Photograph of Tynemouth's coastline

Geordie vowel sounds

As with any variety of English, Geordie includes a wide range of speakers – from broad dialect to speakers with only a faint hint of a Tyneside accent. Listen to the range of vowel sounds used by speakers in Newcastle upon Tyne and Tyneside.

The sections below list all the vowel sounds used in a Geordie accent according to lexical set. The phonetician, John Wells, introduced in his book, Accents of English (1982), the concept of using a single word to refer to the pronunciation of a particular group of English words. He calls these word-groups lexical sets and uses a key word, such as KIT, to identify them.

All the possible spellings for words in each group are listed below, alongside the symbol used in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to represent the vowel sound used by speakers with a Geordie accent for words in each set. You will find these IPA symbols in a dictionary where pronunciations of words are included. Click on a sound file to listen to a Geordie speaker using the target vowel.

Listen to the Geordie accent

As with any variety of English, Geordie includes a wide range of speakers – from broad dialect to speakers with only a faint hint of a Tyneside accent. In the table, Broad Geordie refers to pronunciations associated with dialect speakers, while other entries identify pronunciations more common in careful speech or among certain social groups, such as older speakers, the middle classes or females. There are also a number of audio clips that illustrate alternative pronunciations of certain words. Some are restricted to individual words, others are archaic pronunciations that echo earlier forms of English, but nonetheless have survived. Click on the additional links below for examples of words where these alternative pronunciations exist.

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

Lexical set (key word): KIT

Spelling alternatives

king, symphony, note also minute, England

IPA symbol

/ɪ/

Sound file

I’ve seen me dig fifty, sixty yards at, you know


Lexical set (key word): DRESS

Spelling alternatives

pen, bread, any, note also friend, bury, leisure, Geoffrey, says, said and unstressed forms of ate and again

IPA symbol

/ɛ/

Sound file

from there we move up into the West End of Newcastle

See also head etc. below


Lexical set (key word): TRAP

Spelling alternatives

glad, note also timbre, plait

IPA symbol

/a/

Sound file

there was a, an oil tank, I think it was, installed around the back

See also have etc. below


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie TRAP

Spelling alternatives

glad,note also timbre, plait

IPA symbol

/æ/

Sound file

uh, we used to sit on top of the helmet and put our frock over the top and turn the handle


Lexical set (key word): BATH

Spelling alternatives

glass, note also laugh

IPA symbol

/a/

Sound file

and at the top of this little footpath which led to the yard there used to be the bus-stop

See also master etc. below


Lexical set (key word): LOT

Spelling alternatives

dog, want, laurel, note also knowledge, bureaucracy

IPA symbol

/ɒ/

Sound file

but we had mosques, not purpose-built mosques; we've always had, like, places to, to worship, but this was a, a purpose-built mosque


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie LOT

Spelling alternatives

dog, want, laurel, note also knowledge, bureaucracy

IPA symbol

/œ/

Sound file

and, uh, when my mother was a little lassie that was her job to gan away and fetch the cows in for milking at night-time


Lexical set (key word): CLOTH

Spelling alternatives

off, salt, cough, austere

IPA symbol

/ɒ/

Sound file

I don't think the top come off properly


Lexical set (key word): STRUT

Spelling alternatives

cup, brother, double, blood, note also does

IPA symbol

/ʊ/

Sound file

your muscles would pump up, you know and you

See also one etc. and among etc. below.


Lexical set (key word): middle-class Geordie (especially females) STRUT

Spelling alternatives

cup, brother, double, blood, note also does

IPA symbol

/ə/

Sound file

uhm, just up from us are four, uhm, council run emergency housing, and they’re blocks of flats


Lexical set (key word): FOOT

Spelling alternatives

cushion, wood, woman, should, note also Worcester

IPA symbol

/ʊ/

Sound file

they didn’t want me in a gang, unless I was, I had to be really good and prove I was as good as them if not better

See also words ending orthographically in <-ook> below.


