05 November 2013
'angin in Mancs and rhoticity in Lancs
Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator for Sociolinguistics writes:
This month we've uploaded linguistic descriptions of conversations about local speech in Bury, Coldhurst, Manchester, Oldham and Salford: the set of BBC Voices Recordings made by BBC GMR. The descriptions list the participants' responses to a set of prompt words and, in the case of Coldhurst, Oldham and Salford, also include a summary of the grammar and phonology of the speakers.
I still remember the first time I ever met a Manc - the nickname for Mancunians used here by a Salford student's relatives in Liverpool. October 1983, first week at university and a fellow fresher with roots in Prestwich and the Gujarat informed me the beer in the union bar was angin. Mystified at first I soon learnt that virtually anything of which he disapproved could be dismissed as 'angin' - an iconic Manchester term used with the same enthusiasm thirty years later by these Salford sixth-form students and by Steph Britton in an episode of Coronation Street (25.02.13) earlier this year: olive in a cocktail glass - dead sophis but tastes angin.
As this small set of recordings illustrates, Manchester, like most British cities is a fascinating blend of linguistic continuity and innovation. Take the word vexed [= 'annoyed']. Is it an old-fashioned term, a Lancashire phrase or contemporary urban street vernacular? Well, all of the above, apparently. While the group in Coldhurst associate vexed with older speakers, in Oldham it's considered typical of speech locally and in Lancashire more generally. Two young singers in Bury, however, identify it closely with hip-hop lyrics, and claim they frequently adapt it when rapping to the more elaborate vexated. Just shows you can never categorise a word as solely 'archaic', 'dialect' or 'slang'.
Above all, though, the gradual change in accents as one moves across the Greater Manchester conurbation is what I enjoy most about this corner of the North West. Take a single pronunciation feature: rhoticity. Speakers in the city itself are typically non-rhotic - that is they don't pronounce the /r/ sound after a vowel in words like hard, warm, turn and better. Travel the short distance north to Oldham and beyond into East Lancs and you'll find one of the few places in the north of England where you hear a pronunciation that at one time characterised the whole of the British Isles. As all cricket fans will know, although they're both proud former Lancashire cricketers, there's a huge difference in the way Athers (Failsworth-born former England captain turned commentator Michael Atherton) and Bumble (Accrington-born ex-Lancashire captain turned broadcaster David Lloyd) say start the car.