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English dialects: as much as there are

Dialects are linguistic varieties which differ in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar from each other and from Standard English (which is itself a dialect).

Dialects can be usefully defined as ‘sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible’. British linguists distinguish dialect from accent, which refers only to pronunciation. Thus, any educated English speaker can use the vocabulary and grammar of Standard English, but different speakers use their own local words for everyday objects or actions, regional accent, or Received Pronunciation, which within the UK is considered an accent distinguished by class rather than by region. American linguists, however, include pronunciation differences as part of the definition of regional or social dialects. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost incomprehensible to speakers from other regions. The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into the three general categories of the British Isles dialects, those of North America and those of Australasia.






Southern English engages in r-dropping, that is, r's are not pronounced after vowels, unless followed by another vowel.  Instead, vowels are lengthened or have an /'/ off-glide, so fire becomes /fai'/, far becomes /fa:/, and so on.

  • regular use of "broad a" (/a:/), where GA (General American) would use /æ/.
  • "long o" is pronounced /'u/, where GA uses /ou/.
  • final unstressed i is pronounced /i/, where GA uses /i:).
  • t between vowels retained as /t/ (or a glottal stop, in its variants), where GA changes it to /d/.

The English of well-bred Londoners, especially graduates of the public schools (e.g. Eton and Harrow) and "Oxbridge" universities, was the origin of "the Queen's English," also known as Received Pronunciation (RP), BBC, or "posh."

Originally the dialect of the working class of East End London.

  • initial h is dropped, so house becomes /aus/ (or even /a:s/).
  • /th/ and /dh/ become /f/ and /v/ respectively: think > /fingk/, brother > /brœv'/.
  • t between vowels becomes a glottal stop: water > /wo?i/.
  • diphthongs change, sometimes dramatically: time > /toim/, brave > /braiv/, etc.

Besides the accent, it includes a large number of slang words, including the famous rhyming slang. To learn more about it you may read the article ‘How to understand a Londoner’ from the rubric ‘Everyday English’.

Estuary English
From London down the Thames and into Essex, Sussex, and even Kent, a new working and middle class dialect has evolved and is rapidly become "the" southern dialect.  It combines some of the characteristics of Cockney with RP, but makes much less use of Cockney slang.

East Anglian
This dialect is very similar to the Southern:

  • t between vowels usually becomes a glottal stop.
  • /ai/ becomes /oi/: time > /toim/.
  • RP yu becomes u: after n, t, d... as in American English.

East Midlands
The dialect of the East Midlands, once filled with interesting variations from county to county, is now predominantly RP.  R's are dropped, but h's are pronounced.  The only signs that differentiate it from RP:

  • ou > u: (so go becomes /gu:/).
  • RP yu; becomes u: after n, t, d...  as in American English.

The West Country

  • 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.

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.

The Yorkshire dialect is known for its sing-song quality, a little like Swedish, and retains its r's.

  • /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.

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 Geordie, 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

Suffolk dialect is an English dialect. Like many English dialects it is rapidly disappearing, with the advent of increasing social and geographical mobility and the influence of the media. Despite this, there are still many people who profess some knowledge of Suffolk dialect, and there is an increasing number of young speakers who have a distinctive Suffolk accent, if not dialect.

Suffolk dialect has many characteristics, some of which are similar to its northern neighbour's, Norfolk dialect. Yet it retains many specific and unique terms and phrases which are instantly recognisable. A closely related accent can still be heard in the speech of older people in Colchester and its surrounding towns in northern Essex, where it has not yet quite been displaced by Estuary and Cockney.


"boi" (with an emphasis on the 'i') - a term of familiar address, equivalent to mate, but can be used for a female as well as a male addressee. A corruption of "neighbour"

- "dag" = early morning or evening mist, especially associated with coastal / marsh areas, possibly also general eastern England dialect

- "bibble" = (of animals, esp. birds) to drink

- "hull" = throw

- "on the her" (pronounced 'hə') = uneven, unbalanced

Mutations to certain words- "tomorrow" becomes "'amara" (with a hard glottal stop at the beginning).

- "I'll" becomes "oi'll" (as in "oil") e.g. "Oi'll see yer 'amara". This also happens to other words with the 'ae' sound in, such as "five", which becomes "foive".

