Location of Cardiff (orange) within Wales

The Cardiff accent, also known as Cardiff English,[1] is the regional accent of English, and a variety of Welsh English, as spoken in and around the city of Cardiff, and is somewhat distinctive in Wales, compared with other Welsh accents.[2] Its pitch is described as somewhat lower than that of Received Pronunciation, whereas its intonation is closer to dialects of England rather than Wales.[3]

It is estimated that around 500,000 people speak Cardiff English. The accent is generally limited to inside the city's northern boundary, rather than the nearby South Wales Valleys where the spoken variety of English is different. However, the accent area spreads east and west of the city's political borders, covering much of the former counties of South Glamorgan and south-west Gwent, including Newport and coastal Monmouthshire.[4][5]

The dialect developed distinctively as the city grew in the nineteenth century, with an influx of migrants from different parts of Britain and further afield. The Cardiff accent and vocabulary has been influenced in particular by those who moved there from the English Midlands, the West Country, other parts of Wales, and Ireland.[6] The Survey of English Dialects did not cover Cardiff but it did survey nearby Newport and six small villages in Monmouthshire.


The formation of the modern Cardiff accent has been cited as having an Irish influence, similar to the influence of Liverpool's Scouse accent, given both cities' status as major world ports.[2] According to a 2005 BBC study, the Cardiff accent, as well as that of Liverpool and East London, is in the process of changing due to the modern influence of immigration on youth, primarily of Arabic and Hindustani influence.[7]

Social variation

Research has shown that there is a great sociolinguistic variation on the Cardiff accent, that is to say, a difference in the way people speak from different social backgrounds in Cardiff. Unsurprisingly, those from a more affluent background generally speak with a less broad accent, closer to that of standard English, compared with people from a working-class background.[1] Thus, the city itself has different dialects, with people from the less affluent eastern and western districts of the city having a stronger and broader accent than those living in the more affluent north Cardiff.

Phonetics and phonology

Cardiff English shares many phonetic traits with the English spoken in the Severnside area of England, but differs in being non-rhotic. A notable characteristic in the accent is the lack of rounding lips when pronouncing consonants and vowels. While in Received Pronunciation, lip-rounding is a common feature to distinguish vowels, in Cardiff English this is not often observed.[8]

The tongue also holds a slightly different shape with people speaking in Cardiff English. The front is rigid and close to the alveolar ridge, while the back is relaxed, creating a large pharyngeal cavity. In continuous speech, the soft palate is also lowered, providing a slight nasal quality. Creaky voice is mainly absent and can only be found in prestigious middle-class varieties as in RP. The vocal folds are tenser than in Received Pronunciation, giving a husky, breathy sound to articulation, with the overall effect of greater resonance, tension and hoarseness makes the accent often thought of as being "harsh" or "unpleasant".[9]

Place names in Cardiff, such as Crwys and Llanedeyrn, may be pronounced in a way which reflects rules of neither Welsh nor English.[6]


Consonants in CE share general similarities to that of Received Pronunciation.[10] Unique characteristics of consonants of this accent include:


Cardiff English monophthongs, from Collins & Mees (1990:93, 95). Depending on the speaker, the long /ɛː/ may be of the same height as the short /ɛ/.[23]

The accent is non-rhotic, in other words the /r/ is only pronounced before a vowel. Much like RP, linking and intrusive R is present in Cardiff English, such as in drawing [ˈdɹʌːɹɪn] or draw attention [ˈdɹʌːɹ əˈtɛnʃn̩].[21][13]

Unlike the consonants, CE's vowels are significantly different from Received Pronunciation. Many vowels in this accent have a more centralised articulation, as well as the starting points of most diphthongs, as seen below. Like mentioned above, at least the broad varieties seem to lack labialisation.[9] However, if they are labialised, they are articulated with tight lips.[20]


Monophthongs of CE[24][25]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long long short short long
Close ɪ ɤ
Mid ɛ ɛː øː ə ʌː
Open a ɑ


Cardiff English diphthongs, from Collins & Mees (1990:97)

