Cardiff accent: Edith talks about community spirit in the old Tiger Bay area of Cardiff



This recording is an example of a Cardiff accent.

Welsh accent

Edith speaks with a recognisable Cardiff accent, but what is it that differentiates her from other speakers from South Wales? Listen, for instance, to the way she pronounces the vowel sounds in the following three sets:

  1. turn, girl, first, work and churches
  2. other, love, up, trumps, nothing, trouble, just, loving, younger, uncle, run, us, doesn’t, mother, come, under, but, done, pubsand much
  3. are, hard and part

The vowel she uses for words in the first set (and indeed the way she pronounces the word here with the same vowel and an initial <y> sound) immediately strikes us as distinctively Welsh, as does her intonation. This is indeed the pronunciation heard across most of Wales, although interestingly many speakers in North East England share a similar vowel for words in this set.

Cardiff accent

If we turn to the second set, most of us can recognise a speaker from northern England by the vowel they use for these words as they generally pronounce it with rounded lips in contrast to speakers in the south, who use a vowel with lips in a more neutral position. Edith here uses a vowel that is neither of these alternatives – a sort of phonetic halfway house between the two opposing forms. This pronunciation is typical of speakers in South Wales, but it is also common in much of western England.

However, the vowel sound Edith uses in words in the third set is restricted to the city of Cardiff itself. This pronunciation is in fact often caricatured as ‘real Kairdiff’ and locals are occasionally mimicked for their stereotypical pronunciation of phrases such as Cardiff Arms Park. It is this combination of features – national, regional and local – that makes the speech of Cardiff distinctive and demonstrates perfectly that there are no absolute accent boundaries, rather that sounds change gradually as one moves from place to place. 

Dialect features

Contrary to popular opinion very few individual dialect features, such as the use of a particular word or a localised pronunciation pattern, are peculiar to a single location. Rather it is the unique combination of a variety of aspects of speech that makes the dialect of a town or area different from elsewhere. The subtle differences might not be immediately apparent to outsiders, but they are extremely important to locals, as they help define who they are in relation to others. The real experts then, are local people who are able to pick up on the subtle differences between speakers from nearby towns and villages.

About the speaker

Edith Rosita Somersall (b.1935/12/15; female, factory worker)



Edith: There's a lot of people that've moved in now from other places. But they are nice people and we've mixed in with them – our generation. But I don't think you could ever find, wherever you went, the love, and the togetherness and the bond. You see we have a bond; we have a bond down here that, uh, whatever happens, we'll still turn up trumps if anybody is sick or if there's a bereavement. I'm not saying that we don't have our little quarrels, but it abounts [sic], it amounts to nothing. Cause when there's trouble, we're all there. We have just now recently lost two loving mem, members from the Bay area from when I was a little girl. They used to call them, or we used to have to call them when we were younger 'uncle' and 'aunty'. There was no first names; everyone was uncle and everyone was aunty. So we've just lost recently one of the old-timers: Aunty Reenie and Uncle Ken. And they were around when I was a little girl in napkins. And they've just recently passed away. They had a nice funeral: we have a big funeral and the majority of the people turn out.

And recently now that I, uh, do a little bit of singing in and out and we have a time at these funerals of loving memories and of loving people. All these great people that we had in the Bay, I used to see them when I was going, going to school. And they were security. Security; you're not afraid to, to run the streets, cause we had all these good people around us. And they would look after us. They would correct us and discipline us. And it doesn't matter whether it was your mother or your father: whoever. And, uh, uh, our generation – not my grandchildren's generation – have come under, come under that rule.

So now as I see the things changes and there will be more changes, I'm here, so most probably I'll be here now until the end of my days. But it's been a grand place for me to grow up in. I've never moved. I've moved to a different district, but I had to come back, because my roots are here now in the Bay. That's what we call it: the Bay, in the docks. And all the things now that they're building over Atlantic Walk and all the, the, the Bay that they talks about, it's not this Bay. This Bay, our Bay, Butetown is in Loudon Square. All that will be for new and for other people. The hard work that was done for us down here were the seamen. And they're all gone now; the majority've all gone. We may have one or two here now, but they have retired.

But what I'd say: our part of the Bay now is all gone, but we still got good memories. So all as I can say is now, that, uh, I've loved my place of growing up: churches, pubs; the pubs were like families. But there is still a little bit of the community left. It might not be too much as it was, but it's still there. And I think it'll, will always be there. You won't be able to remove it. As long as the majority of the Bay people are still living in this area.

Cardiff accent: Edith talks about community spirit in the old Tiger Bay area of Cardiff
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