British dialects

General notions of british dialects. The classification of british dialects according to their location. Midlands english: east and west midlands, east Anglia. Southern, scottish english, wenglish, hiberno-english. Divergences from rules of pronunciation.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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  • PLAN
  • Introduction
  • 1. General notions of british dialects
    • 1.1 Dialect
    • 1.2 British dialects
  • 2. The classification of british dialects according to their location
    • 2.1 Midlands english
    • 2.1.1 East midlands
    • 2.1.2 West midlands
    • 2.1.3 East Anglia
    • 2.2 Southern english
  • 3. Scottish english
  • 4.Wenglish
  • 5. Hiberno-english
  • Conclusion


Language is the most important means of human being. Many peoples on the Earth have no means of representing their speech in the form of writing. In fact, some authorities estimate that there are more than two thousand languages in the world which have never been reduced to writing. Writing, therefore, must be considered a secondary manifestation of language. Likewise, other such representations and devices exist, some rather crude and some more elaborate; gesture, facial expressions, code signals, weather- vanes, and road signs are among them. The variety of languages is as great as variety of the peoples. Some languages have much in common - they belong to one family, other languages differ much and it seems that they have nothing in common but the thing that brings together all of them is that people use it to communicate with each other. One and the same language may differ in different regions of the country. The most widespread reason is the influence of the other cultures. Such form of a language which is spoken only in one area, with words or grammar that are slightly different from other forms of the same language is called the dialect Dictionary of contemporary English, Longman. Dialects are such varieties of a language that contrast in pronunciation, grammatical patterns, and vocabulary and that are associated with geographic area and social class. The two main types of dialects are the geographical dialect-spoken by people of the same area or locality and the social dialect-used by people of the same social class, educational level, or occupational group. The development of dialect variations clearly shows that language is continually evolving. Sometimes, when varieties of a language change to the point that they are mutually incomprehensible, the dialects become languages in their own rights. This was the case with Latin, various dialects of which evolved into French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and their various dialects. Although the term "dialect" is used popularly to refer to vernacular (i.e., non-standard) language varieties, linguists use the term in a neutral sense to refer to any variety - vernacular or standard. Years of sociolinguistic research have shown that dialects are merely different from each other. Our aim is to show this difference.

There are 2.5 thousand of languages, if not to take in consideration the distinctions between dialects. If we take dialects as separate languages their number will amount to 5 thousands. The whole amount of population in the world already has past 5 billions of people, it means that on average there is one language (or dialect) to million of people. It's impossible to learn all of them. For implementation of contacts between nations and states there are such people as interpreters. English language is the most prevalent and universally recognized. 402 million people all over the world speak English. It is widely spoken on six continents. In the British Isles, North America and Australia, where English is spoken as the primary language, the English-speaking population is fairly stable. In Africa, the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia, where English is used as a secondary language, its future is uncertain. English speakers fall into three groups: those who have inherited it as their native language, those who have acquired it as their second language in a society that is largely bilingual, and those who have learned it as a necessary medium of their education or profession. In the entire world, one person in seven now belongs to one of these groups.

Almost every language has different variants of pronunciation that's why it's no wonder that there are: British, American, Australian or Canadian English. The linguistic variations of one and the same language differ from its dialects. These variations of English already are independent languages but its dialects will never become independent.

The reason why we have chosen this theme is that of enlargement of our knowledge of English language, of penetration in its historical past. These materials will help us to evaluate and understand the peculiarities of foundation and development of this language, its dialects and accents. Our aims are:

- to examine the most prevalent British dialects;

- to compare their lexis (the word stock of the dialect), grammar and phonetics with those of Standard English ones, and to clarify what is the difference between them;

- to show the peculiarities of British dialects;

The subject of British dialects is very topical nowadays because the English language develops and changes and the dialects are forgotten. New words constantly replace the old ones. The old generations sometimes can't understand the young because of the distinctions in their speech; their language is the same but the words are different.

Our work will consist of 2 chapters. The 1st part will include mostly the theory, i.e. the history and development of the English language because it's very important for us to know the prerequisites of the appearing of the dialects. Also in this chapter we will examine the concept of dialect in general, the difference between standard dialects and non-standard dialects, between the dialect and the accent. We will trace how a variety of speech (on the example of Moldovan) was deliberately changed to serve political purposes. Also here we will examine what dialects exist in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The second chapter of our work we will dedicate to the analysis of British dialects (using the comparative and statistical methods) and to their peculiarities more minutely. british dialect midland southern

Dialects of English language have some divergences from rules of pronunciation and grammar. The learning of these divergences will help to understand the dialects better. We will know how the meaning of words was formed and developed. As all languages change over time and vary according to place and social domain we should ascertain why it happens. There is such point of view that dialects - is a "vulgar speech" that is used by uneducated strata of society. However this statement is wrong because the literary norm is formed on the bases of one or more local dialects and linguistic features of any local dialect are determined by strict historical regularities. For profound understanding of etymology, history and theory of English language we should study territorial dialects.