According to Collins & Mees (1990:92–93), the diphthongs in CE are /ei, əu, əi, ʌu, ʌi/, corresponding to FACE, GOAT, PRICE, MOUTH and CHOICE respectively. Coupland (1988:25) transcribes /ei, əu, ʌu/ with eː, oː, əu. Speakers also exhibit both the pane–pain and toe–tow merger, which contrasts with some other southern Welsh varieties.[41] Centring diphthongs such as NEAR and CURE do not exist and often correspond to disyllabic sequences /iːə/ and /uːə/ (see below for details).[25]

The sequence /juː/, when not coalesced in words like nude or you is /ɪu/ like many other Welsh accents.[30] However, CE has lost the distinction in environments where /j/ cannot proceed certain consonants in RP that can in other Welsh accents as /ɪu/, such as juice or crew.[31]

Centring diphthongs do not exist. RP NEAR is mostly a disyllabic sequence /iːə/. In a handful of words (near, mere, year, ear, here and hear) and their derivatives, the pronunciation may be either /iːə/ or /jøː/. It is not unusual to hear the last four words all pronounced as /jøː/. Before /r/ and /l/, the pronunciation is monophthongal /iː/, where RP would actually have /ɪə/.[44][25]

RP CURE vowel is either a disyllabic sequence /uːə/ or merges with the THOUGHT vowel /ʌː/.[45] THOUGHT almost always replaces the word sure; when after consonant + /j/ (such as cure or pure), the use of THOUGHT increases by class status. However, when without /j/ (such as insure or tour), the upper middle class would use the THOUGHT vowel less compared to other classes.[30]

Furthermore, Cardiff English does not have smoothing, unlike RP, which is like other Welsh accents. Examples include buying and tower as [ˈbəi(j)ɪn] and [ˈtʌu(w)ə].[43] However, a notable exception exists with our being pronounced as [aː].[25]


The intonation of Cardiff English is generally closer to English accents rather than Welsh, but with a wider pitch range than in Received Pronunciation. Nevertheless, the average pitch is lower than other South Wales accents and RP. High rising terminal is also what characterises the dialect from RP, as well as consistency in intonation with strong expression; such as annoyance, excitement and emphasis.[46]

Assimilation and elision

Like RP and a lot of other English dialects, Cardiff English is prone to constant assimilation and elision. It is the consistency and use of assimilation, even when speaking slowly, distinguishes CE from other English accents. It should also be noted that patterns found in other South Wales dialects are not found in Cardiff and instead is influenced by British accents.[43]


Many of the grammatical features below are influenced from south-western dialects of England, particularly sharing with the dialect of Reading.[48] Non-standard forms when associated with Cardiff often have a negative reaction since most dialects in Wales are influenced by Welsh.[49]


Cardiff generally shares its vocabulary with south-west Wales, although a lot of its naturalised vocabulary as well as Welsh loanwords from the area are lost and unrecognisable in Cardiff, specifically farming terms, which use is sparse in the city.[54][55]

Nevertheless, these terms are still present to some degree in Cardiff:

Notable speakers

The accent can be heard in varying degrees in the voices of Frank Hennessy, Charlotte Church, Colin Jackson, Craig Bellamy and Stan Stennett.[2]


A common first reaction to the accent is often that it is scarcely different from what is considered a "proper Welsh accent", which is usually seen by most outside Wales as being the variety spoken in the South Wales Valleys. The accent is also sufficiently distinct from standard English that researchers from the University of Birmingham have carried out research on the accent in an effort to improve speech recognition software.[35]

The former Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan pointed out in a pamphlet of Cardiff that having a strong Cardiff accent has long been an issue of class, recalling how teachers at a Cardiff high school prepared pupils for the middle class professions by reciting: "Hark, hark the lark In Cardiff Arms Park!"[2]

In a survey, carried out by the BBC, Welsh accents are among the least popular accents in the UK. However, the Cardiff accent was rated higher than that of nearby Swansea.[57]

In the 1960s, Gwyn Thomas, a Valleys man, described the speech of Cardiffians in the following way:[58]

