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Yorkshire accent

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Yorkshire accent

Native to England
Region Yorkshire
Native speakers (no estimate available)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Yorkshire dialect refers to the varieties of English used in the Northern England historic county of Yorkshire. Those varieties are often referred to as Broad Yorkshire or Tyke.[1] The dialect has roots in older languages such as Old English and Old Norse; it should not be confused with modern slang. The Yorkshire Dialect Society exists to promote use of the dialect in both humour and in serious linguistics; there is also an East Riding Dialect Society.

Yorkshire is generally not as stigmatised as other dialects, and has been used in classic works of literature such as Wuthering Heights and The Secret Garden. Studies have shown that accents in the West Riding (that is, mostly, modern West and South Yorkshire) are generally popular and are associated with common sense, loyalty and reliability.[2][3]

Geographic distribution

Traditionally, there was not one dialect in Yorkshire but several. The Survey of English Dialects identified many different accents in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire Dialect Society draws a border roughly at the River Wharfe between two main zones. The area to the southwest of the river is more influenced by Mercian dialect whilst that to the northeast is more influenced by Northumbrian dialect. The distinction was first made by A.J. Ellis in On Early English Pronunciation. It was approved of by Joseph Wright, the founder of the Yorkshire Dialect Society and the author of the English Dialect Dictionary. Investigations at village level by the dialect analysts Stead (1906), Sheard (1945) and Rohrer (1950) mapped a border between the two areas.[4]

Over time, speech has become closer to Standard English and some of the features that once distinguished one town from another have disappeared. In 1945, JA Sheard predicted that various influences "will probably result in the production of a standard West Riding dialect", and KM Petyt found in 1985 that "such a situation is at least very nearly in existence".[5] However, the accent of Hull and East Yorkshire remains markedly different. The accent of the Middlesbrough area has some similarities with Geordie.[6]

The traditional East Riding dialect has many similarities with the Danish language.[7]

One anomalous case in the West Riding is Royston, which absorbed migrants from the Black Country at the end of the 19th century. The speech of Royston contrasts with that of nearby Barnsley, as it retains some Black Country features.[8][9]

Other northern English dialects include


Some features of Yorkshire pronunciation are general features of northern English accents. Many of them are listed in the northern English accents section on the English English page. For example, Yorkshire speakers have short [a] in words like bath, grass and chance. The long [ɑː] of southern English is widely disliked in these words.[10]


  • Words such as stut, cut, blood, lunch usually take [ʊ], although [ə] is a middle-class variant.[11][12]
  • In parts of the West Riding, none, one, once, nothing are pronounced with [ɒ] rather than [ʊ].[11] A shibboleth for a traditional Huddersfield accent is the word love as [lɒv], to rhyme with "of".[13]
  • Words such as late, face, say, game are pronounced with a monophthong [eː] or [ɛː]. However, words with gh in the spelling (e.g. straight, weight) are usually pronounced with a diphthong [ɛɪ], and some words with ake at the end may be pronounced with [ɛ], as in tek, mek, and sek for take, make, and sake (but not for bake or cake).[11][14]
  • Words with the RP vowel /əʊ/, as in goat, may have a monophthong [oː] or [ɔː].[11] In a recent trend, a fronted monophthong [ɵː] is common amongst young women[14][15][16] It has developed only in the last decade, yet it has now spread from Hull to Bradford. (Watt and Tillotson 2001) In the West Riding, there may be a split whereby a diphthong [ɔʊ] coexists in other words, especially where it precedes /l/ or where there is a W at the end of a word (e.g. grow, low).[17]
  • If a close vowel precedes /l/, a schwa may be inserted. This gives [iəl] for /iːl/ and (less frequently) [uəl] for /uːl/.[18]
  • When /e/ precedes /r/ in a stressed syllable, /e/ can become [ə]. For example, very can be pronounced [vərɪ].[19]
  • In Hull, Middlesbrough, and other parts of the east coast, the sound in word, heard, nurse, etc. is pronounced in the same way as in square, dare. This is [ɛː].[14][16][20] The set of words with /ɪə/, such as near, fear, beard, etc., may have a similar pronunciation but remains distinctive as [eɛ].[21]
  • In Hull and much of the East Riding, the phoneme /aɪ/ (as in prize) may become a monophthong [aː] before a voiced consonant. For example, five becomes [faːv], prize becomes [praːz]. This does not occur before voiceless consonants, so "price" is [praɪs].[14][22][23]
  • In some areas, especially in the southern half of Yorkshire, there is a tendency to pronounce the phoneme /aʊ/ (as in mouth) as a monophthong [aː]. This is characteristic of informal speech and may coexist with the more formal [aʊ].[24] In Hull, the offset of /aʊ/ is strongly labialised.[21]
  • Words like city and many are pronounced with a final [ɛ] in the Sheffield area.[11]
  • What would be a schwa on the end of a word in other accents is realised as [ɛ] in Hull.[14][16]
  • A prefix to a word is more likely to be stressed than in other accents. For example, "concern" is [kɒnˈsɜːn] rather than [kənˈsɜːn].[25]

