A Quick Guide to British Accents and Dialects – Learn English in a Homestay (2023)

The English language has vast linguistic variety all around the word, in both accents and in the language or dialect, from American English to Australian English and of course British English.

Media and entertainment tend to portray only a small glimpse of the British accent. So people often fail to see the immense diversity of accents within each country in Britain which also has more than 37 dialects.

ACCENT VERSUS DIALECT

An accent refers to the pronunciation and sound of the speech. The dialect is the local words and slang terms; used only in the specific area.

There are too many accents to list them all, but following are some of the most well-known and distinctive in the four countries of Britain – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; with a small sampling of a few dialect words.

ACCENTS AND DIALECTS IN ENGLAND

There is generally a north – south divide with many of the accent features in England, but each accent also has their own specific features that make them unique.

1. RP (Received Pronunciation)

RP is largely non-regional but is typically spoken in some areas in the south and parts of London. It is associated with the upper classes and most often considered by non-natives as the ‘Standard English’ accent, since this is what is heard on BBC radio and TV.

Accent Features

Broad ‘a’ – the ‘a’ sound in the words ‘bath’ and ‘dance’ is pronounced ‘aw’ so they sound like ‘baw-th’ and ‘daw-nce.’ This is typical of the southern accents.

‘r’ sound – at the end of a word is not pronounced so ‘mother’ is pronounced as ‘muhthah.’

Dialect Words

There are not any dialect words in RP as all speakers speak “Standard English” without slang terms, since it is non-regional.

2. COCKNEY

Cockney originated in London’s East End. It can be also be heard in Essex in the East of England and in Kent and Surrey in the South East. It has the same unpronounced ‘r’ ending as RP but many other distinct features too.

Accent Features

Vowel shift – the sound ay’ is pronounced as ‘eye’ so today’ sounds like ‘to-die.’ And the ‘eye’ sound in ‘buy’ changes to sound like ‘boy.’

Glottal Stop ‘t’ sound – the ‘t’ is lost in between vowels, so ‘better’ sounds like ‘beh-uh.’

L-vocalization – an ‘l’ ending often changes to a vowel sound, so ‘pal’ sounds like ‘pow.’

‘Th’ sound – is pronounced as ‘f’, ‘d’ or ‘v.’ So ‘thing’ sounds like ‘fing’, ‘that’ like ‘dat’ and ‘mother’ like ‘muhvah.’

Dialect Words

A main feature of the dialect is “Cockney rhyming slang”, which replaces a word with an unrelated rhyming phrase.

Bees and honey = money

Dog and bone = phone

Apple and pears = stairs

Tea leaf = thief

3. GEORDIE

The Geordie accent is spoken mainly in Newcastle in the West Midlands, and the people who live there are known as Geordies.

Accent Features

‘R’ sound – often not pronounced and replaced with ‘ah’ : ‘sugar’ becomes ‘sug-ah,’ ‘centre’ becomes ‘cent-ah’ and ‘weird’ sounds like we-ah-d.’

‘I’ sound – some of the ‘i’ sounds change so kite’ sounds like ‘kaete’ and I go’ becomes a go.’

‘ay’ sound – in words like ‘mate’ changes to an ‘ay-ah’ sound to become ‘may-aht.’

Long vowel sounds – the ‘oo’ sound is over emphasized, in words like ‘school’ and ‘book.’ And the ‘ee’ sound at the end of ‘copy’ is extra long.

Dialect Features

Areet marra = alright mate (to greet a friend)

Giz a deek = let me have a look

Canny = nice or pretty

Gannin’ yem = going home

4. SCOUSE

Scouse is a term for the Liverpudlian accent spoken in Liverpool in the North West, so they pronounce the ‘a’ sound in ‘bath’ and ‘laugh’ as an ‘ah.’ It has a very nasal sound that can be hard to imitate.

Accent Features

‘R’ sound – omitted at the end of a word when a consonant follows : ‘pour with’ sounds like ‘paw with.’

‘o’ sound – in words like ‘foot’ is pronounced as ‘fut.’ And ‘book’ and ‘look’ have a long ‘oo’ sound.

‘th’ sound – occasionally changes to a ‘t’ or ‘d’ : ‘thin’ becomes ‘tin’ and ‘then’ becomes ‘den.’

‘ai’ sound – in certain words change to a short ‘e’ : ‘hair’ and ‘square’ sound like ‘her’ and ‘squer’.

Dialect Words

Made-up = happy, pleased

Boss = great

Bevvy = drink (alcoholic, typically beer)

Butty = sandwich

5. WEST COUNTRY

This accent is spoken in places like Bristol and Devon in the South West. There is a slower rhythm to the speech due to long vowel sounds.