Henry Sweet predicted in 1877 that within a century, American English, Australian English and British English would be mutually unintelligible, but it may be the case that increased world-wide communication through television, the Internet, or globalization has reduced the tendency to regionalisation. This can result either with some variations becoming extinct (as, for instance, apartment has been gradually displacing flat in much of the world) or that wide variations are accepted as "perfectly good English" everywhere.

In addition to its use in English-speaking countries, English is used as a technical language around the world, in medicine, computer science, air traffic control, and many other areas.

Like all languages, English is constantly changing. Some changes spread out to cover the whole country; others spread only so far, leading to dialect differences between areas. The spread of changes may be caused by physical barriers to communications. The Fens is one such important boundary, with pronunciation in Norfolk of laugh /la:f/ and butter /bt/, and in Lincolnshire of /lжf/ and /bt/. The Norfolk pronunciations are newer forms which never made it across the Fens into Lincolnshire. Language change can sometimes be explained by external factors - e.g. the wholesale adoption into English of many French words following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. If we look far enough back in time, we can see that the impulse for change in language has led to the growth of different languages. 2000 years ago, the following languages were all part of the same language: Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, English. We now call these the Germanic language family, and they are descended from a common ancestor of which we have no records. In spite of common ancestor an English speaker cannot understand Dutch or Norwegian without studying them. 1000 years ago they probably could. The same applies to English. The English language was brought to Britain by Germanic-speaking invaders about 1500 years ago. Over the intervening centuries the language has changed enormously with the result that the Old English or Anglo-Saxon as written by King Alfred is no longer comprehensible to the Englishes, and the Middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer is by no means easy to read and even harder if they just hear it.

The main peculiarity of British English is that in contrast to other languages it has always been, and continues to be, a language of dialects. "There are no really sharp dialect boundaries in England, and dialects certainly do not coincide with counties. Yorkshire Dialect, for instance, does not suddenly change dramatically into Durham Dialect as you cross the County Durham boundary. Indeed, the dialects of northern Yorkshire are much more like those of County Durham than they are like those of southern Yorkshire. Dialects form a continuum, and are very much a matter of more-or-less rather than either / or. There is really no such thing as an entirely separate, self-contained dialect. Trudgill, P. (1990) The dialects of England, Oxford: Blackwell." (Trudgill 1990: 6) Wherever one goes in England or elsewhere in Britain, there are very obvious differences between the ways in which people speak in different places. It is so with the words used, with the grammar or the way in which words are organized, and very noticeably with pronunciation or dialect. Everyone in Britain seems to be aware of this variety to some extent, and most of them take this diversity for granted much of the time. Paradoxically, variation in dialect, and especially in pronunciation, is a subject about which most people when pressed, and many people without requiring any invitation, are quite prepared to express an opinion. Stop anyone in the street and ask what their words is, for example, for the soft shoe that is worn when playing sports, or what their opinion is of a Geordie or a Brummie or a Cockney dialect, and you can almost guarantee an interested and an interesting response.

There are four major divisions of dialects in Britain: Northern English, Midlands English, Southern English and Scottish English and in this work we'll try to analyse them. We'll distinguish between their vocabulary, grammar and phonetics.

The rich variety of dialects in England can in large measure be attributed to the simple fact that English has been spoken in the country for upwards of 1,500 years. Even in North America, where English has been in use for some 400 years, there has been insufficient time for fragmentation of the language to occur on the scale to which it has occurred in England, although many regional varieties have transplanted to the New World. Yet it is not the time-scale alone that has resulted in such a wealth of dialect. Language, like a culture, is always changing, becoming the property of succeeding generations who alter it to suit their own purposes. To understand the dialect situation in England we must look not only at the number of years that the language has existed there but also at what has taken place with regard to the language during those years. Forces may have acted, and indeed have acted, to suppress the trend towards dialectal development. That these forces were weaker than the forces working for the growth of dialect is an important feature of the history of the language at various stages of its evolution.

There are no sharp distinctions between dialects but the style that people use to communicate is different. Some dialects, for instance, are known for the ability of their speakers to conduct conversations containing quickfire wit and repartee - e.g. Merseyside and Cockney. In others, such as East Anglia, slower speech styles and more sardonic wit is appreciated. This leads to stereotyping of speakers as having certain characteristics. Cockneys are valued in London as amusing, but seen in East Anglia as arrogant and dominant; whilst East Anglians are perceived as taciturn and unfriendly by Londoners.

I. General notions of British dialects

In order to understand the nature and origin of conditions prevailing in dialects today we must learn to understand the circumstances which fostered them. And first of all we want to start from history of the English language.