- "you" becomes "yer".

- "Mother" becomes "Ma'" as with many regional accents.

- "rope" is pronounced "roup", with an emphasis on the 'u'. Likewise, "road" also sounds like "rood" and "soap" sounds like "soup". This shows that Suffolk dialect is a context language.

- most words ending in '-ing' become '-en', as in "Oi'm busy worken".

- "seen" and "been" become "sin" and "bin" respectively.

- words such as "picture" and "lecture" become "pitcher" and "letcher".

- the perfect tense of "to show" changes from "showed" to "shew", e.g. "Oi shew er a pitcher".

- words such as "shopping" and "office" mutate to "sharpin" and "arfice" as in "Oi'm gorn sharpin" or "Oi'm gorn down-a poost arfice".

- "going" becomes "gorn", but unlike Norfolk, "doing" becomes "do-en".

- "int" is used for "have not", and is similar to "ain't" in London English.

- "ant" is used for "has not".

- "yesterday", as well as any other words ending in '-day' becomes "-di" as in "yesterdi" and "Toosdi".

- "it" often becomes "e'", an approximate schwa sound, somewhere between an 'e' and a 'u', like a short 'er', e.g. "Oi int gorn-a do e'".

- "to" becomes "a", another schwa sound, after the compound future i.e. "I am going to" becomes "Oi'm gorn-a"

- "go" and other words with an 'o' sound become 'oo', such as "Oi'm mooing the lawn".

- words containing aʊ sounds (as in 'ouch!') become something resembling 'e-oo'. This affects words like "now" which becomes "ne-oo". This is very similar to the Welsh 'ew' sound (see the diphthongs on the bottom right) and is quite difficult to explain in writing - it should be heard to get the full jist of it. A particularly interesting website contains a dialect map, which has an example of this pronunciation.

- pronunciation of words such as "bear" and "care" resemble New Zealand English in that they sound like "beer" and "keer".

Grammar and linguisticsEpenthesis occurs occasionally in Suffok dialect, as it does in Norfolk dialect. Words like "film" become "filum".

Yod-dropping is very common, so words like "dew", "queue", "new" and "tune" will become "doo", "koo", "noo" and "toone" respectively.

Suffolk dialect is non-rhotic, i.e. the 'r' in "hard" and similar words is not pronounced, unlike West Country English.

Suffolk dialect has a strong use of the glottal stop. This is shown in words like "'amara" and "e'" ('tomorrow' and 'it').

The intonation of words in Suffolk is very peculiar. Words have a notable range of rise and fall in pitch and can often sound as if the speaker were asking a question. This is one of the main features that distinguish Suffolk speech from Norfolk, which is characterised by a distinctive 'drawl'.

Verbs very rarely conjugate, the only exceptions being 'to be' and 'to have'. Other verbs do not conjugate whatsoever, and the present and perfect tense is often the same, and context is used. This is shown in "Ee say he goo down-a poost arfice" for "he said he went to the post office".




The Essex dialect is rapidly disappearing dialect similar to some forms of East Anglian English and is now mainly confined to the middle, north and the east of Essex. It shares vast similarities with both Suffolk and Norfolk dialects, with its own peculiarities. With rapid urbanisation in the 20th century as well as the impact of the London overspill, Estuary English, a milder form of the London accent predominant largely along the Thames Estuary and thus the name, has become common, mainly in the southern portion of the county. As a result of the growing London influence, the usage of rural accents everywhere and the rural Essex dialect is now normally, but not always confined to older generations in some of the areas affected and the dialect itself stands in a vulnerable state in those affected parts of the county. Elsewhere in Essex, the dialect and rural accent continues.

For example, in the coastal town of Harwich the Essex dialect is still common, even among the town's youth, and is a defining feature of the area.

Many of the unique patterns of speech, as well as vocabulary were recorded in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries An Essex Dialect Handbook has been published, however recently, the Essex County Records office have recorded a CD of the sounds of Essex Dialect speakers in an effort to preserve the dialect.


(from Kryss Katsiavriades at http://www.krysstal.com/cockney.html)


                                                                                         By K. Scheglova

The student of class 9A

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