Lancashire within England, showing ancient extent
The Lancashire dialect or (colloquially, Lanky) refers to the Northern English vernacular speech of the English county of Lancashire. The region is notable for its tradition of poetry written in the dialect.
Scope of Lancashire dialect
Lancashire emerged during the Industrial Revolution as a major commercial and industrial region. The county encompassed several hundred mill towns and collieries and by the 1830s, approximately 85% of all cotton manufactured worldwide was processed in Lancashire. It was during this period that most writing in and about the dialect took place, when Lancashire covered a much larger area than it does today (at least from an administrative point of view, as the historic county boundary remains unchanged). The administrative county was subject to significant boundary changes in 1974, which removed Liverpool and Manchester with most of their surrounding conurbations to form part of the metropolitan counties of Merseyside and Greater Manchester. At this time, the detached Furness Peninsula and Cartmel (Lancashire over the Sands) were made part of Cumbria, and the Warrington and Widnes areas became part of Cheshire.
The linguist Gerard Knowles noted that Lancashire dialect was still spoken in the city of Liverpool in 1830, before the period of mass immigration from Ireland that led the dialect of the city to change radically. Modern Liverpool speech is usually treated as a separate dialect, named Scouse. In the post-war era, migration to other towns in Merseyside, and also to the new towns created at Runcorn, Skelmersdale and Warrington, has led to an expansion in the area in which Scouse is spoken, as the next generation acquired Scouse speech habits that often displaced the traditional Lancashire or Cheshire dialects of the area.
The area transferred in 1974 to modern Cumbria, known as "Lancashire over the sands", is sometimes also covered as in scope of Cumbrian dialect: for example, The Cumbrian Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore was written by the Barrovian William Robinson and included this area. As there was mass migration in the 19th century to Barrow-in-Furness from Ireland, Staffordshire, the Black Country, Scotland and nearby rural areas, it has (like Liverpool) developed a dialect different from the surrounding rural area.
In recent years, some have also classified the speech of Manchester as a separate Mancunian dialect, but this is a much less established distinction. Many of the dialect writers and poets in the 19th and early 20th century were from Manchester and surrounding towns.
Dialect division in the 19th century
Alexander John Ellis, one of the first to apply phonetics to English speech, divided the county of Lancashire into four areas. Three of these four were considered North Midland in his categorisation of dialects, whereas the fourth (mostly the section that is in modern Cumbria, known as "Lancashire over the sands") was considered Northern. Dialect isoglosses in England seldom correspond to county boundaries, and an area of Lancashire could have a dialect more similar to an area of a neighbouring county than to a distant area of Lancashire.
Ellis expressly excluded the Scouse dialect of Liverpool from the areas below, although his Area 22 included some sites in modern Merseyside (e.g. Newton-le-Willows, Prescot).
Ellis often spoke of "the Lancashire U" in his work. This was similar to the ʊ in other Northern and North Midland dialects, but more centralised ʊ̈. In addition, the dialects were all rhotic at the time of writing.
|Dialect area number||Dialect area name||Distinctive characteristics||Sites in Lancashire||Areas of other counties in same dialect area|
|21||Southern North Midland||ɐʏ in MOUTH words. ɪŋk for the present participle.||Bury, Failsworth, Manchester, Moston, Oldham, Patricroft, Royton, Rochdale, Stalybridge||Parts of north-east Cheshire and north-west Derbyshire|
|22||Western North Midland||eː in FACE words. ʊə in GOAT words, although ɔɪ occurs in words such as "coal" and "hole". ɛɪ in some FLEECE words (e.g. "speak").||Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne Valley, Earlestown, Farington, Halliwell, Haslingden, Higham, Hoddlesden, Leigh, Leyland, Mellor, Newton-le-Willows, Ormskirk, Penwortham, Prescot, Sabden, Samlesbury, Skelmersdale, Walton-le-Dale, Warrington, Westhoughton, Whalley, Wigan, Worsthorne||None. Ellis said that he considered including the Yorkshire sites of Halifax, Huddersfield, Marsden and Saddleworth in this area, but decided to include them in area 24 instead.|
|23||Northern North Midland||aʊ in MOUTH words. ɑɪ in PRICE words.||Abbeystead, Blackpool, Garstang, Goosnargh, Kirkham, Poulton-le-Fylde, Preston, Wyresdale||Isle of Man|
|31||West Northern||ia in FACE words. eɪ in FLEECE words. aɪ in PRICE words. iʊ in GOOSE words. ʊu in MOUTH words.||Broughton-in-Furness, Cark-in-Cartmel, Caton, Cockerham, Coniston, Dalton, Heysham, High Nibthwaite, Hornby, Lancaster, Lower Holker, Morecambe, Newton-in-Furness, Quernmore, Skerton, Ulverston||All of Westmorland, south and central Cumberland, south Durham and Richmondshire|
A number of dialect glossaries were published in the 18th and 19th Centuries, often by philologists who were interested in the old words retained in certain dialects.
