Yorkshire Dialect
Native toEngland
Early forms
Old English (Northumbrian)
  • Northern Middle English
    • Early Modern Northern English
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Yorkshire UK 1851 locator map.svg
Location of Yorkshire within England
Coordinates: 54°N 2°W / 54°N 2°W / 54; -2Coordinates: 54°N 2°W / 54°N 2°W / 54; -2
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The Yorkshire dialect (also known as Broad Yorkshire, Tyke, Yorkie or Yorkshire English) is a dialect of English, or continuum of dialects, spoken in the Yorkshire region of Northern England.[1] The dialect has roots in Old English and is influenced by Old Norse. The Yorkshire dialect has faded and faces extinction,[2][3] but organisations such as The Yorkshire Dialect Society and the East Riding Dialect Society exist to promote its use.

The dialect has been represented in classic works of literature such as Wuthering Heights, Nicholas Nickleby and The Secret Garden, and linguists have documented variations of the dialect since the nineteenth century. In middle of the twentieth century, the Survey of English Dialects collected dozens of valuable recordings of authentic Yorkshire dialects.

Early history and written accounts

In the fragments of early dialect work, there seems to have been few distinctions across large areas: in the early 14th century, the traditional Northumbrian dialect of Yorkshire showed few differences with the dialect spoken at Aberdeen, now often considered a separate Scots language.[4][5] The dialect has been widely studied since the 19th century, with an early work by William Stott Banks in 1865 on the dialect of Wakefield,[6] and another by Joseph Wright who used an early form of phonetic notation in a description of the dialect of Windhill, near Bradford.[7] Significant works that covered all of England include the works of Alexander John Ellis in the mid and late 19th Century, the English Dialect Dictionary around the turn of the 20th century.

Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) are notable nineteenth century works of literature which include examples of contemporary Yorkshire dialects. The following is an excerpt of Brontë's use of Yorkshire dialect in Wuthering Heights, with a translation to standard English below:

'Aw wonder how yah can faishion to stand thear i' idleness un war, when all on 'ems goan out! Bud yah're a nowt, and it's no use talking—yah'll niver mend o'yer ill ways, but goa raight to t' divil, like yer mother afore ye!'

'I wonder how you can stand there in idleness and worse, when all of them have gone out! But you're a nobody, and it's no use talking—you'll never mend your evil ways, but go straight to the Devil, like your mother before you!'

Geographic distribution

Yorkshire is a massive territory and the dialects are not identical in all areas. In fact, the dialects in the North and East Ridings are fairly different to that of the West Riding as they retained the original Northumbrian characteristics.[8] The Yorkshire Dialect Society draws a border roughly at the River Wharfe between two main zones. The area southwest of the river is Northumbrian in origin, but with influence from the East Midlands dialects since the industrial revolution, whilst that to the northeast, like Geordie, the Cumbrian dialect and the Scots language, is descended more purely from the Northumbrian dialect. The distinction was first made by A. J. Ellis in On Early English Pronunciation.[notes 1] The division was approved of by Joseph Wright, the founder of the Yorkshire Dialect Society and the author of the English Dialect Dictionary. Investigations at village level by the dialect analysts Stead (1906), Sheard (1945) and Rohrer (1950) mapped a border between the two areas.[9] A rough border between the two areas was mapped by the Swiss linguist Fritz Rohrer, having undertaken village-based research in areas indicated by previous statements by Richard Stead and J.A. Sheard, although there were "buffer areas" in which a mixed dialect was used, such as a large area between Leeds and Ripon, and also at Whitgift, near Goole.[10]

One report explains the geographic difference in detail:[11]

This distinction was first recognised formally at the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries, when linguists drew an isophone diagonally across the county from the northwest to the southeast, separating these two broadly distinguishable ways of speaking. It can be extended westwards through Lancashire to the estuary of the River Lune, and is sometimes called the Humber-Lune Line. Strictly speaking, the dialects spoken south and west of this isophone are Midland dialects, whereas the dialects spoken north and east of it are truly Northern. It is possible that the Midland influence came up into the region with people migrating towards the manufacturing districts of the West Riding during the Industrial Revolution.