The speaking voices of this city fascinate. The immigrant half, the visitors from the hills, speak with a singing intonation, as if every sentence is half-way into oratorio, the vowels as broad as their shoulders. The Cardiff speech, a compound of the native dialect and a brand of High Bristolian, gives an impression of a wordly hardness. They speak of 'Cairdiff', 'Cathays Pairk', and for a long time it is not amiable to the ear. There is an edge of implied superiority in it to the rather innocent and guiless openness of the valley-speech.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bolton & Kachru (2006).
  2. ^ a b c d BBC (August 2009). "Real Kairdiff". BBC – South East Wales Voices. BBC. Archived from the original on 19 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Collins & Mees (1990), p. 99.
  4. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), p. 87.
  5. ^ Lewis, Jack Windsor. "The Roots of Cardiff English". Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Carney, Rachel (16 December 2010). "A Cardiff Story: A migrant city". The Guardian Cardiff. Cardiff. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  7. ^ "East End Cockney accent 'fading'". BBC News. UK. 22 August 2005. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  8. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 87–88.
  9. ^ a b Collins & Mees (1990), p. 88.
  10. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (1990), p. 89.
  11. ^ a b Coupland (1988), p. 31.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Collins & Mees (1990), p. 90.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Collins & Mees (1990), p. 91.
  14. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 88, 91.
  15. ^ a b c d e Coupland (1988), p. 29.
  16. ^ Coupland (1988), p. 57.
  17. ^ Coupland (1988), p. 58.
  18. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), p. 30.
  19. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 390.
  20. ^ a b c d e Collins & Mees (1990), p. 92.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Coupland (1988), p. 30.
  22. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 88, 92.
  23. ^ a b c Collins & Mees (1990), p. 95.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h Coupland (1988), p. 25.
  25. ^ a b c d e Collins & Mees (1990), p. 93.
  26. ^ Coupland (1988), p. 26, citing Wells (1982)
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Collins & Mees (1990), p. 94.
  28. ^ Wells (1982), p. 386.
  29. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 91, 94.
  30. ^ a b c Coupland (1988), p. 26.
  31. ^ a b Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 88, 95.
  32. ^ Wells (1982), p. 134.
  33. ^ Coupland (1988), pp. 26–27, citing Wells (1982), p. 373
  34. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 95–96.
  35. ^ a b c "Computers to learn Cardiff accent". BBC News | UK | Wales. UK. 30 March 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  36. ^ Wells (1982), p. 381.
  37. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 93–94.
  38. ^ Coupland (1988), pp. 28–29.
  39. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), p. 96.
  40. ^ Wells (1982), p. 387.
  41. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (1990), p. 97.
  42. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 96–97.
  43. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (1990), p. 98.
  44. ^ Coupland (1988), p. 26, citing Mees (1983), pp. 67–68
  45. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 92, 98.
  46. ^ Collins & Mees (1990), pp. 99–101.
  47. ^ a b c Coupland (1988), p. 36.
  48. ^ Coupland (1988), p. 33.
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h Coupland (1988), p. 35.
  50. ^ a b c d Coupland (1988), p. 34.
  51. ^ Coupland (1988), pp. 34–35.
  52. ^ a b Coupland (1988), p. 37.
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h Coupland (1988), p. 39.
  54. ^ a b c Coupland (1988), p. 38.
  55. ^ Bolton & Kachru (2006), p. 333.
  56. ^ Coupland (1988), pp. 39–40.
  57. ^ "Welsh proud of 'unpopular' accent". BBC News | UK | Wales. UK. 17 January 2005. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  58. ^ "The Language of Cardiff". British Isles: Past and Present. Island Guide. Retrieved 8 April 2010.


Further reading

  • Cheshire, Jenny (1984), Horvath, Barbara M. (ed.), "Variations in an English Dialect: A Sociolinguistic Study", Language in Society, Cambridge University Press, 13 (2): 259–262, JSTOR 4167523
  • Penhallurick, Robert (2004), "Welsh English: phonology, Vol. 1: Phonology", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 98–112, ISBN 3-11-017532-0
  • Windsor Lewis, Jack (1990), "The Roots of Cardiff English", in Coupland, Nikolas; Thomas, Alan Richard (eds.), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd., pp. 105–108, ISBN 1-85359-032-0
  • Windsor Lewis, Jack (1990), "Transcribed Specimen of Cardiff English", in Coupland, Nikolas; Thomas, Alan Richard (eds.), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Multilingual Matters Ltd., p. 104, ISBN 1-85359-032-0