- Glossary of provincial words used in the neighbourhood of Ashton-under-Lyne, Mr. Barnes, 1846.
- Glossary of provincial words used in the neighbourhood of Ormskirk, W Hawkstead Talbot, 1846.
- The Dialect of South Lancashire, or Tom Bobbin's Tummus and Meary; with his rhymes and an enlarged glossary of words and phrases, chiefly used by the rural population of the manufacturing districts of South Lancashire, Samuel Bamford, 1854.
- A Glossary of the Dialect of the Hundred of Lonsdale, North and South of the Sands, in the County of Lancaster; together with an essay on some leading characteristics of the dialects spoken in the six northern counties of England (ancient Northumbria), JC Atkinson, 1869.
- A Glossary of the Words and Phrases of Furness (North Lancashire), RB Peacock, London Phil. Soc. Trans., 1869.
- A Glossary of Rochdale-with-Rossendale Words and Phrases, H Cunliffe, 1886.
- A Blegburn Dickshonary, J Baron, 1891.
- A Grammar Of The Dialect Of Adlington (Lancashire), Karl Andrew Hargreaves, 1904.
- A Grammar Of The Dialect Of Oldham (Lancashire), Karl Georg Schilling, 1906.
Of these, only the works on Oldham and Adlington contain any phonetic notation, and this was in a slightly different code to the modern IPA.
|Dialect||Reference||Short vowels||Long vowels||Diphthongs||Triphthongs|
|Adlington||Hargreaves, 1904||a ɑ e ɪ ɔ ʊ o ə||aː ɑ: eː ɛː iː ɔ: uː oː əː||aɪː aːe eiː iːə ʊə ɔɪː ɔʊː uɪ ʊiː||aɪə|
|Oldham||Schilling, 1906||a e ɪ ɔ ʊ o ə||aː eː iː ɔ: uː oː ɜː||aɪ eɪ ɪə aʊ ʊə ɛʊ ɛə ɔɪ ɔə uɪ ɪɛ|
Poetry and other literature
Graham Shorrocks wrote that Lancashire has been the county with the strongest tradition of dialect poetry since the mid-19th century. Many of these gave commentaries on the poverty of the working class at the time and occasional political sentiments: for example, the ballad Joan of Grinfilt portrayed an unemployed handloom worker who would rather die as a soldier in a foreign war than starve at home. Vicinus argued that, after 1870, dialect writing declined in quality owing to "clichés and sentimentality". Writing in 1999, Shorrocks argues that "Many dialect writers nowadays cannot speak dialect, or cannot speak it in any convincing fashion, and much of what is written seems exhausted, poor, and, crucially, detached from living speech.
The Lancashire Authors Association was founded in 1909 and still exists for writers in the dialect, producing an annual paper called The Record.
Some dialect poets include:
- Benjamin Brierley (often known as Ben Brierley) (1825–1896) was a writer in Lancashire dialect; he wrote poems and a considerable number of stories of Lancashire life. He began to contribute articles to local papers in the 1850s and in 1863 he definitely took to journalism and literature, publishing in the same year his Chronicles of Waverlow.
- John Collier, writing under the name Tim Bobbin, published more than 100 editions of "A View of the Lancashire Dialect".
- Sam Fitton of Rochdale (1868–1923)
- Nicholas Freeston (1907–1978) was an English poet who spent most of his working life as a weaver in cotton mills near his home in Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire. He published five books of poetry, occasionally writing in Lancashire dialect, and won 15 awards including a gold medal presented by the president of the United Poets' Laureate International.
- Samuel Laycock (1826–1893) was a dialect poet who recorded in verse the vernacular of the Lancashire cotton workers.