English is descended from the language spoken by the Germanic tribes (the Frisians, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) that migrated to the land that would become known as England. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, around 449 AD, Vortigern, King of the British Isles, issued an invitation to the "Angle kin" (Angles, led by Hengest and Horsa) to help him against the Picts. In return, the Angles were granted lands in the southeast. Further aid was sought, and in response "came men of Ald Seaxum of Anglum of Iotum" (Saxons, Angles, and Jutes). The Chronicle documents the subsequent influx of "settlers" who eventually established seven kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Kent, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex.

These Germanic invaders dominated the original Celtic-speaking inhabitants, the languages of whom survived largely in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland. The dialects spoken by these invaders formed what would be called Old English which was a very similar language to modern Frisian which was also strongly influenced by yet another Germanic dialect, Old Norse, spoken by Viking invaders who settled mainly in the North-East. English, England, and East Anglia are derived from words referring to the Angles: Englisc, Angelcynn, and Englaland.

For the 300 years following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Kings of England spoke only French. A large number of French words were assimilated into Old English, which also lost most of its inflections, the result being Middle English. Around the year 1500, the Great Vowel Shift transformed Middle English to Modern English.

Modern English began its rise around the time of William Shakespeare. Some scholars divide early Modern English and late Modern English at around 1800, in concert with British conquest of much of the rest of the world, as the influence of native languages affected English enormously.

Increasing democratization of society in the XIX century, together with improved communications, began the slow process of exposing everyone to the rich variety of regional dialects existing in the country. On the other hand, the same developments spread the powerful influence of the standard form of the language, and progress in education, in the professions, and in society continued to depend on the possession of an acceptable accent and a grasp of the "correct" grammar and vocabulary. In the course of time the British Broadcasting Corporation would come to select its announcers and newsreaders on considerations of accent which went far beyond the dictates of intelligibility.

Yet with their roots firmly fixed in the history of the language, the dialects of England have persisted through the generations. Whatever was useful in each new age has been added to local speech as well as to the standard "supra-dialect": Scandinavian and French words through invasion; Classical and Romance words in the Renaissance; words from many other languages through colonization and trade; continuous changes in pronunciation.

Thus English belongs to the western sub-branch of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. The closest undoubted living relatives of English are Scots and Frisian. Frisian is a language spoken by approximately half a million people in the Dutch province of Friesland, in nearby areas of Germany, and on a few islands in the North Sea.

After Scots and Frisian, the next closest relative is the modern Low Saxon language of the eastern Netherlands and northern Germany. Other less closely related living languages include Dutch, Afrikaans, German and the Scandinavian languages. English speakers understand many French words, as English absorbed a tremendous amount of vocabulary from the Norman language after the Norman conquest and from French in further centuries; as a result, a substantial part of English vocabulary is quite close to the French, with some minor spelling differences (word endings, use of old French spellings, etc.), as well as occasional differences in meaning.

Unlike other languages English is analytic (i.e., relatively uninflected). Over thousands of years English has lost most of its inflexions, while other European languages have retained more of theirs. Indeed, English is the only European language in which adjectives have no distinctive endings, except for determiners and endings denoting degrees of comparison. Another characteristic is flexibility of functions. This means that one word can function as various parts of speech in different contexts (ex: the word "walk" can be used both as a noun and a verb). Another feature is openness of vocabulary that allows English to admit words freely from other languages and to create compounds and derivatives. English is a strongly stressed language with 4 degrees of stress: primary, secondary, tertiary and weak. A change in stress can change the meaning of a sentence or a phrase. In comparison with other languages English stress is less predictable.

The English vocabulary has changed continually over more than 1,500 years of development. The most nearly complete dictionary of the language, the Oxford English Dictionary, contains more than 600,000 words, including obsolete forms and variant spellings. It has been estimated, however, that the present English vocabulary consists of more than 1 million words, including slang and dialect expressions and scientific and technical terms, many of which only came into use after the middle of the XX century. The vocabulary is approximately half Germanic (Old English and Scandinavian) and half Italic or Romance (French and Latin), with copious borrowings from Greek in science and borrowings from many other languages. The English adopted the 23-letter Latin alphabet, to which they added the letters W, J, V. For the most part English spelling is based on that of the XV century. Pronunciation, however, has changed greatly since then. During the XVII and XVIII centuries fixed spellings were adopted, although there have been a few changes since that time. Numerous attempts have been made to reform English spelling, many during the XX century. The English vocabulary is more extensive than that of any other language in the world, although some other languages--Chinese, for example--have a word-building capacity equal to that of English.


1.1 Dialect

In order to begin the classification of British dialects we should clarify what the dialect is.

A dialect (from the Greek word дйЬлекфпт) is a variant, or variety, of a language spoken in a certain geographical area. The number of speakers, and the area itself, can be of arbitrary size. It follows that a dialect for a larger area can contain plenty of sub-dialects, which in its turn can contain dialects of yet smaller areas, etc. A dialect is a complete system of verbal communication (oral but not necessarily written), with its own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Two dialects that share enough similarities may be said to belong to the same language (or two dialects of one language). We may distinguish between standard dialects and non-standard dialects.

