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The dialect is distinguishable from other Northern English dialects. A major feature of the Mancunian accent is the over-enunciation of vowel sounds when compared to the flattened sounds of neighbouring areas. This is also noticeable with words ending in <er> such as tenner. Traditionally, the Manchester area was known for glottal reinforcement of the consonants /k/, /p/ and /t/, similar to modern speech in the north-east of England.
John C. Wells observed the accents of Leeds and Manchester. He found them to be similar despite the historic divide between the two sides of the Pennines. His proposed criteria for distinguishing the two are that Mancunians avoid Ng-coalescence, so singer rhymes with finger /ˈsɪŋɡə/ and king, ring, sing, etc. all end with a hard ɡ sound, and also that Leeds residents employ "Yorkshire assimilation", by which voiced consonants change into voiceless consonants in words such as Bradford /ˈbratfəd/, subcommittee /sʊpkəˈmɪtɪ/ and frogspawn /ˈfrɒkspɔːn/.
The Mancunian dialect may have originally developed from the old Lancastrian dialects and could have been affected by the vast influx of immigrants introduced to the city during the Industrial Revolution, when the cities of Salford and Manchester became a port due to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal. Immigrants moved to the city for work opportunities from many parts of Europe, most notably Ireland.
The Manchester accent is relatively localised, covering much of Greater Manchester including the city of Manchester and immediately adjoining parts of Bury, Oldham, Salford, Bolton, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford. It is also prominent in 'overspill' towns and estates such as Hattersley, Gamesley, Handforth and Birchwood.
The dialect itself is more distinctive than many people realise. It is quite noticeably different from the accent spoken in adjacent towns such as Wigan. The Mancunian accent is less dialect heavy than neighbouring Lancashire and Cheshire accents, although words such as 'Owt' (meaning 'anything') and 'Nowt' (meaning 'nothing') remain part of the Mancunian vocabulary.
Particularly strong examples of the accent can be heard spoken by Mark E Smith (Salford born, Prestwich raised singer with The Fall), the actor John Henshaw (from Ancoats) and Liam and Noel Gallagher from Burnage band Oasis. The actor Caroline Aherne (raised in Wythenshawe) speaks with a softer, slower version of the accent. Stretford raised Morrissey - like many Mancunians, from an Irish background - has a local accent with a noticeable lilt inherited from his parents. Salford born Tony Wilson retained his Manchester accent albeit somewhat modified by his upbringing in Marple and his Cambridge education. Salford poet John Cooper Clarke is another fine example of a working class Mancunian accent as can be heard in his spoken word recordings. Other notable 'Manc' speakers include boxer Ricky Hatton (from Hyde) and the actor Bernard Hill (from Blackley). Dominic Monaghan speaks with a notable Manc accent, and his characters in both Lost and FlashForward have made note of it. Less well known outside of the area, and with pronounced local accents, are local broadcasters Eamonn O'Neal, Mike Sweeney and Jimmy Wagg. The TV broadcaster Terry Christian (from Old Trafford) has a particularly prominent voice which has left him open to ridicule and accusations of exaggeration, not least from his fellow Mancunians. The Mancunian accent is prominent in the locally set TV series Shameless, The Street and The Royle Family. The character Jack Regan in the 1970s police drama The Sweeney (played by Mancunian actor John Thaw) is a Mancunian with an accent heavily modified by years of living in London. Another example of a famous Mancunian speaker is Karl Pilkington, a radio and TV personality.
Manchester's most famous soap opera Coronation Street has, despite being based in the city, less pronounced Mancunian accents than other TV shows set in the area. Several of the show's cast members do speak with pronounced Mancunian accents in the series. They include Michelle Keegan (Tina), Emma Collinge (Rosie Webster), Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald).
Study of Stockport dialect
The linguist KR Lodge published several articles on the speech of Stockport (1966, 1973, 1978). In his 1978 comparison of a teenager with an older resident, he noted the movement away from monophthongs [eː], [oː] and [aː] in FACE, GOAT and PRICE (still common in other areas of the North) towards diphthongs. He also noted an increase in T-glottalisation and a reduction in definite article reduction.
Some of Manchester's most notable words, phrases and sayings include 'having a buzz', meaning to have a good time, 'scran' (food - also found in Liverpool and Glasgow ), 'gaff' (residence, house or flat), 'sorted' (O.K.), 'scrote' (low-life), 'safe' (on good terms), 'muppet' (ignorant), 'wool' (from 'woolyback' - a derogatory term for Mancunians), 'dead' used for emphasis (eg, 'dead busy' and 'dead friendly') and 'the dibble' referring to the police. The term "madferit" (mad for it), meaning full of enthusiasm, was a phrase that embodied the Madchester era. Influences from Ireland include the pronunciation of the letter 'h' as 'haitch' and the plural of 'you' as 'youse'. However, this pronunciation of 'h' is now widespread, being used by approximately 24% of British people born since 1982.
- Qureshi, Yakub (8 September 2006). "We're All Speaking Manc Now". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- John C Wells, Local Accents in England and Wales, Journal of Linguistics 6, page 247, 1970
- John C Wells, Accents of English 2: the British Isles, pages 366–7, Cambridge University Press, 1982
- Lodge, KR (June 1978). "A Stockport Teenager". Journal of the International Phonetic Association (Cambridge) 8 (1-2): 69–70.
- Lodge, KR (June 1978). "A Stockport Teenager". Journal of the International Phonetic Association (Cambridge) 8 (1-2): 70.
- John C Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, page 360, Pearson, Harlow, 2008