- Joseph Ramsbottom (1831–1901)
- Margaret Rebecca Lahee (10 May 1831 – 14 June 1895), was an Irish Lancashire dialect writer from the 19th century who wrote in prose rather than verse.
- Thomas Thompson was a Lancashire dialect author and BBC broadcaster. Born in Bury in 1880, he lived there all his life until his death in 1951. He published 16 books on Lancashire people and their communities, published by George Allen and Unwin. In 1950, he was awarded an honorary master's degree by Manchester University for his scholarly contribution to dialect literature.
- Edwin Waugh whose most famous poem was "Come whoam to thi childer an' me", written in 1856.
- Michael Wilson of Manchester (1763–1840) and his sons Thomas and Alexander.
Dialect poets have occasionally appeared on the BBC since its establishment. Sam Smith featured on the radio in the 1920s. In the 2010s, BBC radio programmes analysed the Manchester Ballads (which featured dialect) and reported on contemporary poets that kept the tradition of dialect poetry alive.
In November 2016, Simon Rennie from Exeter University announced his collection of Lancashire dialect poetry from the time of the Lancashire Cotton Famine of 1861–65. He said, "It's fascinating how people turned to and used poetry, in their local languages, to express the impact events so far away were having on them."
Led by Harold Orton at the University of Leeds, the Survey of English Dialects surveyed 313 sites across England, the Isle of Man and some bordering areas of Wales in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Survey recorded the dialect used in fourteen sites in Lancashire. These sites were mostly rural. A second phase, researching more urban areas, had been planned from the outset but financial problems meant that this second phase never occurred and the Survey's coverage was mostly confined to rural parts of England.
The fieldworkers for the sites were Stanley Ellis and Peter Wright. The latter was a native of Fleetwood and wrote his PhD on the dialect, using his father as the principal informant. In 1981, Wright published a book The Lanky Twang: How it is spoke that explained the dialects of Lancashire through a series of illustrations, often humorous.
The table below shows the sites as reported in Book 1 of the Survey's outputs for the northern counties.
|Code||Site||Date survey administered||Number of informants||Fieldworker||Tape recording made|
|La13||Bickerstaffe, west Lancashire||28 June – 1 July 1955||2||Stanley Ellis||No|
|La2||Cartmel, modern south Cumbria||28 May – 6 June 1954||3||Stanley Ellis||Yes, not survey respondent|
|La1||Coniston, modern south Cumbria||20–25 April 1955||2||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La4||Dolphinholme, near Lancaster||21–25 May 1954||3||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La11||Eccleston, near Chorley||23–26 March 1954||3||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La5||Fleetwood||1954 intermittently||4||Peter Wright||Yes, survey respondent|
|La14||Halewood, near Liverpool.||29 March – 3 April 1954||3||Stanley Ellis||No|
|La12||Harwood, near Bolton||16–23 February 1954||2||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La10||Marshside, Southport||8–13 April 1954||4||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La6||Pilling, Fylde coast||24–29 January 1952||3||Peter Wright||No|
|La9||Read, near Burnley||3–7 March 1954||2||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La8||Ribchester, between Blackburn and Preston||11–17 March 1954||4||Stanley Ellis||Yes, survey respondent|
|La7||Thistleton, on the Fylde near Blackpool||19–23 January 1952||4||Peter Wright||No|
|La3||Yealand, near Lancaster||20–25 April 1955||2||Stanley Ellis||No|
There were several other monographs written by dialectologists by Harold Orton's department at the University of Leeds, including some urban areas such as Bury, Middleton, St. Helens and Southport. These are now contained in the Archive of Vernacular Culture at the Brotherton Library in Leeds.
Graham Shorrocks, a linguist from Farnworth, conducted a series of research projects on the dialect of the Bolton area. These were consolidated into two linked books named A Grammar of the Dialect of the Bolton Area, published in 1998 and 1999.
Accents of English series
- In central Lancashire, words such as coal and hole are pronounced with the ɔɪ vowel, giving kɔɪl and ɔɪl.
- In southern parts of Lancashire such as the Bolton and Oldham areas, the MOUTH vowel is ɘʏ or ʌʏ. This can be heard clearly in the pronunciation of the word 'roundabout' in these areas.
- In much of the area around Manchester, the GOOSE vowel is a fronted ʏ:.