A standard dialect or standardized dialect (or "standard language") is a dialect that is supported by institutions. Such institutional support may include government recognition or designation; presentation as being the "correct" form of a language in schools; published grammars, dictionaries, and textbooks that set forth a "correct" spoken and written form; and an extensive formal literature that employs that dialect (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.). There may be multiple standard dialects associated with a language. For example, Standard American English, Standard British English, and Standard Indian English, may all be said to be standard dialects of the English language.

A non-standard dialect, like a standard dialect, has a complete vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but is not the beneficiary of institutional support. For example, Black English Vernacular may be said to be a non-standard dialect of the English language.

The concept dialect is distinguished from sociolect, which is a variety of a language spoken by a certain social stratum, from standard language, which is standardized for public performance (e.g. written standard), and from jargon and slang which are characterized by differences in vocabulary (or lexicon according to linguist jargon). Varieties, such as dialects, idiolects and sociolects, can be distinguished not only by their vocabulary, but also by differences in grammar, phonology and prosody.

Now let's try to find out what is the difference between the dialect and the language. There are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, although a number of paradigms exist, which render sometimes contradictory results. The exact distinction is therefore a subjective one, dependent on the user's frame of reference. Language varieties are often called dialects rather than languages solely because they are not (or not recognized as) literary languages, because the speakers of the given language do not have a state of their own, or because their language lacks prestige. Anthropological linguists define dialect as the specific form of a language used by a speech community. In other words, the difference between language and dialect is the difference between the abstract or general and the concrete and particular. From this perspective, no one speaks a "language," everyone speaks a dialect of a language. Those who identify a particular dialect as the "standard" or "proper" version of a language are in fact using these terms to express a social distinction. Often, the standard language is close to the sociolect of the elite class. In groups where prestige standards play less important roles, "dialect" may simply be used to refer to subtle regional variations in linguistic practices that are considered mutually intelligible, playing an important role to place strangers, carrying the message of wherefrom a stranger originates (which quarter or district in a town, which village in a rural setting, or which province of a country); thus there are many apparent "dialects" of Navajo and Apache, for example, geographically widespread North American indigenous languages, by which the linguist simply means that there are many subtle variations among speakers who largely understand each other and recognize that they are each speaking "the same way" in a general sense.

Modern day linguistics knows that the status of language is not solely determined by linguistic criteria, but it is also the result of a historical and political development.

Political factors

Max Weinreich In 1945 the Yiddisch linguist Max Weinreich formulated the much quoted metaphor in "YIVO and the problems of our time," _Yivo-bleter_, 1945, vol. 25, no. 1, p. 13. has provided this definition: "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy". However, this also leads to inconsistencies and controversies, as political frontiers do not neatly follow lines of linguistic usage or comprehensibility. Depending on political realities and ideologies, the classification of speech varieties as dialects or languages and their relationship to other varieties of speech can be controversial and the verdicts inconsistent.

There have been cases of a variety of speech being deliberately altered to serve political purposes. The example is Moldovan. No such language existed before 1945, and most non-Moldovan linguists remain sceptical about its classification. After the Soviet Union annexed the Romanian province of Bessarabia and renamed it Moldavia, Romanian, a Romance language, was transposed into the Cyrillic alphabet and numerous Slavic words were imported into the language, in an attempt to weaken any sense of shared national identity with Romania. After Moldavia won its independence in 1991 (and changed its name to Moldova), it reverted to a modified Latin alphabet as a rejection of the perceived political connotations of the Cyrillic alphabet. In 1996, however, the Moldovan parliament, citing fears of "Romanian expansionism," rejected a proposal from President Mircea Snegur to change the name of the language back to Romanian, and in 2003 a Romanian-Moldovan dictionary was published, purporting to show that the two countries speak different languages. Linguists of the Romanian Academy reacted by declaring that all the Moldovan words were also Romanian words. Even in Moldova, the head of the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Linguistics, Ion Bгrbuюг, described the dictionary as a politically motivated "absurdity".

1.2 British Dialects

The size of the British Isles often leads people to assume that the language spoken in its countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is somewhat homogeneous and first time visitors are often surprised to find that they have difficulty in understanding the accents and dialects of certain regions. Even within the country of England alone there is great diversity of dialect both regionally and socially. The term "British English", when used by British speakers, often refers to the written Standard English and the sociolect known as Received Pronunciation (RP). The written Standard English dates back to the early XVI century in its current form. It is primarily based on dialects from the South East of England and is used by newspapers and official publications. RP is the most extended and socially accepted pronunciation (accent) which is used by educated people in London and the South of England. A possible reason for this phenomenon is the support for its use by the most prestigious public schools (Winchester, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, etc.) and the old universities (Oxford, Cambridge). It should be emphasized that only 3-5 % of the population of England speak RP. RP is also known as Queen's English or BBC English.