The following features are now confined to older speakers in Yorkshire:

  • [uː] in words such as book, cook, and look.[26]
  • Where and there often become a diphthong [iə]. This sound may also be used in words with ea in the spelling: for example, head as [iəd], leaves as [liəvz][11]
  • [eɪ] may take the place of /iː/, especially in words such as key, meat, speak.[11][27]
  • Words such as door, floor, four may take a variety of diphthongal pronunciations [uə, oə, ɔə, ʊə].[24][28]
  • Words with a velar fricative may have [oʊ~ɔʊ] for /ɔː/ (e.g. brought, fought, thought).[11]
  • Some words that end -ight can still be heard in their dialectal forms. For example, night as [niːt] and right as [riːt] or, in some areas, [reɪt].[24]


  • In some areas, an originally voiced consonant followed by a voiceless one can be pronounced as voiceless. For example, Bradford may be pronounced as if it were Bratford, with [t] (although more likely with a glottal stop, [ʔ]) instead of the [d] employed in most English accents. Absolute is often pronounced as if it were apsolute, with a [p] in place of the [b].[29]
  • As with most dialects of English, final [ŋ] sound in, for example, hearing and eating are often reduced to [n]. However, [ŋɡ] can be heard in Sheffield.[12][30]
  • H-dropping is common in informal speech, especially amongst the working-classes.[12]
  • Omission of final stops /d, t/ and fricatives /f, θ, ð/, especially in function words.[12] As in other dialects, with can be reduced to wi, especially before consonants.[31]
  • A glottal stop may also be used to replace /k/ (e.g. like becomes [laɪʔ]) at the end of a syllable.[32]
  • In the Middlesbrough area, glottal reinforcement occurs for /k, p, t/.[6]

Most Yorkshire accents are non-rhotic, but rhotic accents do exist in some areas that border with Lancashire. At the time of the Survey of English Dialects, much of the East Riding was partially rhotic: a final r on a word, as in letter, hour, and quarter would be pronounced in a rhotic manner, but an r mid-way through a word, as in start, yard, and burn would be pronounced in a non-rhotic manner.[33]

Some consonant changes amongst the younger generation are typical of younger speakers across England, but are not part of the traditional dialect:[34]

  • Th-fronting so that [f, v] for /θ, ð/. (Although Joseph Wright noted TH-fronting in the Windhill area in 1892)[35]
  • T-glottalisation. A more traditional pronunciation is to realise /t/ as [r] in certain phrases, which leads to eye-dialect such as gerroff.
  • [ʋ] for /r/.

The following are typical of the older generation:

  • In Sheffield, cases of initial "th" /ð/) become [d]. This pronunciation has led to Sheffielders being given the nickname "dee dahs" (the local forms of "thee" and "thou"/"tha").[36]
  • Initial /ɡ, k/ realised as [d, t] before /l/). For example, clumsy becomes [tlʊmzɛ].[12][37]

Further information

These features can be found in the X-SAMPA phonetic transcriptions, lexis and grammar.

See also Wells (1982), section 4.4.

Vocabulary and grammar

A list of non-standard grammatical features of Yorkshire speech is shown below. In formal settings, these features are castigated and, as a result, their use is recessive. They are most common amongst older speakers and amongst the working-classes.

  • Some dialect words persist, although most have fallen out of use. The use of owt and nowt, derived from Old English a wiht and ne wiht, mean anything and nothing. They are pronounced [aʊt] and [naʊt] in North Yorkshire, but as [ɔʊt] and [nɔʊt] in most of the rest of Yorkshire. Other examples of dialect still in use include flayed (sometimes flayt) (scared), laik (play), roar (cry), aye (yes), nay (emphatic "no"), and all (also), anyroad (anyway) and afore (before).[39]
  • When making a comparison such as greater than or lesser than, the word "nor" can be used in place of "than", e.g. better nor him.[40]
  • Nouns describing units of value, weight, distance, height and sometimes volumes of liquid have no plural marker. For example, ten pounds becomes ten pound; five miles becomes five mile.[41]
  • 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).[42] Us is invariably pronounced with a final [z] rather than an [s].[43]
  • Use of the singular second-person pronoun thou (often written tha) and thee. This is a T form in the T-V distinction, and is largely confined to male speakers.[44]
  • Were can be used in place of was when connected to a singular pronoun.[45]
  • While is often used in the sense of until (e.g. unless we go at a fair lick, we'll not be home while seven.) Stay here while it shuts might cause a non-local to think that they should stay there during its shutting, when the order really means that they should stay only until it shuts.[46]
  • The word self may become sen, e.g. yourself becomes thy sen, tha sen.[47]
  • As in many non-standard dialects, double negatives are common, e.g. I was never scared of nobody.[48]
  • The relative clause may be what rather than that, e.g. other people what I've heard. Alternatively there may be no relative clause, e.g. I've a sister lives there.[48]