- The lexical sets for NURSE and SQUARE are both realised with the same vowel ɜ:. This is known as the Square-nurse merger, although (as in most of the North of England) many NURSE words are pronounced with a short schwa ə so that curse is pronounced kəs in non-rhotic areas.
- The final vowel on words such as happy and city is a short ɪ rather than the i: of most other English dialects.
- The word one is usually pronounced wɔn rather than the wʌn of Received Pronunciation or the wʊn in other parts of Northern England.
- In the southern half of Lancashire, there is no Ng-coalescence so words such as finger and singer are rhymes.
- Rhoticity persists residually in some areas of Lancashire, though non-rhoticity certainly characterises the more urban areas around Liverpool, Manchester or Wigan. Rhoticity in Lancashire is increasingly giving way to non-rhoticity since the second half of the 20th century.
- The consonants p, t, k are usually not pre-aspirated (as they are in most other dialects) in the Pennine Valley or around Burnley.
The Dialects of England regions
The linguist Peter Trudgill specified a "Central Lancashire" dialect region, defined particularly by its rhoticity, around Blackburn, Preston and the northern parts of Greater Manchester. He classified the county of Merseyside, excluding the St Helens borough and Southport as another dialect region, grouped most of Greater Manchester in the "Northwest Midlands" region, and grouped the non-rhotic northern parts of Lancashire in with Cumbria and most of Yorkshire in the "Central North" region.
BBC Voices Survey
In 2005 and 2006, the BBC, working with the University of Leeds, undertook a survey of the speech of the country. The recordings are now available on the British Library's website. An accompanying book, Talking for Britain: a journey through the voices of a nation, was published in 2005; the author noted that the speech of Lancashire in 2005 differed markedly from "the impenetrable tracts of rural Lancastrian that the Survey of English Dialects found in the 1950s".
Academic analysis of the corpus of Lancashire dialect writing and poetry has continued into the 21st century. Areas of research include identifying the syntax of the dialect, methods of oral performance, the lexicography of dialect words, and the relationship between dialect and Social class in the United Kingdom
Organizations and media
The Lancashire Dialect Society was founded in 1951; The Journal of the Lancashire Dialect Society has included articles on the Survey of English Dialects and on the dialects of Germany, Switzerland and the United States. The society collected a library of publications relating to dialect studies which was kept at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester from 1974 onwards. This collection was afterwards taken away and deposited at the Lancashire County Library in Preston.
The Lancashire Authors' Association is devoted to the study of Lancashire literature, history, traditions and dialect. The Association’s library collection was founded in Horwich in 1921 and contains dialect works by authors including Edwin Waugh, Samuel Laycock and Teddy Ashton. The collection has been housed at public libraries across Lancashire, and was moved to the University of Bolton Library in 2021.
Various newspapers in Lancashire and the magazine Lancashire Life have included content relating to the Lancashire dialect. R. G. Shepherd contributed many articles interesting both for their philosophy and their excursions into local dialect to The West Lancashire Gazette and The Fleetwood Chronicle. Dialect has also featured in The Bolton Journal, The Leigh Reporter and The Lancashire Evening Post as well as in "Mr. Manchester's diary" in The Manchester Evening News.
Between 1979 and 2015, the North West Sound Archive contained a range of records in Lancashire dialect (as well as Cumberland and Westmorland dialect). The Archive closed owing to financial reasons in 2015, and its materials were relocated to the Manchester Central Library, Liverpool Central Library, and the Lancashire Archives.
Films from the early part of the 20th century, particularly those produced by Mancunian Films, often contain Lancashire dialect: the films of George Formby, Gracie Fields and Frank Randle are some examples.
Lancashire dialect is often used in folk songs that originate from the area. The folk song "Poverty Knock" is one of the best-known songs, describing life in a Lancashire cotton mill. The Houghton Weavers is a band, formed in 1975, that continues to sing in Lancashire dialect. In 1979, the Houghton Weavers presented a series on local folk music on BBC North West, entitled Sit thi deawn.
Notes and references
- Gibb, Robert (2005). Greater Manchester: a panorama of people and places in Manchester and its surrounding towns. Myriad. p. 13. ISBN 1-904736-86-6.
- George, D. (1991) Lancashire
- Local Government Act 1972. 1972, c. 70
- Knowles, Gerard (1973). Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool. p. 17.
- Crosby, Alan (2000). The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore. pp. xviii–xix.