Standard English is considered to be the model for educated people but what is it exactly nobody knows. There are many approaches to the understanding of what the Standard English is:

1. Some lexicologists consider Standard English as the official language of Great Britain taught at schools and universities, used by the press, the radio and the television and spoken by educated people. It may be defined as that form of English which is current and literary, substantially uniform and recognized as acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood. Its vocabulary is contrasted to dialect words or dialectisms belonging to various local dialects. Local dialects are varieties of the English language peculiar to some districts and having no normalized literary form. Regional varieties possessing a literary form are called variants. Dialects are said to undergo rapid changes under the pressure of Standard English taught at schools and the speech habits cultivated by radio, television and cinema.

2. According to P. Trudgill Hughes, A. and Trudgill, P. (1996) English Accents and Dialects: An Introduction to Social and Regional Varieties of British English, Third Edition, London: Arnold. Standard English is not "a language" in any meaningful sense of this term. He says that SE is less than a language because it's only one variety of English among many.

3. There is also another point of view that SE has nothing to do with pronunciation also. It is widely agreed that while all RP speakers also speak Standard English, the reverse is not the case. But RP is standardized accent of English and not SE itself.

To sum up all aforesaid we'd like to emphasize that at least most British sociolinguists are agreed, that Standard English is a dialect. As we mentioned above SE is just one variety of English. It is a sub-variety of English. Sub-varieties of languages are usually referred to as dialects, and languages are often described as consisting of dialects.

The development of dialects in Britain we can trace from the ancient times. The various Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) who invaded Britain after 437 AD brought with them their own dialects of West Germanic. These formed the basis for the appearance of later dialect areas. The language itself, as spoken by these people after they arrived in Britain, is sometimes called Anglo-Saxon but nowadays more usually Old English. The submergence of the various British Celtic languages (of which Welsh is the only modern survivor) also lead to innovations in British English. The Viking invasions resulted in more Norse influence in the north than in the south, thereby contributing another layer to the existing dialects. Moreover, the Norman French invaders influenced the south more than the north, which came to be more conservative linguistically. The Great Vowel Shift of the 1500's didn't affect northern English dialects, which came to be called Scots English. Because of the long history of dialect creation in the English speaking areas of Great Britain, there are more dialects of English in Britain than in America, Canada, and Australia combined.

In spite of the fact that Great Britain is not such a big country there is a great variety of different dialects on its territory. During the centuries, English language has changed enormously in different ways in every part of Great Britain. Nowadays it is almost impossible to find out how many dialects exist in England and classify them because they change gradually from one part of the country to another creating a kind of "continuum". Significant changes in dialect (pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary) may occur within one region.

The four major divisions are normally classified as:

Southern English dialects

Midlands English dialects

Northern English dialects

Scottish English and the closely related dialects of Scots and Ulster Scots (varieties of Scots spoken in Ulster).

There is also Hiberno-English (English as spoken in Ireland) and the form of English used in Wales. The various English dialects differ in the words they have borrowed from other languages. The Scottish and Northern dialects include many words originally borrowed from Old Norse; the Scottish dialects include words borrowed from Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Hiberno-English includes words derived from Irish.

There are many differences between the various British dialects. These can be a major obstacle to understanding between people from different areas. However, modern communications and mass media have reduced these differences significantly. In addition, speakers of very different dialects may modify their pronunciation and vocabulary, towards Standard English.

The classification of modern British dialects presents serious difficulties as their boundaries are instable.


Northern English

· Northumberland (Geordie, Pitmatic)

· Durham (Mackem)

· Cumbrian

· Yorkshire

· Lancashire

· Merseyside (Scouse)

Midlands English


· Derbyshire

· Nottingham

· Lincolnshire

· Leicestershire


· Black Country (Yam Yam)

· Birmingham (Brummie)

§ East Anglia

· Norfolk (Broad Norfolk)

Southern English

· Estuary English

· Cockney (London)

· Somerset

· Devon

· Cornwall


Scottish English (Scots)

Highland English




Northern Ireland

Mid Ulster English


On the map below we can discern dialects and languages on the territory of British Isles.

This map shows only some dialects; let's say "the most popular". As to the languages we can say with confidence that the United Kingdom has no official language. English is the main language and the de facto official language, spoken monolingually by an estimated 95% of the UK population.

However, some nations and regions of the UK want to speak and to promote their own languages. In Wales, English and Welsh are both widely used by officialdom, and Irish and Ulster Scots enjoy limited use alongside English in Northern Ireland, mainly in publicly commissioned translations. Additionally, the Western Isles region of Scotland has a policy to promote Scottish Gaelic.

