill". The New European. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
- Trudgill, Peter (30 November 2017). "Time to Make Four Into One". The New European. p. 46. Retrieved 1 July 2018.