|Liverpool English / Merseyside English|
Scouse (//; formally known as Liverpool English or Merseyside English) is an accent and dialect of English associated with Liverpool and the surrounding county of Merseyside. The Scouse accent is highly distinctive; having been influenced heavily by Irish, Norwegian, and Welsh immigrants who arrived via the Liverpool docks, it has little in common with the accents of its neighbouring regions or the rest of England. The accent is named after scouse, a stew eaten by sailors and locals.
The development of Liverpool since the 1950s has spread the accent into nearby areas such as the towns of Runcorn and Skelmersdale. Variations within Scouse have been noted: the accent of Liverpool's city centre and northern neighbourhoods is usually described as fast, harsh, and nasal, while the accent found in the southern suburbs of Liverpool is typically referred to as slow, soft, and dark. Popular colloquialisms have shown a growing deviation from the historical Lancashire dialect that was previously found in Liverpool, as well as a growth in the influence of the accent in the wider area. Natives and/or residents of Liverpool are formally referred to as Liverpudlians, but are more often called Scousers.
The northern variation of Scouse has appeared in mainstream British media but, until the 2010s, often served only to be impersonated and mocked in comedy series such as Harry Enfield & Chums and its Scousers sketch. It is consistently voted one of the least popular accents in the UK. Conversely, the Scouse accent as a whole is usually placed within the top two friendliest UK accents, alongside that of Newcastle upon Tyne. The northern variation has become so synonymous with Liverpool that outsiders often mistakenly believe that the Beatles-like south Liverpool accent is dying out, and it is not uncommon for those from the southern suburbs to encounter people who doubt that they are from Liverpool.
The word scouse is a shortened form of lobscouse, the origin of which is uncertain. It is related to the Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojs, and Danish labskovs, as well as the Low German labskaus, and refers to a stew of the same name commonly eaten by sailors. In the 19th century, poorer people in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey commonly ate scouse as it was a cheap dish, and familiar to the families of seafarers. Outsiders tended to call these people scousers. In The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Alan Crosby suggested that the word only became known nationwide with the popularity of the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (1965–1975), which featured a Liverpudlian socialist and a Cockney conservative in a regular argument.
Originally a small fishing village, Liverpool developed as a port, trading particularly with Ireland, and after the 1700s as a major international trading and industrial centre. The city consequently became a melting pot of several languages and dialects, as sailors and traders from different areas (alongside migrants from other parts of Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe) established themselves in the area. Until the mid-19th century, the dominant local accent was similar to that of neighbouring areas of Lancashire. The influence of Irish and Welsh migrants, combined with European accents, contributed to a distinctive local Liverpool accent. The first reference to a distinctive Liverpool accent was in 1890. Linguist Gerald Knowles suggested that the accent's nasal quality may have derived from poor 19th-century public health, by which the prevalence of colds for many people over a long time resulted in a nasal accent becoming regarded as the norm and copied by others learning the language.
The period of early dialect research in Great Britain did little to cover Scouse. The early researcher Alexander John Ellis said that Liverpool and Birkenhead "had no dialect proper", as he conceived of dialects as speech that had been passed down through generations from the earliest Germanic speakers. Ellis did research some locations on the Wirral, but these respondents spoke in traditional Cheshire dialect at the time and not in Scouse. The 1950s Survey of English Dialects recorded traditional Lancastrian dialect from the town of Halewood and found no trace of Scouse influence. The phonetician John C Wells wrote that "the Scouse accent might as well not exist" in The Linguistic Atlas of England, which was the Survey's principal output.
The first academic study of Scouse was undertaken by Gerald Knowles at the University of Leeds in 1973. He identified the key problem being that traditional dialect research had focused on developments from a single proto-language, but Scouse (and many other urban dialects) had resulted from interactions between an unknown number of proto-languages.
Phonetics and phonology
The phonemic notation used in this article is based on the set of symbols used by Watson (2007).
- As other Northern English varieties, Scouse lacks the FOOT-STRUT and TRAP-BATH splits, so that words like cut /kʊt/ and pass /pas/ have the same vowels as put /pʊt/ and back /bak/. However, some middle-class speakers may use a more RP-like pronunciation, so that cut and pass may be /kʌt/ and /pɑːs/, with the former containing an extra /ʌ/ phoneme that is normally not found in Northern England English. Generally, speakers are not very successful in differentiating between /ʊ/ and /ʌ/ or /a/ and /ɑː/ (only in the BATH words), which often leads to hypercorrection. Utterances such as good luck or black castle may be /ˌɡʌd ˈlʊk/ and /ˌblɑːk ˈkasəl/ instead of RP-like /ˌɡʊd ˈlʌk/, /ˌblak ˈkɑːsəl/ or Scouse /ˌɡʊd ˈlʊk/, /ˌblak ˈkasəl/. Speakers who successfully differentiate between the vowels in good and luck may use a schwa [ə] (best identified phonemically as /ə/, rather than a separate phoneme /ʌ/) instead of an RP-like [ʌ] in the second word, so that they pronounce good luck as /ˌɡʊd ˈlək/.
