Key characteristics

Of additional interest, though, is the way a speaker of Scouse combines these extremely local features with other pronunciations of <t>. On a number of occasions one employs a <r> sound, such as in the statements we were hoping and praying hed get it, Im not on the twilight and youd better go and tell him. This type of pronunciation is extremely common in the north of England as a whole. It is only possible when a small set of common verbs (e.g. get, got, let, put, shut) or non-lexical words (e.g. but, lot, not, that, what) precedes a word beginning with a vowel combinations such as what if, get off, lot of and shut up, for instance or, in extreme cases on words such as matter. Finally, in common with many younger speakers across the whole of England, speakers from Merseyside occasionally substitute a glottal stop for a <t> sound (e.g. in the word bottle and the phrase not a lot in the statement wed go on holidays not a lot abroad).

In the statement Im not crossing no picket line the speaker would also use a non-standard grammatical feature, multiple negation, which is extremely widespread in a number of English dialects worldwide. Finally, many people in Liverpool and perhaps elsewhere, too, will recognise the term made-up, meaning happy, pleased.

Case study 4: Cockney

One of the best known Southern dialects is Cockney, the regional dialect of London. According to E. Partridge and H.C. Wylde, this dialect exists on two levels. As spoken by the educated lower middle classes it is a regional dialect marked by some deviations in pronunciation but few in vocabulary and syntax. As spoken by the uneducated, Cockney differs from Standard English not only in pronunciation but also in vocabulary, morphology and syntax. G.B. Shaws play Pygmalion clearly renders this level of Cockney as spoken at the time when the play was written and reveals the handicap Cockney obviously presents in competition with speakers of standard English. Professor Henry Higgins, the main character of the play, speaking about Eliza Doolittie, the flower girl, says: You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass this girl off as a duchess ... even get her a place as ladys maid or shop assistant which requires better English.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica treats Cockney as an accent, not acknowledging it the status of dialect.

Cockney has attracted much literary attention, and so we can judge of its past and present on the evidence of literature. As recorded by Ch. Dickens over a century ago, Cockney was phonetically characterised by the interchange of the labial and labio-dental consonants [w] and [v]: wery for very and vell for well. This trait was lost by the end of the 19th century. The voiceless and voiced dental spirants [θ] and [ð] are still replaced though not very consistently by [f] and [v] respectively: fing for thing and farver for father (inserting the letter r indicates vowel length). This variation is not exclusively characteristic of Cockney and may be found in several dialects. Another trait not limited to Cockney is the interchange of the aspirated and non-aspirated initial vowels: hart for art and eart for heart. The most marked feature in vowel sounds is the substitution of the diphthong [ai] for standard [ei] in such words as day, face, rain, way pronounced: [dai], [fais], [rain], [wai].

There are some specifically Cockney words and set expressions such as up the pole drunk, youll get yourself disliked (a remonstrance to a person behaving very badly).

Cockney is lively and witty and its vocabulary imaginative and colourful. Its specific feature not occurring anywhere else is the so-called rhyming slang, in which some words are substituted by other words rhyming with them. Boots, for instance, are called daisy roots, hat is tit for tat, head is sarcastically called loaf of bread, and wife trouble and strife. It has set expressions of its own. Here is an example of a rather crude euphemistic phrase for being dead: She may have pulled me through me operation, said Mrs Fisher, but streuth Im not sure I wouldnt be better off pushing up the daisies, after all. (M. Dickens)

Case study 5: Scottish English

Of all the varieties of English which have developed within the British Isles, there are none more distinctive or more divergent from Standard English than some of those associated with Scotland. Indeed, the extent of the divergence in one of these varieties has led to a well-established use of the label, the Scots language, and to a spirited defence of all that such a label stands for. It is argued that Scots differs from the regional dialects of England in two crucial ways. It is unique because it was once the variety used, in the late Middle Ages, when Scotland was an independent nation; and it is unique because it has a clearly defined history of its own, with a strong literary tradition beginning in Middle English, its own dialect variants (several of which have individual literary histories), its own golden age and period of decline, a modern literary renaissance, and a contemporary sociolinguistic stature which other dialects of British English do not share. There are many more Scottish expressions in current use in Scotland than there are English dialect expressions in current use in any dialect of England. The term dialect island is sometimes used to capture the character of the Scottish situation. The people of Scotland are generally far more aware of the distinctive character of their speech and writing, take it far more seriously, and argue about standards of usage in it far more forcibly than is the case with speakers of regional dialects to the south. A representation of a regional dialect often appears in print only for jocular or folklore purposes; this is not so in Scotland, where there is in addition a strong and respected tradition of academic linguistic study, societies devoted to the furtherance of Scots as a language, and a growing corpus of written material in one or other of its varieties. For example, Scots has received far more lexicographic description than other regional British varieties, with such major publications as John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808, 1825, 4 vols) and the present-day Scottish National Dictionary (completed 1976, 10 vols).

