The many different terrific dialects of British English PART II

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the-different-dialects-of-british-english-part-ii

It’s almost impossible to analyze every single dialect of British English. Many of them are hard to understand and don’t even sound ‘English.’ The reason is that the UK is not only rich in a variety of dialects but also in numerous languages, most of which are on the verge of going extinct. Nevertheless, some have left behind distinct linguistic features that are strong enough to influence the current language and its dialects.

Welsh 

Wales is much known for its unique Celtic language, Welsh, spoken by at least a quarter of the population. Although the English language still plays the dominant role, the Welsh dialect of English has been, in most part, shaped by the Cymraeg language. 

The very first thing that I associate with Welsh English is the rolled ‘r’. Another striking difference is the shortening of the diphthong ‘ei’ to ‘e’ like in ‘famous,’ for example. H-dropping occurs pretty often, while the sound of the letter ‘i’ is substituted with the schwa sound. 

Typical Welsh words used in everyday conversations that make this dialect stand out even more, are ‘cwtch’ (pronounced as ‘cutch’) which means ‘hug,’ ‘butty’ is a ‘friend,’ while ‘daps’ are ‘shoes.’ 

Irish 

Just like the Welsh people, the Irish have a native and sadly endangered language as well. Nothing is lost, however, as the Irish Gaelic made sure to leave its impact on the English dialect spoken in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. You will easily recognize it as it’s quite the opposite of the dialect used in England. 

To illustrate, Irish English puts a ton of emphasis on the letter ‘r,’ making it a rhotic dialect. In other words, Irish speakers stress the ‘r’ a lot more than any other letter, unlike British speakers who intend not to pronounce ‘r,’ especially at the end of a word. Furthermore, speakers from England pronounce the sound ‘th’ very clearly, while Irish people make it sound like ‘d’ (‘then’ is pronounced as ‘den’). The most noticeable feature of Irish English, nevertheless, is the very distinguishable rising intonation when ending a sentence. 

The Irish Gaelic has heavily influenced Irish English in terms of grammar and vocabulary as well. For example, in some cases when Present Perfect is used, the past participle of the verb doesn’t follow the auxiliary, but it stands at the end of the sentence, resembling the German past tense Perfekt (e.g., I have a letter written.). The adverb ‘after’ substitutes ‘just’, and it is not uncommon for sentences to start with ‘it was.’ 

When it comes to vocabulary, Irish English has a unique range of words among which: ‘yoke’ which refers to ‘a thing,’ ‘pure’ is used as an intensifier and has the same meaning as ‘very,’ ‘wee’ stands for ‘small,’ while ‘aye’ and naw’ substitute ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ But nothing sounds more Irish than ‘What’s the craic’ (pronounced as ‘crack’) which translates to ‘what’s up.’ 

Scottish 

The land of bagpipes and whiskey, the home of William Wallace and the Loch Ness monster, Scotland, has been blessed with not one but two indigenous languages, Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Both of these, unfortunately, just like the Welsh and Irish Gaelic, have been overshadowed by English. The good thing is, however, that Scotland’s native languages are still being kept alive through Scottish English. 

Just like in Irish English, this dialect also loves to roll its R’s. The letter ‘t’ is omitted (thus, ‘water’ becomes ‘wa’er’). And most importantly, vowels in words are pronounced as long as possible. For instance, ‘boat’ becomes ‘boot’ and ‘face’ becomes ‘fees.’ 

Scotticisms are also worth mentioning as they represent unique words and expressions that characterize this dialect: 

You’re looking peely-wally = You are looking pale. 

A dinnae ken. = I don’t know. 

Whaur dae ye bide? = Where do you live? 

Bairn = child 

Lassy = girl 

How no? = Why not? 

What a dreich day! = What a gloomy, miserable day. (Usually associated with the weather.) 

Received pronunciation 

In comparison to all the dialects mentioned above, received pronunciation is not related to any specific region, but rather to a specific social class or, more particularly, to wealth. Many also call it the Queen’s English, which pretty much explains why it is used only by people belonging to a certain social group. Besides being spoken by the royal family, RP is also used in broadcast, dictionaries, and especially when teaching English as a foreign language. Thus, this dialect is known as Standard English as well. 

There are numerous features of RP, most of which I can’t recognize in a speech. However, the most common one must be the trap-bath-split, meaning that words such as ‘path, ’laugh,’ ‘bath’ are pronounced with a long ‘a’ instead with the sound ‘ae.’ Moreover, when ‘y’ stands at the end of a word (as in city, very, really) is pronounced as ‘eh’ rather than ‘i.’ On the other hand, the letter ‘r’ is usually not pronounced at all when found at the very end of a word. 

Check out the rest of the dialects here.

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