- The words book, cook and look are typically pronounced with GOOSE rather than that of FOOT, which is true within Northern England and the Midlands. This causes minimal pairs such as look and luck, and book and buck. The use of a long /uː/ in such words is more often used in working-class accents, however recently this feature is becoming more recessive, being less found with younger people.
- Some speakers exhibit the weak vowel merger, so that the unstressed /ɪ/ merges with /ə/. For those speakers, eleven and orange are pronounced /əˈlɛvən/ and /ˈɒrəndʒ/ rather than /ɪˈlɛvən/ and /ˈɒrɪndʒ/.
- In final position, /iː, ʉː/ tend to be somewhat diphthongal [ɪ̈i ~ ɪ̈ɪ, ɪ̈u ~ ɪ̈ʊ]. Sometimes this also happens before /l/ in words such as school [skɪ̈ʊl].
- /ʉː/ is typically central [ʉː] and it may be even fronted to [yː] so that it becomes the rounded counterpart of /iː/.
- The HAPPY vowel is tense [i] and is best analysed as belonging to the /iː/ phoneme.
- /ɛː/ has a huge allophonic variation. Contrary to most other accents of England, the /ɛː/ vowel covers both SQUARE and NURSE lexical sets. This vowel has unrounded front [ɪː, eː, ëː, ɛː, ɛ̈ː], rounded front [œː], unrounded central [ɘː, əː, ɜː] and rounded central [ɵː] variants. Diphthongs of the [əɛ] and [ɛə] types are also possible. For simplicity, this article uses only the symbol ⟨ɛː⟩. There is not a full agreement on which realisations are the most common:
- According to Wells (1982), they are [ɛ̈ː] and [ëː], with the former being more conservative.
- According to Roca & Johnson (1999), it is [ɘː].
- According to Beal (2004), they are [ɛː] and [ɜː], with the latter being more conservative.
- According to Watson (2007), it is typically a front vowel of the [eː ~ ɛː ~ ɪː] type.
- According to Gimson (2014), it is [œː].
- Middle class speakers may differentiate SQUARE from NURSE by using a front vowel [ɛː] for the former and a central [ɜː] for the latter, much like in RP.
- There is not a full agreement on the phonetic realisation of /ɑː/:
- The NEAR vowel /iɛ/ typically has a front second element [ɛ].
- The CURE vowel /uɛ/ often merges with the THOUGHT vowel /ɔː/, so that sure is often /ʃɔː/. When distinct from THOUGHT, this vowel is a diphthong [uɛ] or a disyllabic sequence [ɪuə] or [ɪwə]. The last two realisations are best interpreted phonemically as a sequence /ʉːə/. Variants other than the monophthong [ɔː] are considered to be very conservative.
- The FACE vowel /eɪ/ is typically diphthongal [eɪ], rather than being a monophthong [eː] that is commonly found in other Northern English accents.
- The GOAT vowel /ɛʉ/ has a considerable allophonic variation. Its starting point can be open-mid front [ɛ], close-mid front [e] or mid central [ə] (similarly to the NURSE vowel), whereas its ending point varies between fairly close central [ʉ̞] and a more back [ʊ]. The most typical realisation is [ɛʉ̞], but [ɛʊ, eʉ̞, eʊ, əʉ̞] and an RP-like [əʊ] are also possible. Wells (1982) also lists [oʊ] and [ɔʊ]. According to him, the [eʊ] version has a centralised starting point [ë]. This and variants similar to it sound inappropriately posh in combination with other broad Scouse vowels.
- Older Scouse had a contrastive FORCE vowel /oə/ which is now most commonly merged with THOUGHT/NORTH /ɔː/.
- The PRICE vowel /aɪ/ can be monophthongised to [äː] in certain environments. According to Wells (1982) and Watson (2007), the diphthongal realisation is quite close to the conservative RP norm ([aɪ]), but according to Collins & Mees (2013) it has a rather back starting point ([ɑɪ]).
- The MOUTH vowel /aʊ/ is [aʊ], close to the RP norm.
- NG-coalescence is not present as with other Northern English accents, for instance realising along as [əˈlɒŋɡ].