Over time, speech has become closer to Standard English and some of the features that once distinguished one town from another have disappeared. In 1945, J. A. Sheard predicted that various influences "will probably result in the production of a standard West Riding dialect", and K. M. Petyt found in 1985 that "such a situation is at least very nearly in existence".[12] However, the accent of Hull and East Yorkshire remains markedly different. The accent of the Middlesbrough area has some similarities with Geordie accents.[13]

One anomalous case in the West Riding is Royston, which absorbed migrants from the Black Country at the end of the 19th century. The speech of Royston contrasts with that of nearby Barnsley, as it retains some Black Country features.[14][15]

Authentic recordings

The Survey of English Dialects in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s recorded over 30 examples of authentic Yorkshire dialects which can be heard online via the British Library Sound Archive.[16] Below is a selection of recordings from this archive:


Some features of Yorkshire pronunciation are general features of northern English accents. Many of them are listed in the northern English accents section on the English English page.


Due to dialect levelling however, these sounds were merged into the modern monophthong [oː], [ɔː] and [ɵː] (east riding) by the 1950s.

The following features are recessive or even extinct, generally they’re less common amongst younger than older speakers in modern Yorkshire:


Some consonant changes amongst the younger generation are typical of younger speakers across England, but are not part of the traditional dialect:[52]

The following are typical of the older generation:


At the time of the Survey of English Dialects, most dialects in Yorkshire were non-rhotic, but full rhoticity could be found in Swaledale, Lonsdale, Ribblesdale, and the rural area west of Halifax and Huddersfield.[51] In addition, the dialects on the east coast of Yorkshire retained rhoticity when /r/ was in final position but not in pre-consonantal position.[51] A 1981 MA study found that rhoticity persisted in the towns of Hebden Bridge, Lumbutts and Todmorden in Upper Calderdale.[56]

Rhoticity seems to have been more widespread in Yorkshire in the late 19th and early 20th century: for example, the Wakefield dialect was marked as rhotic in the works of AJ Ellis and the recording of a prisoner of war from Wakefield in the Berliner Lautarchiv displayed rhotic speech, but Wakefield dialect now is firmly non-rhotic.[57]

Further information

These features can be found in the English Accents and Dialects collection on the British Library website. This website features samples of Yorkshire (and elsewhere in England) speech in wma format, with annotations on phonology with X-SAMPA phonetic transcriptions, lexis and grammar.

See also Wells (1982), section 4.4.

Vocabulary and grammar

A list of non-standard grammatical features of Yorkshire speech is shown below. In formal settings, these features are castigated and, as a result, their use is recessive. They are most common amongst older speakers and amongst the working classes.

Contracted negatives

In informal Yorkshire speech, negatives may be more contracted than in other varieties of English. These forms are shown in the table below. Although the final consonant is written as [t], this may be realised as [ʔ], especially when followed by a consonant.[69]

Word Primary Contraction Secondary Contraction
isn't ɪznt ɪnt
wasn't wɒznt wɒnt
doesn't dʊznt dʊnt
didn't dɪdnt dɪnt
couldn't kʊdnt kʊnt
shouldn't ʃʊdnt ʃʊnt
wouldn't wʊdnt wʊnt
oughtn't ɔːtnt ɔːnt
needn't niːdnt niːnt
mightn't maɪtnt maɪnt
mustn't mʊsnt mʊnt (uncommon)
hasn't haznt ant
haven't havnt ant

Hadn't does not become reduced to [ant]. This may be to avoid confusion with hasn't or haven't, which can both be realised as [ant].[70]

Scandinavian York

Scandinavian York (also referred to as Jórvík) or Danish/Norwegian York is a term used by historians for the south of Northumbria (modern day Yorkshire) during the period of the late 9th century and first half of the 10th century, when it was dominated by Norse warrior-kings; in particular, used to refer to York, the city controlled by these kings.

Norse monarchy controlled varying amounts of Northumbria from 875 to 954, however the area was invaded and conquered for short periods by England between 927 and 954 before eventually being annexed into England in 954.[71][72] It was closely associated with the much longer-lived Kingdom of Dublin throughout this period.

Yorkshire Dialect Society

The Yorkshire Dialect Society exists to promote and preserve use of this extensively studied and recorded dialect; there is also an East Riding Dialect Society.

The Yorkshire society is the oldest of the county dialect societies; it grew out of the committee of workers formed to collect material for the English Dialect Dictionary. The committee was formed in October 1894 at Joseph Wright's suggestion and the Yorkshire Dialect Society was founded in 1897. It publishes an annual volume of The Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society; the contents of this include studies of English dialects outside Yorkshire, e.g. the dialects of Northumberland, and Shakespeare's use of dialect.[73] It also publishes an annual Summer Bulletin of dialect poetry.