Under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which is not legally enforceable, the UK Government has committed itself to the promotion of certain linguistic traditions. Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish are to be developed in Wales, Scotland and Cornwall respectively. Other native languages afforded such protection include Irish in Northern Ireland, Scots in Scotland and Northern Ireland, officially known as "Ulster Scots" or "Ullans" in Northern Ireland but in the speech of users simply as "Scotch" or "Scots", and British Sign Language.

Nevertheless let's return to the dialects. The conservatism is one of the main features of the modern English territorial dialects. Some deviations from literary standard mostly are conditioned not on evolution but on its absence: many linguistic phenomena from different periods of the language history are preserved in dialects.

Map from Pictures of England

County Key: Yorks = Yorkshire, Wars = Warwickshire, Leics = Leicestershire, Mancs = Manchester, Lancs = Lancashire, Derbys = Derbyshire, Staffs = Staffordshire, Notts = Nottinghamshire, Shrops = Shropshire, Northants = Northamptonshire, Herefs = Herefordshire, Worcs = Worcestershire, Bucks = Buckinghamshire, Beds = Bedfordshire, Cambs = Cambridgeshire, Herts = Hertfordshire.


In this chapter we want to classify the British dialects according to places where they are spoken, i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The dialects of England differ sharply from all other dialects. Why is it that people in different parts of the country speak differently? Trudgill (1994:5-7) thinks that English is constantly changing, and that different changes take place in different parts of the country, or the spread of changes will be halted by barriers to communication such as countryside which is difficult to cross.


As England is a big country, the dialects there seize 3 territories: Northern, Midlands and South. In these territories the dialects are spoken differently because of the influence of different languages and cultures. Linguists agree that about 900 English words of Scandinavian origin, including get, hit, leg, low, root, skin, same, want and wrong. It is impossible to prove that these words could not have existed in the ancient English language long before the Scandinavian invasion. While most people in Central England say "boy and girl," a huge northern area uses "lad and lass." This area coincides with the distribution of "lug" instead of 'ear,' etc. The words lad, lass and lug and similar basic dialectal words are the last remnants of a sunken language, the peaks of an iceberg that was not originally English in its vocabulary. It indicates that the majority of the speakers of their core area once consisted of foreigners, whether Picts, Goths or Scandinavians.

Northern English

Various names have been proposed for the speech of the industrial North of England: 'Geordie', 'Pitmatic', 'Durham English', 'Mackem', 'Cumbrian', 'Scouse', etc. All Northern English seems a truer echo of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) than Southern English - especially in its vowel sounds. It retains a great number of Norse-based words than Southern English, but shares with it an admixture of words derived from Norman-French in the feudal era. Like every other dialect, the speech of the North has interacted with 'Standard English', with increasing convergence in recent centuries. Northern English dialects include such counties as: Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Manchester, East Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire. The counties of northern England are not far from the Scottish border, so the influence of Scottish English is noticeable, though there are of course many features only of northern English regions. The Northern dialect closely resembles the southern-most Scottish dialects. It retains many old Scandinavian words, such as bairn [bе?n] for 'child'. The most outstanding version is Geordie, the dialect of the North East and namely of the Newcastle area. It has much in common with Mackem - the dialect of Durham. The term "Mackem" is used to describe someone native to the city of Sunderland (an industrial city and port in the English county of Tyne and Wear). Alternatives include 'Makem' or 'Mak'em'. The term was coined by shipyard workers in the XIX century in Newcastle to describe their Wearside counterparts. The Geordies would 'Take' the ship to be fitted out that the Mackems 'Made', hence 'Mackem and Tackem' ("make them" and "take them"). The term came into increasing use during the late 1980s and early 1990s, partly due to the labelling of Sunderland people as 'Mackems' by 'Geordies' and partly by Sunderland people themselves who did not want to be identified as Geordies.


Geordie is a term used to describe a person originating from Tyneside (the city Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its surrounding area) and the former coal mining areas of northern County Durham and the dialect spoken by such people. The villages around Newcastle, until recently depending largely on the coal industry, are home to many of the broader dialect speakers. There are a number of rival theories to explain how the term came about, though all accept that it derives from a familiar diminutive form of the name "George". In recent times Geordie has also started to mean a supporter of Newcastle United football club no matter where their origin often including people from well outside the traditional area. This movement is opposed by traditional geordies however both due to their wanting to seem unique and the fact that many of them are supporters of the rival football club Sunderland.

The word "Geordie" is said to date from the early XVIII century, when Newcastle people declared support for the English kings George I and II, in opposition to the rest of the population of Northumberland, who supported the Scottish Jacobite rebellions. Although the name is localised to the Newcastle area, the dialect here merges gradually into the Northumbrian and Scottish dialects to the north and to a lesser extent into Durham and Yorkshire varieties to the south. Geordie derives much less influence from French and Latin than does Standard English, being substantially Angle and Viking in origin.

