Ya cheekeh monkeh.

Helen Pidd reports for the Graun on Manchester accent diversity:

Greater Manchester is only about 30 miles from east to west but it has long been famed for its linguistic diversity: the rich rolling Rs and extra long “oos” of the northern mill towns where people looook in coook booooks are a world away from the nasal Mancunian drawl where your brother is “ahh kid” and words which end in a Y finish instead with an “eh” (ya cheekeh monkeh).

But now that its 2.8 million residents can zip across the region on a tram or a train instead of wearing out their clogs, have hyperlocal accents become a thing of the past? And did the omnipotence of the Gallagher brothers in the 1990s corrupt the accents of a whole generation of Greater Mancunians?

That’s what academics from Manchester Metropolitan University are trying to find out as they travel across the region’s 10 boroughs recording the way people speak.

Each week, Dr Rob Drummond and his research team park their Accent Van in a new location and invite people to get in the back. Participants are recorded answering a series of questions about their accent and how it makes them feel. Has it held them back or helped them on? Do they wish they sounded different? Do they ever dial it up or down depending on the situation?

There is then a standard reading exercise aimed to tease out certain regional variations: do they say “lickle” for little and “bockle” for bottle (particularly common in Bolton)? Do they pronounce the “r” in bear and does school have one syllable or two? Does “bus” sound more like “buzz”, as it traditionally has done in Bury? […]

Asked what differentiates a Tamesider from a Manc, the officer thought you could always tell by how they describe a bread roll. Barmcake = Manc. Muffin = Tamesider. Growing up, people knew if you were even a few miles away from home, he said. “I went to college in Openshaw [four miles from Ashton] and people there would call me a ‘Yonner’ because I was from over yonner, over yonder.” […]

The project will culminate with a permanent Manchester Central Library installation and audiovisual archive, containing interviews with people from each of the 10 boroughs, interactive dialect maps and excerpts of analysis and creative artefacts.

The idea, said Drummond, is to challenge the concept that accents are dying out. Last year a rival team from Manchester University claimed that a generic pan-northern accent was developing, where someone from Leeds sounded much the same as a Mancunian.

So far, the results suggest that accent diversity is alive and well in Greater Manchester. “Hopefully, the project will counter the idea that there is just a generic northern accent or that the accents will all have died out in 30 years,” he said. “Of course accents are changing, particularly among younger people, and we are trying to record those changes. But this is also about preserving accents from 2021 for future generations.” Sound.

There are examples of “regional variations found so far.” Thanks, Trevor!


  1. David Marjanović says

    In Vienna, regional diversity has shrunk to two single features – but those are going nowhere. One, around the 12th district (Meidling), is a Czech substrate feature, the Meidlinger L: /l/ is velarized-to-pharyngealized, and so is pretty much everything else. (Indeed Meidling has been claimed to be a misunderstanding of Murling(en), named after bordering Vienna’s city wall.) The other, which I’ve seen ascribed to some Bohemian German dialect or other, is to turn word-final syllabic /n/ into [nɐ]; I don’t know if it has a geographic distribution in Vienna.

  2. What would be an example of the latter?

  3. Chris Stokes says

    I moved to Bolton from the southern margins of Liverpool in my teens and I’ve never been jolted so much by an accent change since, tho I’ve moved to many different bits of GB. I remember my sister being repeatedly corrected by the kids she knocked about with whenever she pronounced the name of an early friend. The name was Faye. How hard can it be to master a single syllable? I certainly never managed it. To me, the accent added approx. 60 years to the apparent age of the speaker. Kids in primary school sounded like grandparents.

  4. Fascinating!

  5. I’ve been listening to A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs by the Mancunian Andrew Hickey, and it’s always a laugh when he talks about “the booogie-wooogie”.

  6. David Marjanović says

    What would be an example of the latter?

    This guy was Austria’s minister of defense in 2013. Behold what he does to Zeiten and Soldaten.

    I had a classmate like that. I don’t think I’ve heard this from any other people.

    (What he does to the vowel in Zeiten is universal in eastern Austria, though some people keep it out of formal-register Standard German as used in this speech.)