In the early 1930s, the society recorded gramophone records of dialect speakers from Baildon, Cleveland, Cowling, Driffield and Sheffield. The recording from Cowling was provided by Lord Snowden of Ickornshaw.[74]

Significant members have included Joseph Wright, Walter Skeat, Harold Orton, Stanley Ellis, J. D. A. Widdowson, K.M. Petyt, Graham Shorrocks, Frank Elgee, and Clive Upton.

Although Joseph Wright was involved in the Society's foundation, the Society's annual Transactions published one of the first critiques of his work in 1977. Peter Anderson, then the editor of the Transactions, argued that Wright took much of his material for his work English Dialect Grammar without sufficient citation from the work of Alexander John Ellis, and that Wright did Ellis "a disservice" by criticising this same work.[75]

Yorkshire dialect and accent in popular culture

Wilfred Pickles, a Yorkshireman born in Halifax, was selected by the BBC as an announcer for its North Regional radio service; he went on to be an occasional newsreader on the BBC Home Service during World War II. He was the first newsreader to speak in a regional accent rather than Received Pronunciation, "a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for Nazis to impersonate BBC broadcasters",[76] and caused some comment with his farewell catchphrase "... and to all in the North, good neet".

The director Ken Loach has set several of his films in South or West Yorkshire and has stated that he does not want actors to deviate from their natural accent.[77] The relevant films by Loach include Kes (Barnsley), Days of Hope (first episode in south of West Yorkshire), The Price of Coal (South Yorkshire and Wakefield), The Gamekeeper (Sheffield), Looks and Smiles (Sheffield) and The Navigators (South and West Yorkshire). Loach's films were used in a French dialectological analysis on changing speech patterns in South Yorkshire. Loach said in his contribution that the speech in his recently released film The Navigators was less regionally-marked than in his early film Kes because of changing speech patterns in South Yorkshire, which the authors of the article interpreted as a move towards a more standard dialect of English.[78]

Dialect of the northern dales featured in the series All Creatures Great and Small.

A number of popular bands hail from Yorkshire and have distinctive Yorkshire accents. Singer-songwriter YUNGBLUD, originating from Doncaster, preserves a strong Yorkshire accent. Louis Tomlinson, who was a member of One Direction, is from Yorkshire and in his solo music his accent is often heard. Joe Elliott and Rick Savage, vocalist and bassist of Def Leppard; Alex Turner, vocalist of the Arctic Monkeys;[79] Jon McClure, of Reverend and The Makers;[80] Jon Windle, of Little Man Tate;[81] Jarvis Cocker, vocalist of Pulp;[82] and Joe Carnall, of Milburn[83] and Phil Oakey of The Human League are all known for their Sheffield accents, whilst The Cribs, who are from Netherton, sing in a Wakefield accent.[84] The Kaiser Chiefs originate in Leeds, as does the Brett Domino Trio, the musical project of comedian Rod J. Madin. Graham Fellows, in his persona as John Shuttleworth, uses his Sheffield accent, though his first public prominence was as cockney Jilted John. Toddla T, a DJ on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, has a strong Sheffield accent and often uses the phrase "big up thysen" (an adaptation into Yorkshire dialect of the slang term "big up yourself" which is most often used in the music and pop culture of the Jamaican diaspora). Similarly, grime crews such as Scumfam use a modern Sheffield accent, which still includes some dialect words.

The Lyke Wake Dirge, written in old North Riding Dialect, was set to music by the folk band Steeleye Span. Although the band was not from Yorkshire, they attempted Yorkshire pronunciations in words such as "light" and "night" as /li:t/ and /ni:t/.

Actor Sean Bean normally speaks with a Yorkshire accent in his acting roles, as does actor Matthew Lewis, famously known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films.[85][86]

Wallace of Wallace and Gromit, voiced by Peter Sallis, has his accent from Holme Valley of West Yorkshire, despite the character living in nearby Lancashire. Sallis has said that creator Nick Park wanted a Lancashire accent, but Sallis could only manage to do a Yorkshire one.[87]

The late British Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes originated from Mytholmroyd, close to the border with Lancashire, and spent much of his childhood in Mexborough, South Yorkshire.[88] His own readings of his work were noted for his "flinty" or "granite" voice and "distinctive accent"[89][90] and some said that his Yorkshire accent affected the rhythm of his poetry.[91]

The soap opera Emmerdale, formerly Emmerdale Farm, was noted for use of broad Yorkshire, but the storylines involving numerous incomers have diluted the dialect until it is hardly heard.

