West Country dialects

The West Country dialects accents are the English dialects and accents used by much of the indigenous population of South West England, the area popularly known as the West Country.

This region encompasses Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, while Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Wiltshire are usually also included, although the northern and eastern boundaries of the area are hard to define and sometimes even wider areas are encompassed. The West Country accent is said to reflect the pronunciation of the Anglo-Saxons far better than other modern English Dialects.

In the nearby counties of Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, it was possible to encounter comparable accents and, indeed, distinct local dialects until perhaps the 1960s. There is now limited use of such dialects amongst older people in local areas. Although natives of such locations, especially in western parts, can still have West Country influences in their speech, the increased mobility and urbanisation of the population have meant that local Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight dialects (as opposed to accents) are today essentially extinct.

Academically the regional variations are considered to be dialectal forms. The Survey of English Dialects captured manners of speech across the West Country that were just as different from Standard English as anything from the far North. Close proximity has completely different languages such as Cornish, which is a Celtic language related to Welsh, and more closely to Breton.

  • r’s are not dropped.
  • initial s often becomes z (singer > zinger).
  • initial f often becomes v (finger > vinger).
  • vowels are lengthened.
West Midlands

This is the dialect of Ozzie Osbourne!  While pronunciation is not that different from RP, some of the vocabulary is:

  • are > am
  • am, are (with a continuous sense) > bin
  • is not > ay
  • are not > bay

Brummie is the version of West Midlands spoken in Birmingham.

 

Lancashire

This dialect, spoken North and East of Liverpool, has the southern habit of dropping r’s.  Other features:

  • /œ/ > /u/, as in luck (/luk/).
  • /ou/ > /oi/, as in hole (/hoil/)

Scouse is the very distinctive Liverpool accent, a version of the Lancashire dialect, that the Beatles made famous.

  • the tongue is drawn back.
  • /th/ and /dh/ > /t/ and /d/ respectively.
  • final k sounds like the Arabic q.
  • for is pronounced to rhyme with fur.

Yorkshire

The Yorkshire dialect is known for its sing-song quality, a little like Swedish.

  • /œ/ > /u/, as in luck (/luk/).
  • the is reduced to t’.
  • initial h is dropped.
  • was > were.
  • still use thou (pronounced /tha/) and thee.
  • aught and naught (pronounced /aut/ or /out/ and /naut/ or /nout/) are used for anything and nothing.
Northern

The Northern dialect closely resembles the southern-most Scottish dialects.  It retains many old Scandinavian words, such as bairn for child, and not only keeps its r’s, but often rolls them.  The most outstanding version is Georgie, the dialect of the Newcastle area.

  • -er > /æ/, so father > /fædhæ/.
  • /ou/ > /o:’/, so that boat sounds like each letter is pronounced.
  • talk > /ta:k/
  • work > /work/
  • book > /bu:k/
  • my > me
  • me > us
  • our > wor
  • you plural > youse

Wales

Welsh English is characterized by a sing-song quality and lightly rolled r’s.  It has been strongly influenced by the Welsh language, although it is increasingly influenced today by standard English, due to the large number of English people vacationing and retiring there.

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