Lexical set (key word): FLEECE

Spelling alternatives

keep, bead, scene, machine, piece, receive, note also key, quay, people, phoenix

IPA symbol

/ i:/

Sound file

no, the, the, the peat, it was easy to ignite, but it burnt away quick, so you had to have a good supply of peats


Lexical set (key word): FLEECE (only words with a root that ends in a vowel)

Spelling alternatives

see, sea, note also key, quay

IPA symbol

/ɪi/

Sound file

there was these big trees


Lexical set (key word): NURSE

Spelling alternatives

serve, bird, hurt, learn, work, journey, note also colonel and myrtle

IPA symbol

/ø:/

Sound file

you were the chaff laddie to start with – that was the dirtiest job on the thresher, was the chaff laddie, there’s no doubt about that


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie NURSE

Spelling alternatives

serve, bird, hurt, learn, work, journey, note also colonel and myrtle

IPA symbol

/ɔ:/

Sound file

and the first pint didn't touch the sides, you know, because you were thirsty


Lexical set (key word): PALM

Spelling alternatives

rather, half

IPA symbol

/ɒ:/

Sound file

so you really you can’t appreciate how, how, uh, you know, when you see poor people, you know, how, how they are, how they are feeling

See also father etc. below.


Lexical set (key word): START

Spelling alternatives

barn, heart, clerk, note also French loan words such as reservoir and memoir

IPA symbol

/ɒ:/

Sound file

so we didn’t, we, we didn't actually starve, because we could always go down the allotments and help ourselves


Lexical set (key word): NORTH

Spelling alternatives

cork, door, board, war

IPA symbol

/ɔ:/

Sound file

the corn coming out one end and the chaff and the straw coming out the other

See also words starting orthographically with <wa-> below.


Lexical set (key word): THOUGHT

Spelling alternatives

brought, caught, talk, draw, note also broad, water

IPA symbol

/ɔ:/

Sound file

and then I realised and I thought, ‘Crikey, the people who are in here!’

See also <al-> + consonant and words starting orthographically with <wa-> below.


Lexical set (key word): GOOSE

Spelling alternatives

moon, super, move, glue, fruit, brew, note also shoe and beauty

IPA symbol

/u:/

Sound file

well, as I say, one big living-room, two bedrooms

See also do etc. below.


Lexical set (key word): GOOSE (only words with a root that ends in a vowel)

Spelling alternatives

too, glue, brew, note also shoe

IPA symbol

/ɪʊ/

Sound file

you’ve been through it, but not, and I'll say, ‘Not as bad as yous


Lexical set (key word): FACE

Spelling alternatives

game, tray, plain, reign, they, great, note also gauge, gaol and French loan words such as café, ballet and foyer

IPA symbol

/e:/

Sound file

and of course when you got the chance you weren’t far away from the coast; it didn’t take, you know, them days it took you longer than it does today

See also yesterday etc. below.


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie FACE

Spelling alternatives

game, tray, plain, reign, they, great, note also gauge, gaol and French loan words such as café, ballet and foyer

IPA symbol

/ɪə/

Sound file

and I set the pace, and uh, it was, it was great


Lexical set (key word): GOAT

Spelling alternatives

home, show, boat, toe, note also sew, brooch, mauve and French loan words such as plateau

IPA symbol

/o:/

Sound file

both daughters had left home

See also over and polysyllabic words ending orthographically in <-old> and <-ow> below.


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie (especially older males) GOAT

Spelling alternatives

home, show, boat, toe, note also sew, brooch, mauve and French loan words such as plateau

IPA symbol

/ʊə/

Sound file

I always had the fear that I wasn't ganning to be working, because that was always on the back of your mind: that you were ganning to be on the dole


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie (exclusively males) GOAT

Spelling alternatives

home, show, boat, toe, note also sew, brooch, mauve and French loan words such as plateau

IPA symbol

/ɵ:/

Sound file

everybody had a garden where they used to grow their own supplies and most people kept a few hens


Lexical set (key word): PRICE

Spelling alternatives

mind, lie, shy, night, note also I, eye, buy, either, height, aisle, maestro and German loan words such as zeitgeist

IPA symbol

/ɛɪ/

Sound file

and the bus used to come once in the morning and once at night-time

See also words ending orthographically in <-ight> below.


Lexical set (key word): MOUTH

Spelling alternatives

shout, down

IPA symbol

/əʊ/

Sound file

I think they've got picnic tables in it and that now


Lexical set (key word): contemporary Geordie (especially females) MOUTH

Spelling alternatives

shout, down

IPA symbol

/ɛʉ/

Sound file

when people say, oh there's two-thousand plus or three-thousand plus homeless people in Newcastle


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie (exclusively males) MOUTH

Spelling alternatives

shout, down

IPA symbol

/u:/

Sound file

so down below it, you know, as you gan up the bank, gan over the little bridge, the church is on the right, there's a house stands there, or is it two houses, is that two cottages?


