Northern English

Northern English

Northern English is a group of dialects of the English language. It includes the North East England dialects, which are similar in some respects to Scots. Among the other dialects are Cumbrian, the various Yorkshire dialects, Lanky (Dialect of Lancashire) and Scouse. Northern English shows Viking influence because the area was all north of the Danelaw. Norwegian has had a greater impact on most northern dialects than Danish, but the East Riding of Yorkshire has been influenced more by Danish. There are also Irish influences on accents in Liverpool, Birkenhead and the Middlesbrough/Stockton/Billingham conurbation. Northern English is one of the major groupings of British English dialects; other major groupings include East Anglian English, Midlands English and Southern English.



Northern English contains:

In some areas, it can be noticed that dialects and phrases can vary greatly within regions too. For example the Lancashire dialect has many sub-dialects and varies noticeably from town to town. Even within as little as 5 miles there can be an identifiable change in accent. The Yorkshire Dialect Society has always separated West Riding dialect from that in the North and East ridings.

Common features of most Northern English accents

There are several accent features which are common to most of the accents of northern England (Wells 1982, section 4.4).

  • The foot–strut split is absent in Northern English, so that cut and put rhyme and are both pronounced with /ʊ/. This has led to Northern England being described "Oop North" /ʊp nɔːθ/ by some in the south of England. Some words with /ʊ/ in RP can have /uː/book is often pronounced /buːk/ in Northern accents, while some conservative accents also pronounce look as /luːk/.
  • The accents of Northern England generally do not use a /ɑː/. so cast is pronounced [kast] rather than the [kɑːst] pronunciation of most southern accents. This pronunciation is found in the words that were affected by the trap–bath split.
  • For many speakers, the remaining instances of RP /ɑː/ instead becomes /aː/: for example, in the words palm, cart, start, tomato.
  • The vowel in dress, test, pet, etc. is slightly more open, transcribed by Wells as /ɛ/ rather than /e/.
  • The "short a" vowel of cat, trap is normally pronounced [a] rather than the [æ] found in traditional Received Pronunciation and in many forms of American English.
  • In most areas, the letter y on the end of words as in happy or city is pronounced [ɪ], like the i in bit, and not [i]. This was considered RP until the 1990s. The longer [i] is found in the far north and in the Merseyside area.
  • The Received Pronunciation phonemes /eɪ/ (as in face) and /əʊ/ (as in goat) are often pronounced as monophthongs (such as [eː] and [oː], or even as older diphthongs such as /ɪə/ and /ʊə/). However, the quality of these vowels varies considerably across the region, and this is considered a greater indicator of a speaker's social class than the less stigmatised aspects listed above.


Further reading

  • Katie Wales (2006). Northern English: A Social and Cultural History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86107-1. 

See also

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