- Like many other accents around the world, G-dropping also occurs, with [ən] being a substitute for [ɪŋɡ].
- /t/ has several allophones depending on environment:
- Debuccalisation to [h], with older speakers only doing this in function words with short vowel pre-pausally: it, lot, not, that, what, pronounced [ɪh, lɒh, nɒh, d̪ah, wɒh] respectively. On the other hand, younger speakers may further debuccalise in polysyllabic words in unstressed syllables, hence aggregate, maggot, market [ˈaɡɾɪɡɪh, ˈmaɡɪh, ˈmɑːxɪh].
- Word-finally and before another vowel, it is typically pronounced [ɹ] or [ɾ], which is found in several other Northern English varieties.
- T-glottalisation also occurs like the rest of the UK, with [ʔ] occurring before /l/ and other syllabic consonants, however rarely occurring.
- Fricatisation of voiceless plosives /p, t, k/:
- Affrication of /t/ as [t͡s] word-initially and lenited, variously articulated such as [θ̠~ð̠], intervocalically and word-finally.
- /k/ can turn into an affricate or a fricative, determined mostly by the quality of the preceding vowel. If fricative, a palatal, velar or uvular articulation ([ç, x, χ] respectively) is realised. This is seen distinctively with words like book and clock.
- /p/ can be fricatised to [ɸ], albeit rarely.
- As with other varieties of English, the voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ are aspirated word-initially, except when /s/ precedes in the same syllable. It can also occur word- and utterance-finally, with potential preaspirated pronunciations [ʰp, ʰt, ʰk] (which is often perceived as glottal noise or as oral friction produced in the same environment as the stop) for utterance-final environments, primarily found in female speakers.
- The voiced plosives /b, d, ɡ/ are also fricatised, with /d/ particularly being lenitioned to the same extent as /t/, although it is frequently devoiced to /t/.
- The dental fricatives /θ, ð/ are often realised as dental stops [t̪, d̪] under Irish influence, although the fricative forms are also found.
- The accent is non-rhotic, meaning /r/ is not pronounced unless followed by a vowel. When it is pronounced, it is typically realised as a tap [ɾ] particularly between vowels (mirror, very) or as a consonant cluster (breath, free, strip), and approximant [ɹ] otherwise. Nevertheless, the approximant realisation can also be seen where the tap is typically realised.
Lexicon and syntax
Some of the more notable Irish influences include the pronunciation of the name of the letter H with h-adding, so it is said as //, and the second person plural "you" as "yous" //. The use of "me" instead of "my" is also present, i.e. "that's me book you got there" instead of "that's my book you've got there".[dubious ] An exception occurs when "my" is emphasised in an example such as "that's my book (not your book)". Other common Scouse features include the use of "giz" instead of "give us", which became famous throughout the UK through Boys from the Blackstuff in 1982; the use of the term "made up" to mean "extremely happy", such as in "I'm made up I didn't go out last night"; and the terms "sound" for "okay" and "boss" for "great", which can also be used to answer questions of wellbeing such as "I'm boss" in reply to "How are you?" and can also be used sarcastically in negative circumstances (the reply "sound" in the case of being told bad news translates to the sarcastic use of "good" or "okay").
Scouse is highly distinguishable from other English dialects. Because of this international recognition, Keith Szlamp made a request to IANA on 16 September 1996 to make it a recognised Internet dialect. After citing a number of references, the application was accepted on 25 May 2000 and now allows Internet documents that use the dialect to be categorised as Scouse by using the language tag "en-Scouse".
Scouse has also become well known as the accent of the Beatles, an international cultural phenomenon. While the members of the band are famously from Liverpool, their accents have more in common with the older Lancashire-like Liverpool dialect found in the southern suburbs; the accent has evolved into Scouse since the 1960s, mostly in the centre and northern areas of the city, with some identifying the improvement of air quality as a potential factor.
- Abar: About
- A do: a party
- Ahh-eh: That's not fair!