Accent Features

Soft ‘i’ – there is subtle difference in the ‘eye’ pronunciation : ‘I am’ is pronounced ‘Uy am’. ‘Guide’ sounds like ‘guyde.’ It has a slightly softer sound.

‘t’ omitted – the ‘t’ at the end of words is generally dropped, so ‘that’ sounds like ‘tha’ and ‘tt’ is glottalized so ‘butter’ sounds like ‘buh-er.’

‘r’ sound – where there is a ‘r’ before a vowel, this often becomes ‘ur’ : ‘great’ and ‘children’ comes out as ‘gurt’ and ‘chillurn’ (with a dropped ‘d’).

Missing ‘l’ – in many words where the ‘l’ is near the end, it is not pronounced : ‘old’ sounds like ‘oad.’

Dialect Features

Where be to? = Where are you going?

Gurt lush = very good

‘ark at he = listen to him

chucky pig = woodlouse

ACCENTS AND DIALECTS IN SCOTLAND

6. SCOTTISH

There are numerous Scottish accents, influenced by the Irish accent in the West and by Nordic accents to the North. But among the differences are some common features that determine the sound of a General Scottish English accent.

Accent Features

‘O’ sounds – the vowel sounds ‘oo’ and ‘u’ sound the same, with a shorter ‘ui’ : ‘food’ and ‘good’ sound like ‘guid’ and ‘fuid’.

Tapped ‘r’ – the ‘r’ is often slightly rolled, as the tongue taps the top of the mouth, which gives a short roll or a ‘tapped r.’

‘l’ after ‘r’ – when ‘l’ follows ‘r’ an extra syllable is added : ‘girl’ becomes ‘girel’ and ‘world’ becomes ‘woreld’

Other vowel sounds – the vowel sound in ‘heard’ has an ‘eh’ sound so is more like ‘haird.’

Dialect Features

Aye = Yes

Wee = small

Bairn = Child

Ah dinnae ken = I do not know (Nae = not)

ACCENTS AND DIALECTS IN WALES

7. WELSH

There are differences between the North and South of Wales, but the features from South Wales are most typically associated with the Welsh accent. It has a melodic tone to it, due to the vowel sounds being drawn out and a drop to low notes on stressed syllables; influenced by the Welsh language itself.

Accent Features

Dropped ‘g’ – like many other accents in the UK, the ‘g’ is dropped at the end of ‘ing’ verbs : ‘walking’ becomes ‘walkin.’

Tapped ‘r’ – similar to the Scottish accent, the ‘r’ is tapped to give a slightly rolled sound.

‘Weh’ for an ‘i’ – When ‘i’ comes after a vowel, a ‘weh’ sound is inserted : ‘doing’ sounds like ‘do-wehn.’

‘Ew’ sound changes – in words like ‘news’ and ‘tune’ to a short ‘oo’ sound so these words become ‘noos’ and ‘toon.’

Dialect Words

Many of the dialect words come from the Welsh language.

Dwt (pronounced ‘Dut’) = small and sweet

Cwtch (pronounced ‘Cutch’) = hug or cuddle with love, warmth and affection

Lush = awesome or very nice

Ych-af-i (pronounced ‘Aach-ef-ee) = To express disgust / that’s gross!

ACCENTS AND DIALECTS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

8. NORTHERN IRISH

The accent differs from county to county, but there are many similarities. The speech typically has a slight long rise in tone at the end of sentences.

‘ow’ sound – in words like flower becomes closer to an ‘ai’ sound so ‘how’ sounds like ‘hai’ and ‘sound’ becomes ‘sai-nd’

Inserting ‘y’ sound – in some words after an inital ‘k’ or ‘g’ so that ‘car’ and ‘garden’ sound like ‘kyarr’ and ‘gyarrden.’

‘t’ sound – is often pronounced closer to a ‘d’ sound : northern’ is pronounced ‘norden’ or even dropping the ‘t’ entirely to sound like ‘nor-n.’

‘oo’ and ‘ou’ sounds – the word ‘poor’ has a very soft and long sound like ‘ooh’ and is pronounced ‘pooh-r.’

Dialect Features

Gurn = moan about someone

Houl yer whisht = Please be quiet

Boggin’ = very dirty

Dead on = fine

AN ABUNDANCE OF ACCENTS

There are of course so many more wonderful and unique accents in the UK with a beautiful and diverse range of dialects; including the Brummie accent the Yorkshire accent and Estuary English to name but a few.

Next time you visit the UK or listen to someone speaking from Britain, see if you can spot the unique features of the many different accents and appreciate the lovely diversity these countries have to offer.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated: 03/06/2023

Views: 5791

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.