The relationship between the local dialect and Standard English, like in other parts of Britain, has not always been comfortable. Non-standard pronunciation and grammatical forms have been widely proscribed in school classes, and speakers of the dialect themselves will often express a view that their language is substandard or bad. Until very recently, there has been no educated role model on radio or television, and many people from the area feel that they are discriminated against on the basis of the way they speak.

An alternative (and more likely) explanation for the name is that local miners used "Geordie" safety lamps designed by George Stephenson, rather than the "Davy Lamps" designed by Humphry Davy which were used in other mining communities. This is the version that is generally preferred by the Geordies themselves.

Distinctively Geordie words are more than 80 % Angle in origin, compared to Standard English, where the figure is less than 30 %. Modern English words by comparison are predominantly of Latin origin because modern English derives from the dialects of southern England which were continuously influenced by the Latin and Norman French favoured by the educated classes of Oxford, Cambridge and London.

Geordie words should not be seen as sloppy pronunciation or a poor use of language, as they are in fact of great antiquity. Indeed many old words and phrases commonly used in the old works of Chaucer and Shakespeare which are no longer used in other parts of Britain have survived as common usage in the North East. Many educated Geordies, especially in the urban area, have a wider degree of competence in both standard and non-standard speech so that, depending on context; they have a range of forms at their disposal. Generally, the more informal the context, the greater the number of dialect features. There are also signs of a growing pride in the distinctive nature of the dialect, with Geordie dictionaries, versions of bible stories and so on, appearing on the market. There are also bumper stickers with humorous messages such as Divn't dunsh us, I'm a Geordie! - Смотри не столкнись со мной, я Джорди прозвище жителя или уроженца графства Нортумберленд! (Don't bump into me, I'm a Geordie!).


People in the North-east believe that a lot of Geordie words come from "Scandinavian". There is a strong link with the language of the Anglo-Saxon immigrants of the first millennium, particularly those from the Angle areas of what is now southern Denmark. Words such as lop - вошь,блоха - 'flea, louse or its egg' ("The penny lop was the local cinema which was full of people with fleas" Frank Graham (1998) The New Geordie Dictionary), hoppings - ярмарочная площадь - 'fairground', ket - мусор - 'rubbish' and worm - монстр - 'monster' ("the name given to the legendary monsters described in so many ballads. The Lambton Worm is the best known. But there was the Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh near Bamburgh, and the "Dragon-Worm" of Sockburn in Durham") have been suggested as Anglo-Saxon survivals. Invaders from further north, known popularly as "Vikings", probably had a greater influence on the language further south in Durham and Yorkshire. Geordie language is, in fact, quite closely allied to Lowland Scottish, although the exact etymology of many words of the area is still not fully understood.

Varnigh is in common use, meaning 'almost' - почти, or 'very nearly' - очень близко. Other dialect words such as penker - мрамор - 'marble' and plodge 'wade through mud, wade in water with bare feet' may have an onomatopoeic element, while a Romani origin has been suggested for some words such as gadgie - парень -'chap' and baari - 'excellent' - превосходный.

Geordie also has a large amount of vocabulary not seen in other English dialects. Words still in common use today include canny for 'pleasant' - приятный ("an embodiment of all that is kindly, good, and gentle. The highest compliment that can be paid to any person is to say that he or she is canny"), hyem, yearm for 'home' - дом (I'm gannin hyem - 'I'm going home'), divn't (divvent) for 'don't', hacky for 'dirty' - грязный (Hacky-dorty - 'very dirty' - очень грязный), and howay meaning something like 'Come on!' - Живей! or 'Well done' - Хорошо! When a Geordie uses the word larn for 'teach' - учить, it is not a misuse of the English word 'learn'; the word is derived from the Anglo Saxon word 'laeran', meaning 'to teach'.

Some words do appear to have currency further north into the Scottish Lowlands. These are: bonny 'pretty' - милый, прелестный (is usually used like canny to describe character as well as looks. A bonny bairn - 'a good looking child' - милый ребёнок. A bonny singer - 'an accomplished singer' - талантливый певец), burn 'stream' - поток/ручей, muckle 'very' - очень, cuddy 'small horse, donkey' - осёл/маленькая лошадь (He's a greet sackless cuddy - 'He's a big stupid donkey'), spuggy 'sparrow' - воробей, hadaway 'go away/begone' - убирайся! or 'you're kidding' - ты шутишь!, sackless 'stupid, useless' - глупый/бесполезный, cushat 'wood pigeon' - дикий голубь.

Other typical Geordie words are also found further south, and appear to be part of a general Northern English lexicon: aye 'yes' - да (why aye - 'of course' - конечно), gob 'mouth' - рот, give over 'stop it' - прекрати!, chuffed 'happy' - счастливый, wisht 'be quiet' - успокойся!, nowt 'nothing' - ничего, nigh on 'nearly' - близко, na 'no' - нет.

