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.
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:
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.