  7. Wow!

  8. J.W. Brewer says

    I was a bit surprised by “rich rolling Rs,” yet I read in wikipedia that ‘The linguist Peter Trudgill specified a “Central Lancashire” dialect region, defined particularly by its rhoticity, around Blackburn, Preston and the northern parts of Greater Manchester.’ So that’s maybe a match? Would this be some sort of stranded island of rhoticity, completely surrounded by non-rhotic regions? Although see this (suggesting that rhoticity may not have left Liverpool until the very late 19th century): https://swphonetics.com/2013/05/08/rhoticitylancslivman/

  9. When I visited my Derbyshire grandparents and cousins years ago, I would hear buzz, with a short u as in put, for bus.

    People up there would also say uzz for both our and us, so if children playing in the garden kicked a ball over the fence into next door’s garden, they would shout hey, mister, give uzz uzz ball back, willya?

    I have a vague recollection of seeing eye-dialect of this sort in “Sons and Lovers,” D.H. Lawrence being from that part of England.

  10. David M.: that’s amazing.
    Is that a final [x] in zurück, near the end of the clip? What’s that about?

  11. I am also amazed by the former defense minister’s accent! I’ve never heard anything like it that I can remember.

    Incidentally, I associate “cheeky monkey” (just the words, not in any accent, because it was in writing) with what the elderly Cranky Kong calls the younger playable protagonists in the Donkey Kong Country video games. (To the extent that the games have any continuity, Cranky is supposed to be the original villainous ape from Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong 3. Note, however, in the second game Donkey Kong Jr., you were already playing as an ape, with Mario as the enemy. The ubiquitous appearance of the Kong family as playable characters in first-party Nintendo games, especially in racing titles, prompted one of my brothers to propose a new, bare bones racing game, titled “No Monkey Racing.”)

  12. How hard can it be to master a single syllable?

    If your first utterance to a non-local is two segments long, the chances are high they will not understand. They need a longer stretch of speech to tune into your accent; at least give them more than one consonant! I advise any Faye, Ray, Joe, or Joy to use a polysyllabic alias when touristing in Starbucks.

  13. David Marjanović says

    Is that a final [x] in zurück, near the end of the clip? What’s that about?

    It… is; it’s a [kx]. I can only speculate what it’s about, but here’s the story I can come up with: This being a formal speech, he wanted to “speak clearly”, meaning to release the /kː/ in zurückgreifen rather than to create a /gː/. That somehow prompted him to imitate the model provided by people with South Bavarian dialects; those are at home far west of Vienna, but can be heard pretty often in Austrian media, carrying especially their word-final [kx] over into the Standard.

    It might even be deliberate. An affricate is noisier than a long plosive, which is just silence until it’s released. (That has actually been suggested as an adaptive explanation for the High German consonant shift.) But I doubt it’s deliberate.

    I advise any Faye, Ray, Joe, or Joy to use a polysyllabic alias when touristing in Starbucks.

    On the other hand, I’ve met a Rivka whose coffee name is Kate…

  14. PlasticPaddy says

    Is old, but the only thing i notice is:
    ü => ö/jö (könftig, Björgschaft)
    s => ß maybe (weist => weißt)

  15. It sounds to me like [t͡surʏxgrɛːfn] (or does it, too, have another [na] at the end?) I figured it was a dissimilation to make the k-g cluster easier to pronounce.
    The Zeiten sounds to me something like [t͡sɛ̝ɛ̞tnɐ]. Fun.

  16. Andrej Bjelaković says

    David, listen to this bit here:

    Is he saying ‘erhalten’ with [ɹ] for /l/?

    Btw, I see he grew up in Graz.

  17. Kate Bunting says

    Actors in dramatizations of D.H. Lawrence’s novels usually speak in a generic ‘Northern’ accent which is quite different from the actual speech of South-East Derbyshire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz5YvuVRhB8

  18. A recently-memetic respelling on the social medias is monke (never with an ‹h› it seems), which I think is likely riffing on one of these dialects lowering final /i/ to /e/. Maybe more likely something around California than Manchester, though. (Earlier ones to have made the rounds more substantially include at least kitteh and funneh</em< already 15+ years ago and the megahit doge since about 10 ago.)

    — By the pigeonhole principle, levelling out of minor dialect features will sooner or later necessarily lead to the demise of some dialects as no longer distinct from their major neighbors; though sometimes there is slight shifting of isoglosses happening at the same time (e.g. a major center abandons a feature and it becomes characteristic of its hinterland instead) that can obscure that what is going on is, indeed, a net loss of diversity.

  19. Optimism (accents are not getting levelled, Afrikaans is not in danger) have been expressed in two recent posts. I call it “optimism”, because I generally consider levelling bad, because I consider diversity good. I can’t be optimistic (enough to look at what is going on here), yet, it would be interesting to know if there are factors that can counter levelling and/or contribute in diversification.

