Yorkshire accent

From Academic Kids

The Yorkshire accent is the name generally given to the group of English accents used by the majority of people in the English county of Yorkshire. It should be noted that there is much variation in this region and there would be a whole host of differences between a Keighley accent and a Scarborough accent - both of which are, in turn, very hard for outsiders to understand. The film "Kes" is the best piece of Yorkshire dialect in culture, having been set in Barnsley. The Chuckle Brothers speak with an accent that Southerners find much easier to understand and is to be found around Rotherham and Doncaster. The soap Emmerdale is set in North Yorkshire, but the accent heard in the soap does not reflect local trends accurately.

The characteristic features of the accent of the region include

  • A flat, uninflected manner of speech, with less tonal variation than Standard English.
  • The "u" sound is pronounced like the standard English "oo", so "luck" is pronounced (in IPA) . The difference between the Yorkshire Pronunciation of "look" and "luck" is difficult to hear, the "look" vowel being slightly longer in duration and tending towards the IPA pronunciation.
  • Shortening of "the" to "t", as in "I'm going down 't pub". Sometimes even the "t" is now omitted totally, often it is pronounced as a glottal stop.
  • Many dialect words, for example "owt" and "nowt" (sometimes spelled as "aught" and "naught") for "anything" or "nothing", "bevvy" for drink, "growler" for "pork pie", "lughole" for "ear", "gip" for "vomit" [which funnily makes the ugly Gipton estate in Leeds into "vomit-town"!] etc.
  • The word "us" is often used in place of "me" or in the place of "our" [e.g. we should put us names on us property.]
  • Use of the singular second-person pronoun "thou" and "thee", largely in the southern parts of Yorkshire. These are often pronounced "thah" and "thi".
  • In all cases of the past tense of "to be" is "were": "I were wearing t'red coat, but he were wearing t'green one".
  • The word "self" becomes "sen", particularly in North Yorkshire. E.g. "Yourself" becomes "Thy sen"
  • In the South-East of Yorkshire vowel shifts so "i" becomes "ee", and "ee" becomes "i", so "Where have you been last night" becomes "wherst tha bin last neet".
  • The letter "y" on the end of words is pronounced like the "i" in "city" or "pity" and is thus shorter than in Standard English [e.g. "It's a piti 'at ah didn't get sum sweets."]. 1
  • In West Yorkshire, words like "blue" and "you" have an exaggerated "euw" sound in "bleuw" and "yeuw". This is best heard in the West Yorkshire town "Deuws-bri" [Dewsbury].
  • An "h" at the start of the world is usually dropped; Huddersfield, herd and hook would be pronounced 'Uddersfield, 'erd and 'ook. The only exception is when the word starts with a hyu sound; human would be pronounced as it is usually.
  • A consonant at the end of the word can sometimes become merged with the next word [if the next word begins with a vowel], as occurs in a French accent. e.g. "Pack it in!" becomes "Pa-ki-tin!"
  • Where Standard English would have a long vowel syllable, Yorkshire often splits it into two syllables. e.g. "school" becomes "skeu-il", "there" becomes "they-yer" and "door" becomes "deu-er".
  • In West Yorkshire, the word "my" is often replaced by "me", and the word "these" quite often becomes "them". [example: "These are me (=my) keys." or "I like them (=these) trousers."]

See, for example ey up!

  • Something that has largely died out is the replacing of a t with an r. Yorkshire folk used to say "I'm gerring berrer" for "I'm getting better". "Get off!" would become "gerrof!"; "Put it down" would become "Purrit down/darn". This is now only heard amongst the older generation. Around Leeds and Bradford, young people have begun to drop the t altogether, as is usually associated with Cockneys: e.g. "I'm ge-ing be-er"

1 - The word spice is often used as a substitute for sweets.

Scope for confusion

There are oddities in Yorkshire - particularly in the mining areas - that provide opportunity for confusion with non-locals.

  • While" is often used in the sense of "until" [e.g. unless we go at a fair lick, we'll not be 'ome while seven.] "Stay here while it shuts" might cause a non-local to think that they should stay there after it shuts, when the order really means that they should only stay until it shuts.
  • The word "right" is pronounced as a Southerner would say "rate" in some areas.
  • The word "out" can be pronounced the same way as "art".
  • When most other English speakers would say say "give him it", Yorkshire folk tend to say "give it him".
  • Most importantly, if someone calls you "cock" around the mining areas, it is not an insult, but a male-to-male greeting - much in the same way that "luv" is used when addressing a female.
  • Generally in cities such as Sheffield in South Yorkshire, "love" is a term used by anyone, said to anyone in any situation and in some environments it's used on the end of almost every sentance which is addressing someone.
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