New study suggests Lancashire accent may vanish within ‘the next few generations’
The 'strong R' could be on its way out.
A once-common feature of the Lancashire accent may end up vanishing “within the next few generations”, a new study has suggested.
If you’ve ever been to or met someone from Blackburn or Darwen, or even the more rural areas to the east of the North West region, then you may be familiar with the Lancashire accent’s distinctive ‘strong R’ sound that can sometimes be heard both within, and at the end of certain words.
Or, maybe you haven’t? Well, if it’s the latter you identify with, then you’re not the only one.
That’s because a new study by researchers at Lancaster University has found that this particular feature of the accent is dying out, and it may even have vanished all together in just a few generations’ time.
The ‘strong R’ – otherwise known as the rhotic R, rhoticity, or a feature of rhotic accents – means that words such as “car”, “park”, and “bird” are said with an emphasis on the R sound in east Lancashire accents, and this is not common among other English accents.
Most English language accent varieties used in England are non-rhotic, which stems from a trend in southeastern England, and was accelerated in the very-late 18th century onwards.
Rhotic accents are still found in the West Country, some parts of the West Midlands and the East Midlands, particularly the Corby area due to migration from Scotland in the 1930s, and, you guessed it, several areas within Lancashire – most notably in towns and villages that are north and west of the centre of Manchester.
Notable Lancastrians with the ‘strong R’ accent feature include comedians Eric Morecambe and Les Dawson, actress Jane Horrocks, and Bullseye presenter Jim Bowen.
The ‘strong R’ rhotic speech feature is prominent among older speakers in Lancashire, and while it can still be heard used by the younger generations nowadays, researchers have noted that it tends to be a much softer sound.
“Accent change is often like a puddle,” explained Dr Danielle Turton, who is one of the authors of the new study.
“It dries up in most places, and leave remnants around the edges.”
Dr Turton’s paper – which is titled ‘An Acoustic Analysis of Rhoticity in Lancashire’, and has been published in the Journal of Phonetics this week – is the first systematic acoustic analysis of a rhotic accent in present-day England, and has ultimately found that the disappearance of the Lancashire accent might be happening “so gradually that people don’t notice it”.
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She continued: “For the youngest speakers in Blackburn, these Rs are very weak, which raises the question of whether future generations will even hear these weak Rs at all, and whether this distinction will eventually fade away.
“In the next few generations, this traditional linguistic feature may be lost.”
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