Photograph of promenade in Whitley Bay

Geordie connected speech processes

Some words are pronounced differently in isolation than in continuous speech – a phenomenon known as a connected speech process. Listen to examples of typical connected speech processes associated with speakers in Newcastle upon Tyne and Tyneside.

We all adjust the way we pronounce certain sounds in connected speech. For example, we pronounce the final consonant in the word ten with a <n> sound, but use a <m> sound for the same consonant in the phrase ten pence. We are generally unaware that we are making this adjustment as it does not impede understanding. We use a <m > sound because our lips are preparing for the <p> in pence – it eases the process of moving from one sound to another. Such phenomena are known as connected speech processes and they occur naturally whenever we speak in utterances of more than one syllable.

Listen to examples

Most connected speech processes in English are unimportant when differentiating between accents – speakers of all accents convert a <n> to a <m> sound in the phrase ten pence, for instance. But some are of interest. The sections below list connected speech processes associated with a Geordie accent. Each feature is accompanied by a brief explanation, as well as a description of when you might hear this alternative pronunciation. Click on the sound files to listen to a Geordie using various features. Use the additional links to hear recordings of speakers who share the same pronunciation.

(All sound files © BBC. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.) 

Pronunciation feature: T-to-R

Definition 

a word-final <t> is pronounced like a <r> sound in a restricted set of common verbs (e.g. get, got, let, put, shut) and non-lexical words (e.g. but, lot, not, that, what) or word-internally with words such as getting, letting, putting and matter

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

when <t> occurs between vowels in a small set of common verbs such as getting and putting and across word boundaries in phrases such as get off and shut up and non-lexical words (e.g. lot of, what if) and even in extreme cases with the noun matter, as in the phrase what’s the matter with you, the pronoun whatever and the phonologically conjoined phrase got to

there’s a lot of people go there – to the woods

we’re not allowed them really

pour it through muslin, got all the juice out, and then make us a nice pan of broth out of, uhm, out of marrowbones

people of Whickham will know what I mean

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: zero linking R

Definition 

<r> is not pronounced at a word boundary between vowels

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

when <r> occurs at the end of a word and preceding a word that starts with a vowel in phrases such as car alarm, four iron and there is

mean, you’re always calling each other and we used to gan in the bar and get drunk, you know

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: V-epenthesis

Definition 

<v> sound appears as the final consonant in some prepositions preceding a word that starts with a vowel

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

a word boundary when the prepositions by, to, into and onto (tae, in tae and on tae in traditional dialect) precede a word that starts with a vowel, as in put it intiv a tin. Also very occasionally in broad dialect a <v> sound is substituted for the final consonant in the prepositions in, with and from (frae in traditional dialect)

used to get dropped off, off the bus in the mornings, while they went away tiv another job

was half-way up the street to the tap: great, big tap wiv a big ear

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: preposition reduction

Definition 

the final consonant of some prepositions is deleted preceding a word that starts with a consonant

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

at a word boundary when the preposition with precedes a word that starts with a consonant, as in wi’ bread and butter, also very occasionally in broad dialect the final consonant is omitted in the prepositions in and from (frae in traditional dialect)

and you walked away like that, with your buckets full of water

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: unstressed personal and possessive pronouns

Definition 

certain pronouns, when unstressed, are pronounced with a reduced vowel

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

the personal pronouns, I, they and we and the possessive pronouns my and our (wor in traditional dialect) are pronounced with a long vowel when they receive prominent stress, but are pronounced with an extremely weak vowel when in an unstressed position

remember my childhood well, because when I used to go to the butchers with this shilling, I come back and I could hardly carry all this stuff

I’m still doing it

used to go with my cousin, my cousin’s wife

they were trees – they weren’t bushes, they were trees

bought our own house

we had friends around the, we used to say round the corner

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: adjective + unstressed one

Definition 

when the pronoun one is unstressed and preceded by an adjective it is pronounced with an extremely weak vowel

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

as in the phrase big ’un

I love working with young ones, like

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: definite article + vowel

Definition 

the definite article is pronounced with a reduced vowel preceding a word that starts with a vowel

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

in most English accents the definite article is pronounced with a relatively strong vowel preceding a word that starts with a vowel, as in the apple, and a weak vowel preceding a word that starts with a consonant, as in the pear – speakers with a Geordie accent frequently use a weak vowel in both cases

I’ve lived here ever since, other than the six years I was in the army during the war

Recordings where this feature also occurs


Pronunciation feature: polysyllabic adjectives and nouns ending in <-ly ~ -ry>

Definition 

the penultimate syllable is frequently deleted in polysyllabic adjectives and nouns ending with the suffix <-ly ~ -ry>

Circumstances where this feature is particularly noticeable

such as family, history, properly and usually

we’ve actually got about seven people that are sleeping rough

say to the lads, ‘I’ve got a pipe leading from the brewery into the office’

  • Jonnie Robinson
  • Jonnie Robinson is Lead Curator for Spoken English at the British Library. He has worked on two nationwide surveys of regional speech, the Survey of English Dialects and BBC Voices, and is on the editorial team for the journal English Today. In 2010/11 he co-curated the British Library exhibition Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. His latest publication Evolving English WordBank: a glossary of present-day English dialect and slang (2015) draws on sound recordings made by visitors to the exhibition.

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