    I feel, “isolation” for the former and “drift due to isolation” for the latter are not enough. (Compare Arabic reflexes of /q/. They shift or get levelled not to /q/ (as in literary Arabic) but to the variant of local koine.)

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    it would be interesting to know if there are factors that can counter levelling and/or contribute in diversification.

    I was just thinking recently that poverty almost certainly contributes to the preservation of language diversity.

    From the point of view of language diversity, I suppose that may count as a reason for optimism …

  21. Chris Stokes says

    On rhoticity in Greater Manchester, I was surprised too, J.W. Brewer. I remember one lad in our year at school in Bolton (we had c. 120 per school year) who rolled his Rs with brio, but he was the only one I can remember. He was from Darwen, though, much closer to Blackburn than Bolton. That might fit Peter Trudgill’s claim.

  22. I wonder when football’s Manchester City started to be called Citeh. It certainly predates the 2008 takeover of the club by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, which led to its global prominence today, but perhaps surprisingly I can’t find any unambiguous use of the nickname before this millennium. I tried a quick search at newspapers.com but didn’t turn up anything.

  23. J.W. Brewer says

    I appreciate Chris Stokes’ datapoint. Apparently since the days when Blackburn was best known for having 4,000 holes there has been some demographic shift, with the Blackburn-plus-Darwen population now approx 30% “Asian.” I am curious as to how that demographic shift interacts with residual rhoticity, but all I found in two minutes googling was a study saying that in Sheffield both white and Asian speakers were non-rhotic but Asian speakers were less likely to have a “dark L” (and thus more likely to have a “clear L”) as compared to white speakers. I also found someone who seemed to be complaining that regional variation among ethnically-Asian BrEng speakers was understudied as a general matter. Don’t know if the same is/isn’t true with e.g. UK-born-and-raised speakers of West Indian descent, i.e. do/don’t they exhibit the same regional pronunciation variants as white speakers or something else.

  24. David Marjanović says

    Is old, but the only thing i notice is:
    ü => ö/jö (könftig, Björgschaft)

    I found künftig at 1:16 and Bürgschaft at 4:06. They both have the expected [ʏ] and no trace of [j].

    For comparison, check out the conveniently placed [œ] in es könne künftig.

    Also noteworthy:
    – Pronunciation ranges from full-on stage pronunciation, with [z], to Viennese, with /d/ for /t/. In addition, the two poems are almost completely rhotic; that sounds almost Swiss, complete with -er as syllabic [r]. In the prose parts that only occurs for extreme dramatization. (…so, like, half of the time. Alex Jones has nothing on this guy.)
    – At 9:54 there’s a Frühstück. The first ü is completely unspectacular. The second is completely unrounded. I have no idea how that happened.
    – At 13:00, hören has the wrong ö: [hœːːrn] instead of [høːɐ̯n]. Could be because the Bavarian dialects all have /ɛ/ rather than /e/ in this word.
    – A few ei are monophthongs, e.g. in Weinhäuser at 13:44.

    s => ß maybe (weist => weißt)

    Those are exact homophones in, I hesitate but dare say, every German accent – what do you mean?

    (Both exist, from weisen & wissen. They’re confused in writing pretty often.)

    It sounds to me like [t͡surʏxgrɛːfn] (or does it, too, have another [na] at the end?)

    The sound quality is bad, but the [k] is there. You’re right that there’s no added vowel; but I think the syllabic nasal is a labiodental [ɱ], which ironically betrays that he doesn’t do this natively, because nobody else seems to do that in Austria.* The solutions I’m aware of for what to do with nasals next to /f/ are bilabial [m] (which is what I use**), [ə̃]***, and in some dialects [ɐ]. Maybe he literally bit his lip to prevent the added [ɐ] from escaping…!

    Actual dissimilation of /k/ to /x/ would be unique to him, BTW.

    * Except, I only just noticed, for the first occurrence in this song. Every other occurrence is [ə̃].
    ** Seriously. In schimpfen, I close my mouth for the [m], open it for the [f], and immediately close it again for the next [m]: [ˈʃɪmp͡fm̩].
    *** That might actually be another feature that is regional within Vienna. I’ve only ever encountered it in the song I just linked to.

    Is he saying ‘erhalten’ with [ɹ] for /l/?

