Accents of the UK

The many accents within the UK and how they form a rich tapestry of culture, woven over thousands of years

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It’s one of the first things you get asked at University. ‘Oh I like your accent, where are you from?’ is a classic ice-breaker question in halls of residence and student housing across the UK every September. It is asked with good reason and has a far more reaching impact than a simple friendly question. It helps to identify the vast range of accents which the UK has to offer.

Take my neck of the woods, for example. From Northumberland in the furthest reaches of the north east coast, through County Durham and down to Teeside, each area has its own distinct accent. ‘Geordie’, which belongs to those from Newcastle, is distinctly different to the sultry sounds of a ‘Mackem’ native to Sunderland. Although the two cities are just 15 miles apart, the local accents have plenty of differences, one of which was talked about by Dr Michael Pearce, senior lecturer in English language at the University of Sunderland, in a Sunderland Echo article in February 2020.

Dr Pearce talked of the dropping of the H sound in the region, saying: ‘Newcastle and Northumberland tend to pronounce the H in words like hat and hotel, but some people from Sunderland don’t. The further south you go this trend continues, with people in and around Durham and Hartlepool more likely people are to drop their H’s.

This rule goes for accents across the border, also. Liverpool’s ‘Scouse’ accent is as distinctive as any on the planet, yet just 25 miles away is the North Wales town of Mold where the Welsh accent is clear to pick up on the streets. On a clear day it is possible to practically see the North Wales coast from Liverpool, but yet the wonders of the UK means they have two very different local accents. The blend in accents is similar between Scotland and England, which softens the further south you travel.

The expanse of the accents and dialects of the UK can be best exemplified by one question; what do you call a bread roll/bun/bap?

This can divide people from across the land, mainly because there are roughly 20 different answers to the question depending on where you are from in the UK. in the Midlands, it is usually referred to as a batch. In the North East, a Stotty and in the South West it could be either an Oggy or a Lardy Cake.

To have so many names for such a simple and everyday food item may seem unusual, but in reality it is a fine example of how language changes depending on the area of the UK you visit.

With a length of less than 900 miles, the UK is a relatively small nation. Despite this, the sounds and accents of the people differ almost every few miles. Invasions from the Romans, the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons, to name three, helped to weave the English language and culture into what it is today.

Add into this the migration of people from India, Africa, Europe and the West Indies in the last century and you have a cultural melting pot the likes of which is rarely seen anywhere else in the world.

We are a strange little island which has a rich history, and the quirkiness and the sounds of the people who occupy every inch of the UK make it an altogether interesting place.

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