The following words can be considered truly Geordie words: pet 'term of address for females' (e.g. "thanks, pet"), bullets 'sweets' - конфеты (so called from the shape of a bullet. The best known are black bullets. A black bullet consists of a dark brown peppermint flavoured spherical boiled sweet. They contain only 3 ingredient's: sugar, glucose and peppermint oil), marra 'friend, mate' - друг/товарищ, bait 'food' - еда (bait-poke or bait-can - 'a metal container to carry food to work'), lowp 'to jump' - прыгать, ten o'clock 'morning snack' - лёгкий утренний завтрак/закуска (He' ye had yor ten o'clock yit?), get 'stupid person' - глупый человек, netty 'toilet/lavatory' - туалет/уборная, cree '(bird) cage' - птичья клетка, hoy 'throw' - бросать/кидать (to hoy a stone - 'to throw a stone'), deek 'see, look at' - видеть/смотреть на, dunsh 'push, bump' - сталкиваться/врезаться/толкать, toon 'Newcastle' - Ньюкасл, gannin 'going', weees 'who is' - кто, ooot 'out' - вне/снаружи/за пределами ч-л, the neet 'tonight' - сегодня вечером, morrer 'tomorow' - завтра (see yer the morrer- 'see you tomorrow') . In Newcastle there are such common phrases and greetings:

Hoo ye gannin? or Hoo's ya fettle? 'How are you?' - Как поживаете?

Champion. 'Very good, very well' - Очень хорошо

Bonny day the day. 'It's nice weather' - Прекрасная погода

Whey aye, man. 'That's right' - Именно

Give ower, y'a kiddin. 'Come on, you're joking' - Да ладно, ты шутишь!

Hadaway man. 'I'm still not convinced' - Я всё ещё не уверен

Ya taakin shite. 'I really disagree with that' - Я абсолютно с этим не согласен

Tara now, pet. 'Goodbye (to female)' - Прощай (женщине)

Wee's yon slapper? 'Who's the young lady?' (derogatory) - Что за девчёнка?


Probably the most noticeable feature of Geordie grammar is a confusing difference in pronoun forms. The term us is used to indicate a singular 'me' - я, while the plural form for 'us' - мы is wu or even wuz. So give us it means 'give me it' (дайте мне это) and give wu it means 'give us it' (дайте нам это). Yee means 'you' - ты, Geordies use youse for plural 'you' - вы (множ.), me for 'my' - мой/моё. 'Our/my' (наш/мой) is pronounced wor. Typical members of the family thus include: wor lass my 'wife' - моя жена, wor kid 'my younger brother' - мой младший брат, wor fatha 'my father' - мой отец, etc.

The plural form yous is also in use, and possibly appeared due to influence from the large influx of Irish people to Tyneside in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The negative form of the verb "to do" is divvent instead of "don't" and there are distinctive past tense forms of verbs such as tell - говорить (telt), forget - забывать (forgetten) and put - класть (putten).

For example:

I telt you to give us a one, but you've forgetten. If you divvent give us it noo, I'm gannin yearm. ('I told you to give me one, but you've forgotten' - Я говорил тебе дать мне это, но ты забыл. 'If you don't give me it now, I'm going home' - Если ты не отдашь мне это, то я уйду домой).

The example above also shows the common combination 'give me one' as in give us a one.

In many cases, what is the simple past form in Standard English is also used as a participle in the Geordie variety. For example, in Standard English you say 'I took' but 'I have taken' and 'I went', but 'I have gone'. However, in broad Geordie, I've took one and He's never went there may be used. This feature has long been stigmatised as "bad English" but it is actually a consistent part of the grammar.

Another notable grammatical feature is a combination of certain words such as 'might' and 'could' which are not allowed together in most standard varieties. It is possible to say, for example: He might could come tomorrow - Он может прийти завтра.

Often, quantity expressions such as five year (пять лет) and ten pound (десять фунтов) are used without a plural -s.

A common feature is the use of the word man to indicate rather more than reference to a male person. For example, in ye cannet, man 'you really can't' (ты действительно не можешь), the word man acts as a final particle emphasising the impossibility of the action. Another final particle mar has a similar function of emphasis, as in it's cowld the day, mar 'it is really cold today' (сегодня очень холодно), while the end of the sentence as in who says, like? or it's not my fault, like may request or provide exemplification.

Another difference from Standard English in the grammar is that but can occur at the end of a sentence. For example:

It'll be dark, but - Но уже будет темно

You might could lose it, but - Но ты можешь потерять это

Also, the object pronoun can be used at the end of a sentence for emphasis:

I really love chips me

I cannet understand it, me


In Geordie most consonant sounds are similar to those of Standard English. The most notable exception is the famous "burr" or uvular r sound, roughly similar to the French pronunciation of "r". This is by no means universal on Tyneside, but more common in mining communities further north. It has received a lot of interest from linguists, although its use appears to be declining today. Unlike many English dialects, initial "h" is not dropped from the beginning of words, but word-final -ing is usually pronounced as -in.

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