Lexical set (key word): CHOICE

Spelling alternatives

coin, toy, note also buoy

IPA symbol

/ɔɪ/

Sound file

and there was a big boiler, big pot-boiler where you popped the clothes in and boiled them up


Lexical set (key word): NEAR

Spelling alternatives

beer, clear, here, note also weird and words such as brilliant, idea, area, stadium, spaniel, creosote, onion and lascivious

IPA symbol

/ɪa/

Sound file

up here in the north


Lexical set (key word): SQUARE

Spelling alternatives

stare, chair, where, bear, heir, note also aeroplane, mayor, prayer and French loan words such as premiere

IPA symbol

/e:/

Sound file

my grandson, he, he goes up to the comp. up there


Lexical set (key word): broad Geordie SQUARE

Spelling alternatives

stare, chair, where, bear, heir, note also aeroplane, mayor, prayer and French loan words such as premiere

IPA symbol

/ɛa/

Sound file

prayers is important in Islam, because it's, uhm, it's one of the Five Pillars of Islam


Lexical set (key word): CURE

Spelling alternatives

poor, tour, sure

IPA symbol

/ʊa/

Sound file

and it's an honour, I look on it as an honour to feel poor


Geordie pronunciation of weak syllables

Lexical set (key word): happY

Spelling alternatives

happy, beautiful, valley, coffee, bodies, note also yesterday and days of the week such as Monday

IPA symbol

IPA symbol

/i~i:/

Sound file

the special needs are funny

Alternative pronunciations

See also yesterday etc. below


Lexical set (key word): lettER~commA

Spelling alternatives

paper, centre, leisure, colour, doctor, sugar, martyr, zebra

IPA symbol

/a/

Sound file

and in the winter your days are shorter


Lexical set (key word): horsES

Spelling alternatives

3rd person suffix in verbs such as pushes and plural suffix in nouns such as foxes and daisies

IPA symbol

/ə/

Sound file

the, the housewife just tipped all the ashes in there


Lexical set (key word): wastED

Spelling alternatives

past tense marker in verbs such as landed and participial adjectives such as excited

IPA symbol

/ə/

Sound file

then we got a black-and-white television – which we rented


Lexical set (key word): mornING

Spelling alternatives

the present participle suffix in verbs such as reading and writing, on nouns such as morning and ceiling and on pronouns such as something and nothing

IPA symbol

/ə/

Sound file

and then she’d make a nice suet pudding, either apple pudding or blackberry pudding


Lexical set (key word): longEST, chickEN, servICE, mallET, villAGE, massIVE, etc.

Spelling alternatives

the suffix in superlatives such as biggest and adjectives such as active and the final syllable of nouns such as surface, office, cricket, college, sausage, forest and biscuit

IPA symbol

/ə/

Sound files

they come down and, and use the kitchen

so I was allowed to work in the managing director’s office

doesn’t matter how much you’ve got in your pocket

some people kept a rabbit, you know and you could get a rabbit pie and this sort of thing

which was true: I had sausage, black pudding, bacon bones, you know

carrots, little white turnips, beans, peas


Lexical set (key word): CONtinue, COMputer etc.

Spelling alternatives

the prefix in verbs such as complain and confirm, adjectives such as complete and contented and nouns such as component and container

IPA symbol

/ɒ/

Sound file

there's, uh, that thing called scrapie in sheep, which they said may have started BSE, although I'm not convinced


Examples of lexical variation in Geordie

Key word / word group: among etc.

Other examples

the words among and amongst

IPA symbol/sound

[ɒ]

Sound file

there was these big trees and we used to play amongst them


Key word / word group: do etc.

Other examples

the words do, to and who

IPA symbol/sound

[i:]

Sound files

if a horse was doing that I think the RSPCA would, they would have something to say about it

did you get caught? why no, because I mean, oh they, they knew who we were, but they never, they never, ever caught we


Key word / word group: father etc.

Other examples

words such as aunt, father, grandfather and half

IPA symbol/sound

[a]

Sound files

there used to be a, this would be the good room where anybody that, of any importance that came as a guest would be put – mebbies a, a, a favourite auntie or something like that, or, or mebbies, a, a, a special friend

and my grandfather would load up the sledge with hay

but they were always back at half past ten


Key word / word group: have etc.

