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Mancunian (or Manc) is the accent and dialect spoken in the majority of Manchester, North West England, and some of its environs. It is also given to the name of the people who live in the city of Manchester.
Throughout the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, speech in Manchester was considered part of the Lancashire dialect. Many of the dialect poets of the 19th century came from Manchester and the surrounding area. In the early 20th century, the Manchester Ballads featured Lancashire dialect extensively. As many of the traditional dialect features have died out in Manchester, it has been seen by some in recent years as a separate dialect. In Peter Trudgill's book The Dialects of England, it was classified as part of the "Northwest Midlands" dialect region.
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. Also, later rock bands such as Oasis, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses had distinct Manchester accents.
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. 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 in /ˈkɪŋɡ, ˈrɪŋɡ, ˈsɪŋɡ/, 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/.
Starting in September 2019, a team at Manchester Metropolitan University under Rob Drummond has been investing accents, dialects and identities across Greater Manchester, with an "Accent Van" going around the area to interview residents. Results are due in Spring 2022. Speaking on BBC Radio Manchester on 25 March 2021, Rob Drummond said that the area had a particularly broad range of dialects as a result of migrations of people from different areas of the country and the world to specific locations.
The Manchester accent is relatively localised, and is usually found in Greater Manchester including the cities of Salford and Manchester and also in adjoining parts of the boroughs of Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, 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 Bolton, Oldham and Wigan 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 Mancunian accent, albeit somewhat modified by his upbringing in Marple and his Cambridge education. Salford poet John Cooper Clarke is another 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 Longsight-born actor John Thaw) is a Mancunian with an accent heavily modified by years of living in London. Another example of a 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 (a fictionalised version of Salford), 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). The West Sussex-raised British actress, Jane Leeves, portrayed the character of Daphne Moon, a Manchester emigrant to Seattle with a supposed Mancunian accent which was actually much closer to a broad Lancashire dialect, in the American sitcom Frasier.
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[clarification needed] of vowel sounds when compared to the flattened[clarification needed] 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. More recent research has found that /t/ most often undergoes full glottal replacement, being realised as a glottal stop [ʔ] rather than as an alveolar plosive with glottal fortification [ʔt], in a process known as t-glottalisation.
H-dropping, i.e. the omission of the sound /h/ (e.g. pronouncing head as [ɛd] rather than [hɛd]), is common in speakers of Manchester English, especially among the working class population. Th-fronting, i.e. pronouncing the dental fricatives /θ, ð/ as labio-dental [f, v] (e.g. pronouncing both three and free as free), is also found in Manchester, especially in younger speakers and among working class men.
Manchester English has also been described as having so-called "dark" (i.e. velarised) /l/ in both onset and coda position (i.e. at the beginning and end of a syllable, e.g. in leap and peel), though some speakers may still have a less dark onset than coda /l/.
Like all Northern English 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 of England).
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 English 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.
Another notable aspect of the phonology of Manchester English is "velar nasal plus" or the retention of [ɡ] after [ŋ] (where it has been lost in almost all other modern varieties of English), such that the words singer and finger rhyme for Manchester speakers, both having a medial [ŋɡ] cluster. Word-final ng clusters likewise often retain the plosive (or are otherwise reduced simply to [n] or sometimes [ŋ]), especially before a pause, where ejective [kʼ] is not an uncommon allophone.
Here are some of Mancunian's most notable dialectical words, phrases and sayings. These are not used by the entire population:
- hanging – nasty, disgusting (e.g. 'Karl is hanging')
- buzzing – extremely happy
- dead – an emphasis marker (e.g. 'dead busy' and 'dead friendly'.)
- the dibble – refers to the police
- gaff – a residence, house or flat
- ginnel – an alleyway, especially when passing beneath a building
- madferit (Mad for it) – 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 and Newcastle)
- scrote – refers to someone worthless or unpleasant; a low-life (Short for scrotum).
- sorted – okay/dealt with (Sorted out)
- 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".
- Crosby, Alan (2000). The Lancashire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore. p. xiv.
- "Music Matters: Lancashire dialect in song". BBC Radio 3. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Trudgill, Peter (2000). The Dialects of England. Wiley. ISBN 0631218157.
- 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.
- "Manchester Voices". Manchester Metropolitan University. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
- "Anna James - David Scott sits in". BBC Radio Manchester. 25 March 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
- Lodge (1978), p. 70.
- Wells (1970), p. 247.
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- Slater, Chris (6 October 2016). "Nice one Argh Kid! National Poetry Day goes proper Manc". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
- Bailey, George (2018), "Emerging from below the social radar: Incipient evaluation in the North West of England", Journal of Sociolinguistics, 23 (1): 3–28, doi:10.1111/josl.12307
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- Baranowski, Maciej; Turton, Danielle (2015), "Manchester English", in Raymond, Hickey (ed.), Researching Northern English, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, ISBN 978-90-272-6767-2
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