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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Boring question #43: Does the UK have different dialects and accents among its population?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26879points) July 22nd, 2011

Henry Ian Cusick Lost Desmond Hume, Nick Watt Nightline, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, and Dominic Monaghan Lost, Lord of The Rings are all British, or is the English, but to me they all have different inflection or nuances in their speech. Are there different dialects and accents among Englishmen limiting to just the borders of England, excluding Scotland, Wales, Ireland, etc as there are here in the US with Southern, Boston, New York, New Orleans accents etc? Do they sound slightly different to you, or is it just my ears playing tricks on me? Are some of them actually Welch, Scottish, etc? I think I can tell Irish when I hear it, mostly anyhow.

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33 Answers

everephebe's avatar

Are you on drugs? I mean I am right now but the MD prescribed them.
Of course there are different dialects and accents all over the world!

You must be joking.

Bellatrix's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central there are amazing differences in accent and dialect across the UK. You can drive from one town to the next, literally a few kms, and the accent will be noticeably different. Similarly, within each regional area there will be differences in accents. One of my colleagues comes from Doncaster and her accent is completely different to mine. There is less than 100kms between the two places. I drive further than that to go to work.

everephebe's avatar

Henry Ian Cusick is Scottish.

everephebe's avatar

Are there different dialects and accents among Englishmen limiting to just the borders of England, excluding Scotland, Wales, Ireland, etc as there are here in the US with Southern, Boston, New York, New Orleans accents etc?

If say: there is way more than one Londoner accent, then you do the maths.
Ipso facto yeso.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Sarcasm Highly interestng. I would have thought with the UK being so condensed land wise the language would not change all that much over a 200 mile span. Guess I got that one wrong.

Bellatrix's avatar

Totally @Hypocrisy_Central. Strangely, in Australia which is huge, the accent is really pretty stable from one place to the next. There might be slight differences in the speed people speak or slightly different word usage, but overall, very stable. I still find this amazing when you consider the UK which would fit into Australia about 58 times.

This is a sound archive from the British Library, you can click on the different areas and listen to people speak. Link

Listen to the accent from say at the top of England, Sunderland (North East) and then compare it to the accent from say the bottom of England, Plymouth (South West).

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Bellatrix – you’d be forgiven for thinking that people don’t speak English in Scotland from that map! I vote we rename it the “kind of British Library”.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Bellatrix That is pretty wild. LA is about 350mi or 550km from here as the crow flies but you would not have any change in accent or dialect unless from someone who was not natively born to California. That is like taking the distance from Southampton to Ashford in England and not having a different accent. In that same span of miles over there, I could not count them all.

Bellatrix's avatar

@the100thmonkey you will have to take the name of the institution up with them. This particular sound archive only contains accents and dialects from England. It may be an ongoing project. I have no idea.

Bellatrix's avatar

It is wild hey @Hypocrisy_Central. I am from Manchester and they have about four different dialects catalogued. I don’t sound like any of them. It is interesting. The stories they tell are interesting too. I could sit and listen to the stories being told, regardless of the accents.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Bellatrix I suspect I will be listening quite a bit also.

Bellatrix's avatar

Nods! I love the stories from around Newcastle-upon-Tyne (chaff boys). Love the accents too. The stories about the war and how people managed during the Blitz are very interesting too. The one from Manchester, Burnage, is right near where I was born and I once worked at Belle Vue. The man talks about going to the zoo there. I went to that zoo when I was a little kid and worked at the big entertainment centre there when I was a teenager.

Hibernate's avatar

Yeah they differ but no matter how odd it may seem at first after a few days you understand them perfectly. Old accents are the best :)

@Bellatrix You you know UK is smaller but I’m sure you know UK is even smaller than the Great Victoria Desert. Not to mention the population and density. ^^

Bellatrix's avatar

Of course @Hibernate. There are 22 million people in Australia, there are over 62 million people in the UK.

Hibernate's avatar

I know you know those numbers :) I was trying to point out that it’s easier to keep the same accent since people don’t develop them that easy.

Bellatrix's avatar

That’s not actually true @Hibernate. The population in Australia is smaller but it is also congregated around major urban centres along the east coast particularly and also around the South West region (Perth). Most people in Australia live in cities and towns. This Wikipedia article Link shows the population of major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane etc. are in the millions. However, there is still not the diversity of dialect or accent that there is in the UK.

As I mentioned to @Hypocrisy_Central, in Manchester there are many different dialects across cities. That doesn’t happen in Australia. The accent is very stable. There are slight differences but nothing like you will find in the UK. The development of accents therefore does not have anything to do with the concentration of the population. I don’t know why a wider range of accents haven’t developed. I am not a linguist. It would be fascinating to find out what the research says though.

