Why the Sheffield accent is ‘disappearing’, according to experts

Sheffield is losing its unique accent, a new study suggests, with people struggling to tell the difference between speakers from Manchester, Leeds and the Steel City.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 8:15 am
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 8:15 am

Linguistics experts at the University of Manchester say northern accents are becoming more similar and there is a ‘General Northern English’ accent which now exists among educated people in the north.

The study used machine learning to analyse speech patterns of people from major cities in the north.

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Could you tell the difference between a Sheffield accent and one from Leeds or Manchester?

While Liverpool and Newcastle accents were easily distinguishable, researchers found, learners struggled to differentiate between voices from Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

Dr Patrycja Strycharczuk, a lecturer in linguistics and the English language, said: “I often hear statements like 'I'm from Liverpool / Manchester / Sheffield, but I don't have the accent' - however, there is very little systematic evidence that General Northern English really is a coherent variety, so that's the question we asked ourselves.

“It may seem as though local accents are dying out, but we believe we're actually seeing a new variety becoming established - educated, urban and northern.

“I think its prestige has increased, and people are now less tempted to lose their accent if they've been to university or they do a lot of public speaking.”

Researchers found that some traditional features of the dialect were not present, but there were distinctive northern features in the use of short vowels in words like 'glass' and 'bath', and pronouncing 'crux' like 'crooks'.