Contracted negatives

In informal Yorkshire speech, negatives may be more contracted than in other varieties of English. These forms are shown in the table below. Although the final consonant is written as [t], this may be realised as [ʔ], especially when followed by a consonant.[49]

Word Primary Contraction Secondary Contraction
isn't ɪznt ɪnt
wasn't wɒznt wɒnt
doesn't dʊznt dʊnt
didn't dɪdnt dɪnt
couldn't kʊdnt kʊnt
shouldn't ʃʊdnt ʃʊnt
wouldn't wʊdnt wʊnt
oughtn't ɔːtnt ɔːnt
needn't niːdnt niːnt
mightn't maɪtnt maɪnt
musn't mʊsnt mʊnt (uncommon)
hasn't aznt ant
hadn't adnt ant

Unlike in many other areas of England, haven't does not become reduced to [ant]. This may be to avoid confusion hasn't or hadn't, which can both be realised as [ant].[50]

Yorkshire dialect and accent in popular culture

The director Ken Loach has set several of his films in South Yorkshire and has stated that he doesn't want actors to deviate from their natural accent.[51] The dialect is strongest in the 1969 film Kes, filmed around Barnsley with local actors. The films Looks and Smiles (1981) and The Navigators (2001) were both set in Sheffield. Loach has noted that the speech is less regionally-marked in his more recent films and has attributed this to changing speech habits in Yorkshire.[52] Dialect of the northern dales featured in the series All Creatures Great and Small.

A number of popular bands hail from Yorkshire and have distinctive Yorkshire accents. Joe Elliott and Rick Savage, vocalist and bassist of Def Leppard, Alex Turner, vocalist of the Arctic Monkeys,[53] Jon McClure, of Reverend and The Makers,[54] Jon Windle, of Little Man Tate,[55] Jarvis Cocker, vocalist of Pulp[56] and Joe Carnall, of Milburn[57] and Phil Oakey (of The Human League) are all known for their Sheffield accents, whilst The Cribs, who are from Netherton, sing in a Wakefield accent.[58] Graham Fellows, in his persona as John Shuttleworth, uses his Sheffield accent, though his first public prominence was as cockney Jilted John.

The soap opera Emmerdale, formerly Emmerdale Farm, was noted for use of Broad Yorkshire but the storylines involving numerous incomers has diluted the dialect until it is hardly heard.

On the HBO television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, the characters from the North of Westeros speak with Yorkshire accents.

Several of the dwarves in the film adaptation of The Hobbit, namely Thorin Oakenshield, Kili and Fili, speak with Yorkshire accents.

Actor Sean Bean normally speaks with a Yorkshire accent in his acting roles, as does actor Matthew Lewis, famously known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films.[59][60]

The late British Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes originated from Mytholmroyd, close to the border with Lancashire, and spent much of his childhood in Mexborough, South Yorkshire.[61] His own readings of his work were noted for his "flinty" or "granite" voice and "distinctive accent"[62][63] and some said that his Yorkshire accent affected the rhythm of his poetry.[64]

On Ilkla Moor Bar t'At, a popular folk song, is sung in the Yorkshire dialect and accent and considered to be the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire.[65]


  • Alexander, D. (2001). Orreight mi ol'. Sheffield: ALD. ISBN 1-901587-18-5. A book about the traditional Sheffield dialect.
  • Jones, M. J. (2002). "The origin of Definite Article Reduction in northern English dialects: evidence from dialect allomorphy". English Language and Linguistics 6.2: 325–345.
  • Wakelin, M. F. (1977). English Dialects: An Introduction, Revised Edition, London: The Athlone Press.
  • Watt, D. and Tillotson, J. (2001). "A spectrographic analysis of vowel fronting in Bradford English". English World-Wide 22:2, pp 269–302. Available at [3]
  • Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English 2: The British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28540-2.

Books written in Yorkshire Dialect

Further reading

  • All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriot
  • Up And Down In The Dales, In the Heart Of The Dales, Head Over Heels In The Dales, by Gervase Phinn
  • KM Petyt, Emily Brontë and the Haworth Dialect
  • Joseph Wright, A Grammar of the Dialect of Windhill
  • Hans Tidholm, The Dialect of Egton in North Yorkshire
  • Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Smith Settle, 1994.

Several nineteenth century books are kept in specialist libraries.

External links

  • Sounds Familiar? – Listen to examples of regional accents and dialects from across the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website
  • Collect Britain website.
  • Yorkshire Dialect website
  • Yorkshire Dialect Society
  • Chapter from a 1892 book on "Yorkshire Folk Talk". The descriptions focus on the dialect specifically of the East Riding
  • Dialect Poems from the English regions
  • Whoohoo Yorkshire Dialect Translator
  • Guide to Yorkshire words given to international recruits to the Doncaster West N.H.S.
  • A Glossary of Provincial Words in Use at Wakefield in Yorkshire, 1860, full book online, copyright has expired.
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