Hibernate's avatar

@Bellatrix you just missed my point. Since people live mostly in the same place they usually have the same accent. If they were to live scattered then accents would appear more often.

Bellatrix's avatar

Well how does that work in the UK then? People live a few miles from each other and have quite different accents?

People across Australia, whether in cities or smaller regional centres, have a very similar accent. There are certainly not the differences you find in the UK, regardless of whether they live in more remote areas or urban areas.

Hibernate's avatar

A possibility and what I like to think it’s the explanation is this. UK has the old language [poets and other writers] who defined a certain part of it. Some use a part of it while some use another. Some accents were developed over time in certain regions because of all the people who moved there. Take an Irish for example. If he’ll move into UK he won’t be able to loose his accent 100% but while he takes contact with others he might influence them a bit [even just a few words]. Over some decades that bring a whole new accent.
I don’t really know all the explanations given by studies but I do know people have their own way of talking and pronouncing.
I hope I was clear enough. If not then I don’t really know how to explain this any other way.

Bellatrix's avatar

I hear what you are saying, but if you exclude Indigenous Australians, who have their own language systems, Australia is made up of migrants from all over the world. Surely those various influences would also have impacted on how the accent here has developed? And of course migrants will retain an accent. I don’t speak with an Australian accent, I have picked it up a little, but mostly I sound like a pom. However, most Australians who have been born here have a very similar accent, regardless of where they live and regardless of the influences of others coming in. There are influences from television in terms of word usage, but not accent that I am aware of.

Look I don’t know why there are two very different accent and dialect distributions. It is a fascinating topic. We need a linguist to explain it I think.

snowberry's avatar

I grew up in Utah, and although Utah is part of a much larger land mass, different towns sometimes as close as 50 miles apart had different dialects. In the Utah situation, dialect was due to the fact that people simply didn’t move around as much. Now that there are interstates and increased movement, the dialects have pretty much faded.

Scooby's avatar

Yes we do, many different accents, dialects as Bellatrix said earlier, also yes, TV has also had an input, you tend to find a lot of young white English guys ( Chavs ) who talk like black gangster rappers these days…. “Whassup mon, whass hapinning, yarrriite innit bro”. My young nephew is no exemption, stupid boy.. :-/

ruby12's avatar

Of course. Posh accent, Cockney accent, Manchester accent, Liverpool accent, Birmingham accent, Yorkshire accent, North London accent, South London accent and so on. These are just a selection of the accents in only England! There are way more.

downtide's avatar

Yes. To the extent that I can tell the difference between a Jarrow accent and a Hebburn accent – they’re both parts of Tyneside and they’re barely 2 miles apart. I can also tell the difference between a Stockport accent and a Manchester accent (4 miles apart).

flutherother's avatar

There are at least 5 or 6 distinct accents in Scotland alone. I can drive for 20 minutes up the M80 to Stirling and hear a quite different accent to that spoken in Glasgow.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Absolutely. I’m an American and I’ve recently traveled frequently in Britain. I can understand folks in Edinburgh easier than I can Glaswegians. I was in the North (Manchester, Cumbria and Nottingham) this week and heard everyone just fine, though I found they had a harder time understanding me than people further south in, say, Birmingham or the Home Counties. And I swear, I can’t understand a word in the southeast, and they barely hear me either.

harple's avatar

@Mamradpivo Hey – I’m in Cumbria, where abouts where you and what were you up to?

My own accent is pretty mixed up having moved around a lot within the UK, and my parents having done the same (so the accent I heard at home was completely different from that spoken around me at school etc), and people have trouble placing me, but that’s probably common in any country where people move around. Being such a small country though, it is very common for people to have moved around, possibly more so than somewhere as vast as the US.

I absolutely concur that accents vary even within a few miles, and certainly very obviously from county to county.

What’s very amusing, of course, thinking of actors, is Sean Connery (the ultimate Scotsman) trying to do an English accent… I wish I could remember the film…........

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Scooby Bloddy hell…don’t tell me they are sagging their stupid pants too!? That is one thing I would GLADLY import to the UK never to have ot come back to across The Pond, as you say. Please Brits, take the sagging pants over there and away from HERE!

linguaphile's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Have fun with this lighthearted contribution to answering your question… don’t neglect to click

Scooby's avatar


Not so much the “sagging their stupid pants”…. But tucking their tracky bottoms in to their socks :-/ it’s a ‘chav’ thing….. NSFW
Check out the twang too…...

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Scooby Well that is not as bad as that silly sagging crap, but I was laughing so hard I had tears. Those blokes would get more than just s*** on their shoes dressed like that and acting the way they were in some of the neighborhoods I know, and it won’t have to be North Richmond, Bay View Hunters point, or Smokeland, Oakland. LOL

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