The identity of English in Scotland has become much more than a distinctive regional accent and the occasional habitual feature of grammar and vocabulary. It reflects an institutionalized social structure, at its most noticeable in the realms of law, local government, religion, and education, and raises problems of intelligibility that have no parallel elsewhere in Britain. However, despite these national underpinnings, and the extensive language loyalty, Scots as a language has not so far been able to make inroads into the use of Standard English as the language of power and public prestige, and it has no official existence. Outside certain specialized publications, its public use tends to be restricted to literature and folklore, to a few programmes on radio and television about local issues, and to jocular contexts, such as cartoons and comic strips. At the same time, there have been major publications, such as the translation of the New Testament into Scots. The situation, in short, is complex and unclear. However, even those scholars who debate whether to call Scots a language or a dialect end up by recognizing its special status for they are faced with no such dilemma in considering the other regional varieties of English in Britain.


There is the absence of lip-rounding in such words as stone and go, giving Scots stane, gae.

The close back vowel [u:] is fronted, so that SE moon and use are heard in several dialects with [y] (as in French tu), and written in such spellings as muin and yuise.

Final [l] was replaced by an [u] type vowel hi late MiddleEnglish, giving many words which are represented without an L in the spelling, as in saut (salt), fou (full), baw (ball)

There were several different effects of the Great Vowel Shift in Scottish English,such as the retention of a pure vowel [u:] in such words as hoose (house) and doon (down).

Certain vowels have no inherent length, but are long or short depending on the sound which follows them (the Scottish vowel length rule). Close vowels [i] and [i:] are most affected. For example [i] is long in leave and sees, but short in leaf and cease (also greed (long) vs greed (short), feel (long) vs feeling (short)

A velar fricative is commonly heard in such words as nicht (night),and also in patriarch, Brechin, and other ch- items.

The voiceless bilabial fricative [ʍ] is widespread, allowing a contrast between while and wile, or whales and Wales. In the North-East the [ʍ] is replaces by [f]: fa (who), fite (white), etc.

A glottal stop is widely heard in urban accents, in such words as butter, and is spreading around the country, especially in the speech of younger people.

Pitch range and direction tends to be wider than in RP, and unstressed syllables are often pronounced with greater emphasis (Wednesday with three distinct syllables).


Irregular plural nouns include een (eyes), shuin (shoes) and hors (horses). Regularized nouns include leafs, wifes, wolfs, lifes etc

The two pronoun variants are thae (those) and thir (these). In Orkney and Shetland, and occasionally elsewhere, the thou/thee/ye distinction is maintained (p. 71), Other distinctive pronouns include mines (mine), they (these), they yins (they) and yous (you plural).

Numeral one appears in different forms, depending on its position ae man (one man) vs that ane (that one).

Distinctive verb forms include gae (go), gaed (went), gane (gone); hing (hang), hang (hanged), hungin (hung); lauch (laugh), leuch (laughed, past tense form), lauchen (laughed past participle form); and such other past tenses as gied (gave). brung (brought), tellt (told), taen (took) and sellt (sold).

The particle not appears as no or nae, often in contracted forms as -na or -ny, as in canna and didnae.

Ausilliary verbs shall, may and ought are not normally used in speech, being replaced with such forms as will (for shall), can or maybe (for may), and should or want (for ought, as in You want to get out a bit).Double modals may be heard: might could, will can, etc.

The definite article is often used distinctively, as in the now (just now), the day (today),the both of them, go to the church (in a generic sense, SE go to church), theyre at the fishing, he wears the kilt (SE he wears a kilt), and before names of chiefs (Robert the Bruce).

Syntactic constructions include several uses of prepositions, such as the back of 3 o'clock (soon after 30'clock).and from (frae) for by in passives (We were all petrified frae him). Tag question variations include Is Mary still outside, is she? See may be used to mark a new topic, especially in Glasgow, as in see it's daft doing that.

: 2015-09-06; : 188.

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