Rural accents of southern England - differences?

Matt   Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:47 pm GMT
Can anyone explain the differences between the various rural / country accents in the south of England? I’m talking about places like Norfolk, Kent, Hampshire, Devon, Dorset, etc. To me, being a northerner, they all sound like “farmer” accents and I’d struggle to tell the difference between a rural accent from Norfolk and one from the south coast. However, there must be differences as these areas are spread quite far apart.

Trawicks   Wed Nov 05, 2008 6:19 pm GMT
Well, starting off, Norfolk is emphatically different from the rest of the counties you mentioned. It is part of East Anglia, which is in many ways it's own distinct dialect group. The dialect of rural norfolk is pretty closely related to the accent of Eastern New England in the United States (particularly southwestern New England), since that's where the first settlers came from. Unfortunately, like a lot of dialects in Southern England, it's getting overtaken by London speech.

Kent in unique because it is England's easternmost "rhotic" county. Of course, as with Norfolk, London has largely swamped the old, native dialect. So you mostly have to go to very elderly residents to hear those old, rhotic pronunciations.

Old Hampshire dialects are interesting in that they lack voiced fricatives (i.e. "f" and "s" become "v" and "z"). And like many of the other dialects I'm mentioning here, they are rhotic.

Dorset also features the "f" --> "v" thing. It also noticeably features dental tapping for intervocalic t's, so that "butter" becomes "budder." Doreset is one of General American's closet British relatives, a relic of the rhotic Southern dialects that led to North American English.

Devon is similar to a lot of the dialects I've mentioned here, with the noteable difference that it featurse a highly frontal pronunciation of "town" and "too" (to an untrained ear those words would sound like "tine" and "tea")--somewhat similar to Scottish or Northern Irish English.

That's a pretty broad, untechnical overview. I should mention that a lot of these rural accents are dying out, as England is going through a dialect levelling similar to the one that the US went through in the mid-20th-Century.
Caspian   Wed Nov 05, 2008 7:54 pm GMT
I'm from Devon.

Another think I've noticed about the Devon accent is that people have a tendency to pronounce 's' as 'z' like in us.

Also, they use accusative pronouns for the nominative - he = him, she = her, we = us etc.

Also, it's spoken slowly.

I think there's a think on the BBC website about how to learn a Devon accent.
Damian in Edinburgh   Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:53 pm GMT
Down in Somerset (or Zummerzet to be more locally precise) and (glorious) Devon they don't drink cider......they much prefer zoidurrrrr.

There most certainly IS a BBC website in which you can hear practically all the various accents and dialects of the British Isles.......I have linked it to thie Forum several times. All you have to do is switch on your audio system, display the link, click on whatever location you choose on the map, click on whatever conversation takes your fancy....and listen.

All those counties are well served in that link....lots of green dots on the respective areas of the map, but as we all know the local accents and dialects of the UK have become more neutered and watered down now with the present generation, due mainly to the emergence and spread of Estuary and a far more mobile population, not to mention immigration.
Trawicks   Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:08 pm GMT
Yeah, there is an achive you can search through here:

Just run a search, clicking on "Accents and Dialects" on the little pull-down menu.

I like this site, since it has phonetic notes. However, it's regrettably Anglo-Centric--all the samples are from England, with nothing from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland (or the Republic of for that matter). The distribution of these recordings belies the old-school prejudices of English dialect study, with a disproportionate number of old, white farmers. Hence there are 18 samples from Gloucestershire and 3 from Manchester. The site is really useful for hearing what those old, semi-extinct accents sound like (it has some fantastic examples of the Northumberland Burr, virtually a separate Germanic language unto itself), but doesn't really reflect the population of the UK.
Matt   Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:52 pm GMT
Thanks for the responses all. Sorry if my post sounds a bit ignorant, but being a northerner who has lived in Surrey (it's all a weird mix of RP/Estuary around here) for some time, I haven't had much contact with southern, rural accents.

I'll be interested in the Northumberland sample from a personal point of view, as I'm from the north east myself (albiet from Wearside and not the moors).
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:31 pm GMT
Right then....since the link Trawick supplied ignores the Celtic fringe of these dare they!......I will supply the well used BBC Voices link which shows the British Isles suffering from some horrendous disease which causes a rash of green spots all over us.

Matt is into Northumberland...or Northumbria as that North Eastern corner of England is often called (even the local Police force calls itself the Northumbria Constabulary I believe.

Sadly Northumberland proper doesn't seem to be well represented on the accents map - Berwick-upon-Tweed is there, true enough it's only just in Northumberland, but that town is hardly a bastion of Northumberland speak is it? Half the population speaks with a Scottish Borders accent.

Compare the accents of green spot Berwick with those of Coldstream, a green spot further to the west, which is on the Scottish bank of the River Tweed, which forms the border between Scotland and England at that point.
AJC   Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:18 am GMT
Nortthumberland is the name of the county; when "Northumbria" is used, it's referring to the North East in a more general sense, as in the Police Force which also covers the Tyneside and Wearside areas.

To be slightly pedantic on another point the "Northumberland burr", is not a dialect or accent, it's one particular feature of a Northumberland accent - the uvular r. This is something that can be heard among many of the samples in Trawick's link but is virtually extinct now. Among the younger people recorded, the teenagers from Otterburn sound completely indistinguishable from middle class Tyneside.
Karamboa   Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:17 am GMT
I like accents of Southwest of England, they sound so elegant, unlike Cockney or Northern accent which sound rural.
AJC   Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:41 pm GMT
Rural? Cockney?
Trawicks   Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:55 pm GMT
"To be slightly pedantic on another point the "Northumberland burr", is not a dialect or accent, it's one particular feature of a Northumberland accent - the uvular r."

Well, sort of. Although it certainly refers to a specific sound, it's often used to refer to the dialect in general. It's similar to the "southern drawl" in America, which technically refers to the dipthongization of short front vowels. But it's usually used to refer to the accent itself.
Adam   Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:18 pm GMT
Norfolk has its own unique dialect known as Broad Norfolk.

This dialect consisted of a slow, drawling speech except in Norwich, Norfolk's largest city, where the speech is much quicker.

It also has a merging of syllables. For example the syllables in doing (do-ing) merge to become like "durn", going (go-ing) becomes like "gorn", holiday (ho-li-day) becomes like "hol-day".

Words such as "face", "cake" and "make" would be pronounced "fairce", "cairke" and "mairke".

The [ɪŋ] suffix at the end of a doing word is shortened to an [n] sound so becoming and coming would sound like "becom'n" and "com'n".

People in Norfolk also pronounce the letter Q as "koo".

Another strange thing about the Norfolk accent is that words beginning with "v" are pronounced as though they beging with "w". "Vinegar" is pronounced "winegar", "vicar" as "wicar" and "village" as "willage."
Uriel   Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:16 am GMT
Why would they stick an R in there?
barbar talk   Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:59 am GMT
He probably means how a non-rhotic speaker would pronounce 'dorn' and 'gorn'.