- Robinson, William (1997). The Cumbrian Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore. Smith Settle. p. xiii. ISBN 1858250668.
- Crosby, Alan (2000). The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore. p. xiv.
- Knowles, Gerard (1973). Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool. p. 18.
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889). On Early English Pronunciation Volume V. p. 10.
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889). On Early English Pronunciation Volume V. pp. 315–329.
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889). On Early English Pronunciation Volume V. pp. 329–351.
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889). On Early English Pronunciation Volume V. pp. 351–363.
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889). On Early English Pronunciation Volume V. pp. 537–637.
- Hargreaves, Karl Andrew (1904). A Grammar Of The Dialect Of Adlington (Lancashire). p. 2.
- Schilling, Karl Georg (1906). A Grammar Of The Dialect Of Oldham (Lancashire). Darmstadt, G. Otto's hof-buchdruckerei. p. 15.
- Shorrocks, Graham (1999). "Working-Class Literature in Working-Class Language: the North of England". In Hoenselaars, Ton; Buning, Marius (eds.). English Literature and the Other Languages. Rodopi. p. 90. ISBN 9042007842.
- Shorrocks, Graham (1999). "Working-Class Literature in Working-Class Language: the North of England". In Hoenselaars, Ton; Buning, Marius (eds.). English Literature and the Other Languages. Rodopi. p. 89. ISBN 9042007842.
- Shorrocks, Graham (1999). "Working-Class Literature in Working-Class Language: the North of England". In Hoenselaars, Ton; Buning, Marius (eds.). English Literature and the Other Languages. Rodopi. p. 95. ISBN 9042007842.
- Shorrocks, Graham (1999). "Working-Class Literature in Working-Class Language: the North of England". In Hoenselaars, Ton; Buning, Marius (eds.). English Literature and the Other Languages. Rodopi. p. 93. ISBN 9042007842.
- Leaver, Eric. "Looms were mill poet's muse". Lancashire Evening Telegraph (Blackburn). 8 February 1978. Front page.
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- Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English 2: The British Isles, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 365–66, ISBN 0-521-29719-2
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- Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English 2: The British Isles, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 370, ISBN 0-521-29719-2
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- Hakala, Taryn (2012). "M. R. Lahee and the Lancashire Lads: Gender and Class in Victorian Lancashire Dialect Writing". Philological Quarterly. 92 (2): 271–288.
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- Brook, G. L. (1963) English Dialects. London: Andre Deutsch; pp. 156–57
- "Dear Professor Brook, Ah'm fain t'tell thee as wi'n dun fer thee all yon books fer t'Lankysheer Dialect Society tha fotched ter t'University Library a while sin ..."--The Journal of the Lancashire Dialect Society, no. 23, pp. 3–4
- "The Lancashire Authors' Association". The Lancashire Authors' Association. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
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- Lancashire English, Fred Holcroft, introduction, 1997
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- Boardman, Harry & Lesley, eds. (1973) Folk Songs & Ballads of Lancashire. London: Oak Publications ISBN 0-86001-027-9
- Kershaw, Harvey (1958) Lancashire Sings Again: a collection of original verses. Rochdale: Harvey Kershaw
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- Just Sithabod: dialect verse from "Lancashire Life". Manchester: Whitethorn Press, 1975 (dedicated to "Lancastrians learning English as a second language")
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- Aspey, Vera (1976) The Blackbird. Topic Records 12TS356
- Boardman, Harry (1973) A Lancashire Mon: ballads, songs & recitations. Topic Records, London 12TS236
- Boardman, Harry (1978) Golden Stream: Lancashire songs and rhymes. AK Records, Manchester AK 7813
- Kershaw, Mary & Harvey (1976) Lancashire Sings Again! songs & poems in the Lancashire dialect. Topic Records 12TS302
- Survey of English Dialects: recordings from Lancashire (circa 1950s)
- 20th Century Lancastrian speech
- Completely Lanky – Lancashire dialect website
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- Trouble at mill – Lancashire dialect website
- Website dedicated to the poems and songs of Edwin Waugh
- Edwin Waugh Dialect Society "the Objects of the Society are the Maintaining and Increasing of Interest in Lancashire Dialect")
- Incubator plus
- Website of Wigan dialect poems and phrases.
- The society was founded in 1951 at Manchester by George Leslie Brook, professor of English language and medieval English literature (The Journal, no. 10).