Tue. May 17th, 2022

Release Date: October 5, 2021


The debate over whether we are Mancunians or Lancastrians has been raging for decades – but new research suggests that locals actually think there are actually four distinct regional dialects – ‘Manc’, ‘Lancashire’, ‘Wigan’ and ‘posh’. ‘.

The Manchester Voices research project, led by sociolinguists at Manchester Metropolitan University, has examined how people talk across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs and what people think and feel about these ways of talking.

New findings from the project show that people think the ‘Manc’ accent is mainly in Manchester itself, while residents of South Manchester, Trafford and Stockport are more likely to sound ‘posh’.

While residents of the northern boroughs of Bury, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham are characterized as speaking ‘Lancashire’, natives of Wigan are believed to have their own distinctive dialect – and are more likely to catch ‘buz’ or read a ‘bewk’ ‘than their GM neighbors.

Manchester Voices is the most detailed ever research study of its kind and will eventually culminate in a permanent installation in the Manchester Central Library that pays homage to the diversity of the language in the region.

The Manchester Voices research team consists of academics Dr Rob Drummond, Dr Holly Dann, Dr Sadie Ryan and a group of student research assistants, including intern Jack Taylor.

Dr Dann, research assistant at the Manchester Metropolitan said: “This research provides a fascinating insight into the enormous amount of accent and dialect variation between the cities of Greater Manchester. It also suggests that Greater Manchester residents are really good at capturing these differences.

“For example, the results of the dialect mapping task suggested that Wigan is thought to have the most ‘unique’ accent and dialect, whereas Trafford and Stockport sound less local, and this was reflected in our analysis of the spoken data.”

In the first phase of the research, conducted during Covid lockdowns, researchers asked more than 350 people from the region to draw and describe the different accents and dialects on an online map, as well as ask people born and raised in a neighborhood to submit a recording of oneself speaking.

Researchers analyzed the responses by creating heatmaps where the red areas showed where the respondents tagged the different regions.

Locals in Rochdale and Wigan are likely to say 'burr' to 'bear'
Locals in Rochdale and Wigan are likely to say ‘burr’ to ‘bear’

Taylor has analyzed the 80 footage submitted to the project by people who have lived most of their lives in a neighborhood. With a focus on the pronunciation of the words ‘bear’ vs. ‘burr’, ‘book’ vs. ‘bewk’, ‘schools’ vs. ‘skewl’ and ‘bus’ vs. ‘buz’ he found some interesting differences between the districts.

The team has mapped out how these different pronunciation patterns across the region find that:

  • The ‘Bewk’ pronunciation of ‘book’ is most often found in Wigan
  • People are more likely to catch a ‘buz’ in Oldham or Wigan
  • Locals in Rochdale and Wigan are likely to say ‘burr’ to ‘bear’
  • People from all over Greater Manchester sometimes said ‘school’, ‘skew’ or something in between, but Stockport and Trafford respondents were most likely to say ‘school’, and Wiganers said ‘skew’ the most.

Compared to the public perceptions of accents and dialects in Greater Manchester, these findings reflect the suggestion that people in Trafford and Stockport may have less ‘local’ accents and that Wigan is particularly distinctive.

The analysis also suggested that ‘burr’ and ‘bewk’ may diminish over time as younger people – and especially young women – are more likely to say ‘bear’ and ‘book’.

Dr Drummond, a sociolinguistics reader at the Manchester Metropolitan, said: “It just shows how much the way we speak is linked to identity and self-perception. We can see important social differences reflected in the speech patterns we analyze – the distinction between the city center and the surrounding neighborhoods, for example, and generational segregation as well. Of course, we still have more work to do before we can fully understand what these differences mean for people. ”

Residents of the northern boroughs of Bury, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham are characterized as speaking 'Lancashire'
Residents of the northern boroughs of Bury, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham
characterized as speaking ‘Lancashire’

The Manchester Voices research project is still ongoing and the research team still wants to hear from the public to build on these early findings.

They are currently touring the 10 boroughs of Accent Van, a mobile recording station where visitors can climb aboard and be interviewed by a talking computer about accents, dialects and identity in Greater Manchester.

People can also participate from the comfort of their own home by visiting Virtual Accent Van.

Manchester Voices has also revealed the winners of Talking About Voices, a free online project for colleges and A Level students in the Greater Manchester area. In the school year 2020/2021, more than 300 students who learned about language and identity participated, while at the same time learning to make a podcast. They were then invited to make their own short podcast episode about how they speak and how it relates to who they are, and to submit their contribution to the Talking About Voices competition.

Schools and colleges can now sign up for round two of the project by contacting the team.

Dr. Ryan said: “It was great to listen to all the contributions of the competition and they have really helped us understand the language and identity of Greater Manchester from the perspective of the younger generation.

“We look forward to hearing from even more young people in the next round of the competition.”

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