    …Huh. No, but he uses a retroflex [ɭ]. That’s amazing. I’m out of words.

    Btw, I see he grew up in Graz.

    Now that I look it up, he was born there, but went to school neither there nor in Vienna, but in a much more rural place – the family moved from Rest Styria to West Styria.

    Anyway, it looks like the Bohemian connection is bogus.

  25. Those are exact homophones in, I hesitate but dare say, every German accent
    Except in those dialects like Badisch or Schwäbisch that have [ʃ] for old West-Germanic /s/ before stops ​​in closed syllables (although I don’t know if those have weisen).

  26. David Marjanović says

    Don’t they have it in every st and sp? I’m sure weißt is [ʋoɐ̯ʃ] in Tirolerisch.

  27. I like the idea of there being a rural region called “Rest Styria.”

  28. Erholungssteiermark.

  29. David Marjanović says

    No, the other “rest”, and definitely including Graz: Es gibt die Weststeiermark, und es gibt die Reststeiermark (found on a West Styrian professor’s office door in the molecular-biology building of the U of Vienna).

    Anyway, I did forget about the unconditional merger of the old /s/ into /ʃ/ in, it seems, all of Highest Alemannic. But that still doesn’t guarantee [st] in weißt, because that’s weiß-st morphologically.

  30. >I like the idea of there being a rural region called “Rest Styria.”

    As long as it’s got Coke machines, clean bathrooms and a place to walk your dog.

  31. David M.: Try as I might, I can’t discern a [k] there. Maybe a transitional vowel, so something like [ʏᵚ̥x], but no actual stop.

  32. David Marjanović says

    Listening a few more times, I hear a pause and then a very loud, short [x]. Together, that’s a [k͡x].

    In the absence of the [k], you’d get [çː] – neither velar nor short, and not preceded by a pause.

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm, hans
    There is weischt in Swabian, but I am not sure about 3p present of weisen or reisen/reissen. More research is needed😊

  34. BBC comedy sketch from the late ’90s: Kevin the Teenager is impressed when his friend Perry returns from a visit to Manchester, clutching a bottle of Oasis brand soft drink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDKF8KkD7rE

  35. Don’t they have it in every st and sp? I’m sure weißt is [ʋoɐ̯ʃ] in Tirolerisch
    As you say a bit later, that must be due to the 2sg ending -st. The dialects in question distinguish ist /iʃ(t)/ “is” and isst /ist/, which are homophones in the standard and many dialects or otherwise only distinguished by “is” having a stronger tendency to drop the final “t”.

  36. David Marjanović says

    The dialects in question distinguish ist /iʃ(t)/ “is” and isst /ist/

    Oh, amazing.

    (Tyrolean: ist [ɪʃ]; isst 2nd person [ɪʃ], 3rd person [ɪʃt], I’m pretty sure. The 2sg ending is just [ʃ] across the board anymore.)

  37. The 2sg ending is just [ʃ] across the board anymore.

    An L2 speaker using any more in a positive sentence is Just Creepy. At least to this L1 non-user.

  38. Really? Sounds perfectly normal to me.

  39. Positive anymore is part of my mother’s Virginia idiolect but not something my father (Indiana/New Mexico) or my siblings and I say.

  40. Pittsburgh-English-as-a-Second-Language seems like a perfectly cromulent idea to me. We need to stay tuned for evidence of David M. using the second-person-plural pronoun “yinz.”

  41. I was taken aback by positive any more when I first heard it, in Illinois, and even though I’ve got used to it still sounds a little odd to me. Plus you don’t hear it much, if at all, in the DC area, where I’ve lived for 35 years.

  42. David Marjanović says

    I’ve come across positive sentences with any( )more that I don’t even understand. But just … anymore or only … anymore is so close to not … anymore that I don’t notice. In fact, I can’t even remember how else to say it!

    (Even though nur noch isn’t terribly similar to nicht mehr, and I really don’t think I have ce n’est plus que in mind.)

    My English is definitely inconsistent, though, because my models are so widely scattered. Y’all is much more common than yinz on teh intarwebz, so I might use that at some point…

  43. David Marjanović says

    Even though nur noch isn’t terribly similar to nicht mehr

    …but my native nur mehr is rather awfully similar to nicht mehr, don’t you think.

    I seem to be waking up. It’s 10 past 10 pm.

  44. I’ve come across positive sentences with any( )more that I don’t even understand.

    I’d say it means the same as nowadays. Something is true now that wasn’t true in the past.

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