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It is claimed that the Manc dialect of British English has subconsciously changed the way people from the other English-speaking UK regions talk through the British popular culture of television shows such as Coronation Street, in which a 15 year old, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits fame, was for a time a regular. Also, later rock bands such as Oasis, Joy Division, and The Stone Roses had distinct Manchester accents. West Sussex-raised British actress, Jane Leeves, portrayed the character of Daphne Moon, a Manchester immigrant with a pronounced Mancunian accent in the American sitcom Frasier.
The speech of the city of Manchester has never been the subject of an in-depth study. The early dialectologist Alexander John Ellis included the city in his survey of English speech, and placed most of Greater Manchester (excluding the Bolton and Wigan areas) in his 21st dialect district, which also included north-west Derbyshire. In the 1982 textbook Accents of English, John C. Wells makes some comments on the Manchester dialect, which he describes as being "extremely similar" to the dialect of Leeds.
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, and is usually found in Greater Manchester including the cities of Salford and Manchester and the boroughs of Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and some parts of Bury. 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 and Bolton despite them being within Greater Manchester. 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 Davy Jones of The Monkees who was born in Openshaw, 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) spoke 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. Also from Salford is comedian Jason Manford, whose Manc accent adds to his comedic style. Other notable 'Manc' speakers include boxer Ricky Hatton (from Hattersley, 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. 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), Helen Flanagan (Rosie Webster) and Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald).
Study of Stockport dialect
Linguist K. R. Lodge published several articles on the speech of Stockport (1966, 1973, 1978). In Lodge (1978), a 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.
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, t, p/, similar to modern speech in the north-east of England.
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/.
Like all Northern accents, Mancunians have no distinction between the STRUT and FOOT vowels or the TRAP and BATH vowels. This means that but and put are rhymes, as are gas and glass (which is not the case in the south).
The unstressed vowel system of Manchester i.e. the final vowels in words such as happY and lettER are often commented on by outsiders. Phonetically, both vowels are lowered and backed. This means that the final vowel in happY sounds more like the vowel in DRESS (rather than the vowel in KIT like many Northern accents, or the vowel in FLEECE like many Southern accents) and the final vowel in lettER is often perceived as being similar to the vowel in LOT (although this has been found to be a slight exaggeration of the true pronunciation).
The GOAT and GOOSE vowels show socioeconomic variation in Manchester, but in different directions. A fronter GOAT vowel is positively correlated with higher social classes, whereas GOOSE is stable across all social classes except before /l/, where a fronter GOOSE is correlated with lower social classes.
Here is what some would controversially say some of Mancunian's most notable words, phrases and sayings involve. However, it does not accurately represent the entire population:
- buzzing — to have a good time
- dead — an emphasis marker (e.g., 'dead busy' and 'dead friendly'.)
- the dibble — refers to the police
- gaff — a residence, house or flat
- madferit — full of enthusiasm, a phrase that embodied the Madchester era
- muppet — ignorant, foolish
- safe — to be on good terms, also used to mean 'okay' and as a greeting
- sayin(g) — contraction of 'what are you saying?', now used as a greeting, via sense of 'what are you up to?'
- scran — food (also used in Liverpool and Glasgow)
- scrote — refers to someone worthless or unpleasant; a low-life
- sorted — okay
- sound — okay, trustworthy
Irish influences include the pronunciation of the letter 'h' as // (although this pronunciation is now widespread, being used by approximately 24% of British people born since 1982) and the plural of 'you' as youse/yous. Spoken Word performer and poet Argh Kid (David Scott) breaks down Mancunian vocabulary in his piece "Nanna Calls Me Cock".
- Qureshi, Yakub (8 September 2007). "We're All Speaking Manc Now". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- Ellis (1889), p. 315–329.
- Wells (1982), pp. 366–367.
- Lodge (1978), p. 70.
- Wells (1970), p. 247.
- Baranowski & Turton (2015), p. 293.
- Turton & Ramsammy (2012).
- Baranowski (2017).
- Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, p. 360, ISBN 9781405881180
- Slater, Chris (6 October 2016). "Nice one Argh Kid! National Poetry Day goes proper Manc". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- Baranowski, Maciej; Turton, Danielle (2015), "Manchester English", in Raymond, Hickey, Researching Northern English, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, ISBN 90-272-6767-7
- Baranowski, Maciej (2017), "Class matters: the sociolinguistics of GOOSE and GOAT in Manchester English", Language Variation and Change, 29 (3): 301–339, doi:10.1017/s0954394517000217
- Ellis, Alexander John (1889), "Part V: The existing phonology of English dialects compared with that of West Saxon speech", On Early English Pronunciation, London: Truebner & Co
- Lodge, K. R. (June 1978), "A Stockport Teenager", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge: Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 8 (1–2): 69–70, doi:10.1017/s0025100300001730
- Turton, Danielle; Ramsammy, Michael (2012), "/ɪ, ə/-lowering in Manchest[ʌ]: contextual patterns of gradient and categorical variabilit[ɛ̈]" (PDF), The 20th Manchester Phonology Meeting, Manchester: University of Manchester
- Wells, John C. (September 1970), "Local Accents in England and Wales", Journal of Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 6 (2): 231–252, doi:10.1017/s0022226700002632
- Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Volume 2: The British Isles (pp. i–xx, 279–466), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-52128540-2