- Akip: Asleep
- Antwacky: Old-fashioned (from Irish: antráthach)
- Anyroad: Anyway
- Arl arse: to be sly or nasty
- Arl fella: Father
- Bail/Bail it: To leave or decide to not do something
- Baltic: Freezing
- Barneted: On drugs
- Barney: Argument
- Be arsed: Can't be bothered
- Beak: Cocaine
- Bells: Time reference; "see yous at 7 bells"
- Bevvy: Alcoholic drink
- Bevvied: Drunk
- Bezzy: Best friend
- Bifter/ciggy: Cigarette
- Bins: Glasses
- Bird: Girlfriend
- Bizzy: Police officer
- Blag: Fake
- Blueshite: Used by Liverpool fans to refer to Everton or its fans
- Bog: Toilet
- Boss: Great
- Bob: Money
- Brass/brass house: Prostitute/brothel
- Brekkie: Breakfast
- Burst: assault violently/go the toilet
- Butty: Sandwich
- Buzzing: Happy
- Chippy: Fish & chip shop or Chinese takeaway
- Chocka: Heavily populated/busy
- Clobber: Clothes
- Clocked/Clocked it: To notice or see something
- Cob on: Bad mood
- Cod on: realise or recognise
- Corksucker: An American
- Crack: from the Irish: Craic meaning good time
- Creased: Doubled up, laughing (recent popularity surge (2020))
- Da: Father
- Daft: Stupid
- Damage: Cost/price
- Dead: Very
- Devoed: Devastated
- Divvy: Idiot
- Doddle: Easy
- Eeeee: An expression of disapproval
- Fluky, a fluke: Lucky, a bit of luck (More commonly used: Jammy)
- Gaff: House or place
- Gary: Ecstasy pill. Originates from Cockney rhyming slang of footballers name Gary Abblett, which rhymes with tablet.
- Gegging in: Being intrusive
- Get on it/that: To do something or look at something
- Giggs: Sunglasses
- Go on: A term of agreement or goodbye
- Go'ed: Go ahead
- Heavy: An expression used when something is very bad and less frequently when something is very good
- Fuming: Extremely angry
- Is right: An expression of agreement
- Jammy: Lucky
- Jarg: Fake
- Jib off/sack off: To avoid doing something or dump a boyfriend/girlfriend
- Kecks: Pants
- Ken: House
- Ket wig: Hairstyle for males, unkempt mid-length hair
- Khazi: Toilet
- Kid/Kidda: General term of endearment (male or female)
- Kip: Sleep
- Knock it/Knocked it: To vomit
- Lad/la/lid: Term of endearment for a male friend or young man
- Lecky: Electricity
- Leg it/Legged: To run away or not do something
- Lemo: Cocaine
- Lorra: Large amount
- Ma: Mother
- Made up: Extremely happy
- Mate: Friend (modern version of wack/wacker)
- Meff: A person who lacks intelligence or is otherwise disliked/scruffy person
- Ming: A person who is unattractive or not well-liked
- Mingebag: A person who does not like to spend money
- Minty: Dirty
- Moody: When someone or something is illegal/dodgy
- Offie: Off-licence
- Oner: One hundred pound
- Our kid: A term usually used for a family member or somebody close
- Ozzy: Hospital
- Plazzy: Plastic (used mainly to describe someone who is fake)
- Plod: Police
- Prin: A girl or woman (short for Princess)
- Proper: Very
- Queen: Term of endearment for a woman
- Quilt: Generic insult, usually used for someone who is scared
- Redshite: Used by Everton fans to refer to Liverpool F.C. or its fans
- Scally: Young male who wears trackies and trainees
- Scatty: When something is dirty, strange or disorganised
- Scran: Food
- Scraps: Leftovers
- Scrap/scrappin': Fight/fighting
- Schtum: Keep Quiet!
- Slummy: Loose change
- Slummie: Small change
- Soft: Stupid
- Sound: Okay
- Sunnies: Sunglasses
- Swerve: Avoid
- Ta: Thanks
- Ta-ra: Goodbye (from Irish: Tabhair aire)
- Taking the Mick/Mickie: To poke fun or have a joke with someone
- Terrored: When someone is being mocked or hounded about something (Short for Terrorised)
- Todd: Alone
- Trackie: Tracksuit
- Trainees or trabs: Trainer shoes
- Twisted: On drugs
- Voddy: Vodka
- Wack: Term of endearment for a young man (from Irish: a mhac)
- Webs: Trainers
- West: Weird or crazy
- Whip: Car
- Wog head: Long or unkempt hair (offensive)
- Wool/Woollyback: Any person from the areas surrounding Liverpool
- Yous/Youse: 2nd person plural.
Other northern English dialects include:
- Cumbrian (Cumbria)
- Geordie (Newcastle)
- Lanky (Lancashire)
- Mackem (Sunderland)
- Mancunian (Manchester)
- Pitmatic (Durham and Northumberland)
- Tyke (Yorkshire)
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- Watson (2007:351–360)
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- Coupland, Nikolas; Thomas, Alan R., eds. (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd., ISBN 1-85359-032-0
- Howard, Jackson; Stockwell, Peter (2011), An Introduction to the Nature and Functions of Language (2nd ed.), Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 172, ISBN 978-1-4411-4373-0
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- Patrick Honeybone. "New-dialect formation in nineteenth century Liverpool: a brief history of Scouse" (PDF). Open House Press.
