School Of British Accents: The Yorkshire Accent

Yorkshire is home to one of the UK’s most-loved accents, but mastering it is no mean feat!

Yorkshire: a place where your mush can be reight mardy (translation: your friend can be in a bit of a bad mood). A county in northern England, Yorkshire encompasses the cities of Leeds, York, Hull and Wakefield. The history of the county extends thousands of years back, and it’s this long ancestry that has made the Yorkshire accent one of the most distinctive in the country.

The Origins Of The Yorkshire Accent

As with all English dialects, the origins of this particular one can be traced back to the Saxon Era. However, as a dialect from the North of England, there was also considerable influence from the Vikings, who settled heavily in this region, incorporating the area that constitutes modern-day Yorkshire into the Danish-ruled region Danelaw.

The Yorkshire dialect arguably contains some of the most obvious traces of Old English out of any British dialect. Anyone not familiar with it might be rather confused by two words which crop up frequently: owt and nowt. No, these aren’t noises you make when you accidentally walk into a door on your way out of the pub, rather the Yorkshire variants of “anything” and “nothing” respectively. Seems a bit, well, foreign? Not when you compare them with the Old English a wiht and ne wiht

Which Famous Folk Speak With A Yorkshire Accent?

Popular culture is peppered with examples of Yorkshire-accented speakers. A famous example is the band Arctic Monkeys, who hail from Sheffield. While the Yorkshire accent doesn’t come through very strongly in their music, you only have to listen to an interview with band member Alex Turner to hear it.

The Yorkshire accent, like many regional accents, is also often the butt of some jokes. If you’re looking for more light-hearted examples of authentic Yorkshire-speak, then you can’t go wrong with the famous Monty Python The Four Yorkshiremen sketch or this over-the-top homage to the Yorkshire dialect from Michael McIntyre.

Sound Like A Yorkshire Native

The first thing you should work on is how to pronounce the vowel a. Rather than the long a sound common in Southern England, pronounced as if it were followed by an r, if you want to sound like a proper Yorkshire native, then you should opt for a short and sweet a sound, and practise saying “bath” and “grass” until you’ve perfected it.

Next, chuck “the” out of your vocabulary. No more definite articles! “The” is often shortened to simply “t’,” essentially becoming a glottal stop. This is also true of other single syllable words that start with “t.” For example, if you were really proud of yourself, then rather than saying “I’m very proud of myself,” you could instead employ the Yorkshire phrase “I’m chuffed t’bits!” (notice how the word “to” has been shortened to “t'”).

Yorkshire Phrases (For A Night Out In Leeds)

“How do?”

Translation: “How are you?”

Usage: This is the perfect phrase to use when you enter a pub and are desperate to make a great first impression on the barman in order that he serves you quickly and lets you sit in “old Jack’s seat” next to the fire. To sound even more authentic, get rid of the “h” and make it simply “‘ow do?”

“Put wood in’t hole!”

Translation: “Slam the door on them!”

Usage: For when someone mocks your excellent Yorkshire pudding making skills, or accuses you of being from Lancashire.

“Everyone’s been faffing me around.”

Translation: “Everyone has been messing me around.”

Usage: When your mates turn up late to meet you, can’t decide on which pub to go to, and then spend 10 minutes at the bar “hmmmming” and “arggghing” trying to decide which drink they want!

This article was originally published on November 30, 2016. It has been updated.

By 'eck! I want to learn a new language.
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David Sumner
David Sumner hails from a small seaside town in Devon (the part of England that's so rural it puts Tolkien's Shire to shame), and he's been living in Berlin since 2010. After completing a Master's Degree in Politics at the University of Potsdam he got the itch to join Babbel and share his insights into learning languages. When he's not living the kebab-fueled Berlin dream he's rocking out to Icelandic keyboard rock, playing the drums, and escaping to the Alps every chance he gets.
David Sumner hails from a small seaside town in Devon (the part of England that's so rural it puts Tolkien's Shire to shame), and he's been living in Berlin since 2010. After completing a Master's Degree in Politics at the University of Potsdam he got the itch to join Babbel and share his insights into learning languages. When he's not living the kebab-fueled Berlin dream he's rocking out to Icelandic keyboard rock, playing the drums, and escaping to the Alps every chance he gets.

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