Other examples

forms of the verb have – had, has, have and having

IPA symbol/sound

[ɛ]

Sound file

‘Oh yes,’ he said, I says, ‘You have had a long run, haven’t you!’


Key word / word group: head etc.

Other examples

nouns such as bread and head and adjectives such as deaf and dead

IPA symbol/sound

[i:]

Sound file

I mean I'm lucky. I've been lucky – dead lucky!


Key word / word group: know etc.

Other examples;

historically also other monosyllabic words ending orthographically in <-ow>, such as blow, snow and throw – nowadays it is restricted to the verb know, especially in the discourse tag, you know

IPA symbol/sound

[a: ~ ɑ:]

Sound file

and I mean, you cannot work like that – at the time I didn’t know: I was too, too thick to realise


Key word / word group: master etc.

Other examples

the words master and plaster

IPA symbol/sound

[ɑ:]

Sound file

if I remember rightly, the headmaster, or the headmistress used to live just below there


Key word / word group: Newcastle

Other examples

stress on medial syllable, not first syllable

Sound file

homeless people in Newcastle


Key word / word group: one etc.

Other examples

the words one, once, none and nothing

IPA symbol/sound

[ɒ]

Sound files

it was amazing – nothing like what you see in 1999, when you’re having your little cruise down the Tyne; nothing like that at all

we got a new gang up there one day

none of the farms had enough men for the thresher, so you helped your neighbours

and about once a week, or whenever it was necessary, uh, the council man would come with his horse and cart


Key word / word group: over etc.

Other examples

the <v> sound is omitted in the word over, reflecting an older regional form, o’er, now only used in dialect or in archaic or poetic texts

IPA symbol/sound

[aʊ]

Sound file

and they would pull the sledge for, oh mebbies about a mile-and-a-half over the back of the hills to where the sheep were


Key word / word group: yesterday etc.

Other examples

yesterday, holiday and days of the week such as Monday

IPA symbol/sound

[ə]

Sound file

I think I used it for about five weeks while that job went on, cause the school was on holiday for the five or six weeks period


Key word / word group: <al-> + consonant

Other examples

words featuring <al-> followed by a consonant, such as the adjectives and adverbs all, almost, altogether and always, verbs such as talk and walk or call and fall and nouns such as ball and wall

IPA symbol/sound

[a:]

Sound files

and that’s all your life was

jobs divven’t always last

they called this the granary

they are putting them right and putting troops into them rather than, uh, than just let them fall down, you know

you know how to talk to them

if there was any kind of sleepwalking to be done they would have to pass the farmer and his wife

and, uh, the walls are crumbling now, but they used to be all plastered


Key word / word group: <-ight>

Other examples;

words ending orthographically in <-ight>, such as light, night, right and sight

IPA symbol/sound

[i:]

Sound file

I got on the bus with them the other night, you know and, uh


Key word / word group: <-old>

Other examples

words ending orthographically in <-old>, such as old, cold and hold

IPA symbol/sound

[a:]

Sound file

so that’s all the one line of buildings: we’ve got the old house and we’ve got the stable where the horse was and we’ve got the byre


Key word / word group: <ook>

Other examples

words ending orthographically in <ook>, such as book, cook, hook, look, took and shook

IPA symbol/sound

[ʏ:]

Sound files

it was all good fun, you could nearly write a book about the threshing days, you could

we cook at the mosque

lots of hooks to, to hang the pans on

they, they built the, the new house in 1961, which looks it’s, like it’s been dropped out of the sky; it doesn’t look natural at all, you know

usually took about a week, you know, one day to do the washing and another day to do the ironing and


Key word / word group: <-ow>

Other examples

polysyllabic words ending orthographically in <-ow>, such as the verbs borrow and follow, adjectives like hollow and yellow and nouns such as arrow and window

IPA symbol/sound

[ə]

Sound files

follow the blue star

and they’re all, all of a similar sort of, uh, sort of thing: uh, it was one room; usually very high windows


Key word / word group: <wa->

Other examples

words starting orthographically with <wa->, such as want, warm, was, wasp, watch, water

IPA symbol/sound

[a] (warm with [a:])

Sound files

and it was lovely and warm

and, uh, the peat would be burning away on the fire and it would mebbies boil a bit of water or make a bit of jam or whatever the ladies was doing at the time, you know

  • 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.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.