- Bona, Emilia (29 September 2019). "11 funny differences between north and south Liverpool". Liverpool Echo.
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- Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
- "Harry Enfield - The Scousers Visit The Beach" – via www.youtube.com.
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- "News". www.businesswire.com.
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- Peter Grant, The Scouse accent: Dey talk like dat, don’t dey?, Liverpool Daily Post, 9 August 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2013
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- Knowles, Gerald (1973). "2.2". Scouse: the urban dialect of Liverpool (PhD). University of Leeds. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
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- Watson (2007), p. 358.
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- Gimson (2014), pp. 92, 115.
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- Roca & Johnson (1999), p. 188.
- Beal (2004), p. 125.
- Gimson (2014), pp. 118, 138.
- Gimson (2014), p. 125.
- Beal (2004), p. 123.
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- Watson (2007), p. 352.
- Watson (2007), p. 353.
- "LANGUAGE TAG REGISTRATION FORM". IANA.org. 25 May 2000. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
- Shaw, Frank; Spiegl, Fritz; Kelly, Stan (September 1966). Lern Yerself Scouse. 1: How to Talk Proper in Liverpool. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367013.
- Lane, Linacre; Spiegl, Fritz (June 1966). Lern Yerself Scouse. 2: The ABZ of Scouse. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367037.
- Minard, Brian (July 1972). Lern Yerself Scouse. 3: Wersia Sensa Yuma?. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367044.
- Spiegl, Fritz; Allen, Ken (December 1989). Lern Yerself Scouse. 4: The Language of Laura Norder. Scouse Press. ISBN 978-0901367310.
- Szlamp, K.: The definition of the word 'Scouser', Oxford English Dictionary
- "CLEAN AIR CLEANING UP OLD BEATLES ACCENT". abcnews.go.com. 23 February 2002. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- Unterberger, Richie. Scouse at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- Beal, Joan (2004), "English dialects in the North of England: phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 113–133, ISBN 3-11-017532-0
- Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2013) [First published 2003], Practical Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (3rd ed.), Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-50650-2
- Gimson, Alfred Charles (2014), Cruttenden, Alan (ed.), Gimson's Pronunciation of English (8th ed.), Routledge, ISBN 9781444183092
- Roca, Iggy; Johnson, Wyn (1999), A Course in Phonology, Blackwell Publishing
- Watson, Kevin (2007), "Liverpool English" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (3): 351–360, doi:10.1017/s0025100307003180, S2CID 232345844
- Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Volume 2: The British Isles (pp. i–xx, 279–466), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-52128540-2
- Black, William (2005), The Land that Thyme Forgot, Bantam, p. 348, ISBN 0-593-05362-1
- Tony, Crowley (2012), Scouse: A Social and Cultural History, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-1846318399
- Honeybone, Patrick (2001), "Lenition inhibition in Liverpool English", English Language and Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, 5 (2): 213–249, doi:10.1017/S1360674301000223, S2CID 91182225
- Marotta, Giovanna; Barth, Marlen (2005), "Acoustic and sociolingustic aspects of lenition in Liverpool English" (PDF), Studi Linguistici e Filologici Online, 3 (2): 377–413
- Shaw, Frank; Kelly-Bootle, Stan (1966), Spiegl, Fritz (ed.), How to Talk Proper in Liverpool (Lern Yerself Scouse), Liverpool: Scouse Press, ISBN 0-901367-01-X
- Sounds Familiar: Birkenhead (Scouse) — Listen to examples of Scouse and other regional accents and dialects of the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website
- 'Hover & Hear' Scouse pronunciations, and compare with other accents from the UK and around the world
- Sound map – Accents & dialects in Accents & Dialects, British Library.
- BBC – Liverpool Local History – Learn to speak Scouse!
- A. B. Z. of Scouse (Lern Yerself Scouse) (ISBN 0-901367-03-6)
- IANA registration form for the
- IETF RFC 4646 — Tags for Identifying Languages (2006)
- Dialect Poems from the English regions
- Visit Liverpool — The official tourist board website to Liverpool
- A Scouser in California — A syndicated on-air segment that airs on Bolton FM Radio during Kev Gurney's show (7 pm to 10 pm – Saturdays) and Magic 999 during Roy Basnett's Breakfast (6 am to 10 am – Monday to Friday)
- Clean Air Cleaning Up Old Beatles Accent, ABC News