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Northern England English

Northern England English (or, simply, Northern English in the United Kingdom) is a group of related dialects of the English language found in Northern England. It includes the dialects of North East England (such as Tyneside's Geordie and Pitmatic), Cumbria, Merseyside (Scouse), and Manchester, as well as the varieties of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Some words occurring in 'far' Northern accents and North Eastern dialects reflect Viking influence—possibly because the area was all north of the Danelaw boundary. Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon and Norwegian languages had a greater impact on most northern dialects than the Danish language, but the East Riding of Yorkshire has been influenced more by Danish.[clarification needed] Authoritative quantification is not readily available but estimates have suggested as many as 7% of West Cumbrian dialect words are original Norse or derived from Norse.

Northern English is one of the major groupings of England English dialects; other major groupings include East Anglian English, East and West Midlands English, West Country (Somerset, Devon, Cornwall) 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 West to East and even from town to town. 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.

Phonological characteristics

File:Northern English short monophthongs.svg
Approximate positions of Northern English short monophthongs, from Lodge (2009:163)

There are several speech features that unite most of the accents of Northern England[1]

  • The accents of Northern England generally do not have the trap–bath split (or not the same extent of the split) observed in Southern England English, so there is no /ɑː/ in words like bath, ask, etc. Cast is pronounced [kʰast], rather than the [kʰɑːst] pronunciation of most southern accents, and so shares the same vowel as cat [kʰat]. Thus, the "short a" vowel of cat, trap is normally pronounced [a] rather than the [æ] found in traditional Received Pronunciation or General American.
    • For many speakers, /ɑː/ is not differentiated from /æ/ by quality, but by length, being pronounced as a longer [aː]: for example, in the words palm, cart, start, tomato.
  • The foot–strut split is absent in Northern English, so that, for example, cut and put rhyme and are both pronounced with /ʊ/; words like love, up, tough, judge, etc. also use this vowel sound. 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 even have /uː/book is pronounced /buːk/ in some Northern accents (particularly in Lancashire and Greater Manchester), while conservative accents also pronounce look as /luːk/.
  • The Received Pronunciation phonemes /eɪ/ (as in face) and /əʊ/ (as in goat) are often pronounced as monophthongs (such as [eː] and [oː]), or 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.
  • The most common R sound, when pronounced in Northern England, is the typical English About this sound postalveolar approximant; however, an About this sound alveolar tap is also widespread, particularly following a consonant or between vowels.[2] This tap predominates most fully in the Scouse accent. The North, like most of the South, is largely (and increasingly) non-rhotic, meaning that R is pronounced only before a vowel or between vowels, but not after a vowel (for instance, in words like car, fear, and lurk). However, regions that are rhotic (pronouncing all R sounds) or somewhat rhotic are possible, particularly amongst olders speakers:
  • The vowel in dress, test, pet, etc. is slightly more open, transcribed by Wells as /ɛ/ rather than /e/.
  • 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 tenser [i] is found in the far north and in the Merseyside area.
  • The North does not have a clear distinction between the About this sound "clear L" and About this sound "dark L" of most other accents in England; in other words, most Northern accents pronounce all L sounds with some moderate amount of velarization. Exceptions to this are in Tyneside and Northumberland, which universally use only the clear L, and in Lancashire and Manchester, which universally use only the dark L.[6][7]
Major distinctive sounds of Northern English[8][9][10]
Example words Derbyshire Manchester Lancashire Yorkshire Cumbria Northumberland Scouse Geordie
/æ/ bath, dance, trap [æ̞~a~ä] About this sound listen
/ɑː/ bra, calm, father [aː~äː~ɒ:] About this sound listen
/ɑr/ car, heart, stark /ɑː/ About this sound listen [ɒː] About this sound listen
// fight, ride, try
// brown, flautist, mouth [ɐʊ] [æʊ] [ɐʊ~u:] About this sound listen
// lame, rein, stain [ɛɪ~e̞ɪ] About this sound listen [eɪ] About this sound listen [ɪə~e:]
/ɜr/ first, learn, word [ɛ̝ː~e̞ː] About this sound listen [øː~ɔː] About this sound listen
/ər/ doctor, martyr, smaller
// beam, marine, fleece [ɪi] [i] About this sound listen [ɪi~i]
unstressed word-final
/ɪ/ or /i/
city, honey, parties [i] About this sound listen [ɪi~i] [i]
/ɔː/ all, bought, saw [ɔː] About this sound listen [ɒː~ɔ̝ː] [ɔ̝:] [ɔ̝ː]
Example words Derbyshire Manchester Lancashire Yorkshire Cumbria Northumberland Scouse Geordie
// goal, shown, toe [ɔʊ~ɔo] [ɔu~ɜu] [ʊə~o:]
/ʌ/ bus, flood, what
// food, glue, lose [ɵʏ] or [ɛʊ] [ʏ:] About this sound listen [ʉ:] About this sound listen [y:] [ʉː] About this sound listen [y:~ʉ:~ɵʊ]
intervocalic & postvocalic /k/ racquet, joker, luck [k] [k] or [k~x] [k] About this sound listen [k~x] About this sound listen or
[k~ç] About this sound listen
initial /h/ hand, head, home [∅] or [h]
/l/ lie, mill, salad [l] About this sound listen
stressed-syllable /ŋ/ bang, singer, wrong [ŋg~ŋ] [ŋ]
post-consonantal & intervocalic /r/ current, three, pray [ɹ] [ɾ] [ɹ]
intervocalic, final
& pre-consonantal
attic, bat, fitness [ʔ] or [t(ʰ)] [θ̠] About this sound listen or [ʔ] [ʔ] or [t(ʰ)]
Example words Derbyshire Manchester Lancashire Yorkshire Cumbria Northumberland Scouse Geordie


  1. ^ Wells & 1982a (section 4.4)
  2. ^ Wells (1982a:368)
  3. ^ Wells (1982a:368)
  4. ^ Wells (1982a:368)
  5. ^ Wells (1982a:368)
  6. ^ "The Phonology of English Dialects in the North of England" in Kortmann, B and Schneider, E. W. (eds.) A Handbook of Varieties of English, Volume I. Berlin: Mouton, 2004, 130.
  7. ^ Hughes, Arthur, Peter Trudgill, and Dominic James Landon Watt. English Accents & Dialects : an Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of English in the British Isles. 5th ed. London: Hodder Education, 2012. p. 116
  8. ^ Heggarty, Paul et al, ed. (2013). "Accents of English from Around the World". University of Edinburgh. 
  9. ^ Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003). The Phonetics of English and Dutch (PDF) (Fifth Revised Edition ed.). ISBN 9004103406. 
  10. ^ English Accents and Dialects. Routledge: 2012.


Further reading

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

See also