Geordie Accent

Geordie is a regional nickname for a person from Tyneside, a region of the north east of England, or the name of the English-language dialect spoken by its inhabitants. Depending on who is using it, the catchment area for the term ‘Geordie’ can be as large as the whole of north east England, or as small as the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

In most aspects Geordie speech is a direct continuation and development of the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon settlers of this region. Initially mercenaries employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britannia in the 5th century, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who thus arrived became, over time, ascendant politically and – through population transfer from tribal homelands in northern Europe – culturally over the native British. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged during the Dark Ages spoke largely mutually-intelligible varieties of what we now call Old English, each varying somewhat in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. This Anglo-Saxon influence on Geordie can be seen today, to the extent that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translates more successfully into Geordie than into modern day English. Thus, in northern England, dominated by the kingdom of Northumbria, was found a distinct Northumbrian Old English dialect.

Phonetically, Geordie consonants generally follow those of Received Pronunciation. Some phonological characteristics specific to Geordie are listed as follows:

– Geordie is non-rhotic, like most Anglo-English dialects. This means speakers do not pronounce /r/ unless it is followed by a vowel sound in that same phrase or prosodic unit. The rhotic sound (/r/) in Geordie is pronounced as [ɹ].

– Unusual for language, there is some differentiation in pronunciation in the Geordie dialect based upon the speaker’s sex. For example, English sound /aʊ/, pronounced generically in Geordie as [əʊ], may also have other, more specific pronunciations depending upon whether one is male or female. Males alone often pronounce the sound /aʊ/ as [uː], for example, the word house (/haʊs/) pronounced as [huːs]. Females, on the other hand, will often pronounce this sound as [eʉ], thus: [heʉs].

– /ɪŋ/ appearing in an unstressed final syllable of a word (such as in reading) is pronounced as [ən] (thus, reading is [ˈɹiːdən]).

– /ər/ appearing at the end of a word (such as in sugar) is pronounced as [a] (thus, sugar is [ˈʃʊga]).

– Yod-coalescence in both stressed and unstressed syllables (so that dew becomes [dʒuː]).

– T-glottalization, in which /t/ is replaced by [ʔ] before a syllabic nasal (e.g. button as [ˈbʊʔən]), in absolute final position (get as [gɛʔ]), and whenever the /t/ is intervocalic so long as the latter vowel is not stressed (pity as [ˈpɪʔi]).

– /æ/ specifically in the words had, have, has and having is pronounced as [ɛ].

– /ɛ/ specifically in words with the spelling “ea” (such as bread and deaf) may be pronounced as [iː].

– /əʊ/ specifically at the ends of words, with the spelling “ow” (such as in throw and follow) is pronounced as [a] in monosyllabic words and [ə] in polysyllabic words (thus, window as [ˈwɪndə]).


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