In the ITV Edwardian/interwar period drama Downton Abbey, set at a fictional country estate in North Yorkshire between Thirsk and Ripon, many of the servants and nearly all of the local villagers have Yorkshire accents. BBC One series Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, both from creator Sally Wainwright of Huddersfield, also heavily feature Yorkshire accents.[92][93][94]

In the HBO television series Game of Thrones, many of the characters from the North of Westeros speak with Yorkshire accents, matching the native dialect of Sean Bean, who plays Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark.

Several of the dwarfs in the Peter Jackson film adaptation of The Hobbit, namely Thorin Oakenshield, Kíli and Fili, speak with Yorkshire accents.

The character of the Fat Controller in the Thomas and Friends TV series, as voiced by Michael Angelis, has a broad Yorkshire accent.

"On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at", a popular folk song, is sung in the Yorkshire dialect and accent and considered to be the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire.[95]

Actress Jodie Whittaker keeps her native Yorkshire accent in her role as the Thirteenth Doctor in Doctor Who.[96]

Studies have shown that accents in the West Riding (that is, mostly, modern West and South Yorkshire), and by extension local dialects, are well-liked among Britons and associated with common sense, loyalty, and reliability.[97][98]

Books written in Yorkshire dialect


  1. ^ Ellis also identified a third area around Craven, Ribblesdale, upper Wensleydale and Swaledale as part of his "West Northern" area (numbered Area 31), alongside almost all of Cumbria as well as north Lancashire and south Durham. In the tradition of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, this area is usually grouped with the North Riding dialect.


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  3. ^ "BBC News | UK | Do you speak Swardle?". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  4. ^ Warrack, Alexander (2000). The Scots dialect dictionary. New Lanark, Scotland : Waverley Books. p. 5. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  5. ^ Skeat, Walter (1911). English dialects from the eighth century to the present day. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  6. ^ Banks, William Stott (1865), A List of Provincial Words in Use at Wakefield in Yorkshire, WR Hall (Wakefield)
  7. ^ Wright, Joseph (1892), A Grammar of the Dialect of Windhill, Truebner & Co, London
  8. ^ Yorkshire Dialect Society (1992). Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society (Volume 18, Part 92 ed.).
  9. ^ The Yorkshire Dialect Border
  10. ^ Rohrer, Fritz (1950). "The border between the northern and north-midland dialects in Yorkshire". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society. VIII (I).
  11. ^ Yorkshire dialect an explanation
  12. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 327.
  13. ^ a b Joan C. Beal, An Introduction to Regional Englishes, Edinburgh University Press, 2010, pp. 95–99
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  18. ^ Technology and gender
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  24. ^ Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), pp. 74, 76.
  25. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 286.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), p. 74.
  27. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 94, 201.
  28. ^ a b c Williams & Kerswill (1999), p. 146.
  29. ^ BBC – Voices – The Voices Recordings
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  31. ^ Watt & Tillotson (2001).
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  34. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 218.
  35. ^ a b Williams & Kerswill (1999), p. 143, 146.
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  37. ^ a b Williams & Kerswill (1999), p. 147.
  38. ^ Tidholm, Hans (1983). "The Dialect of Egton in North Yorkshire". Language. 59 (2): 49–50. JSTOR 413603.
  39. ^ Williams & Kerswill (1999), p. 146, 156–159.
  40. ^ a b c Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), p. 75.
  41. ^ Tidholm, Hans (1983). "The Dialect of Egton in North Yorkshire". Language. 59 (2): 98–99. JSTOR 413603.
  42. ^ Lewis, Jack Windsor. "The General Central-Northern, Non-Dialectal Pronunciation of England". points 4–13. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  43. ^ Petyt, K.M (2014). "A survey of dialect studies in the area of the Sedbergh & District History Society" (PDF). p. 14. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  44. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 168–172.
  45. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 132–137.
  46. ^ a b Petyt (1985), p. 205.
  47. ^ a b c d Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), p. 76.
  48. ^ See section on "Conservative Northernisms" in Our Changing Pronunciation by John C. Wells
  49. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 146–147.
  50. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 147.
  51. ^ a b c Wells (1982), p. 368.
  52. ^ Williams & Kerswill (1999), p. 159.
  53. ^ Wright, Joseph (1892). A Grammar of the Dialect of Windhill. London: Trübner & Co. p. 91.
  54. ^ Stoddart, Upton & Widdowson (1999), p. 79.
  55. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 216–217.
  56. ^ Patchett, J.H. (1981). "The Dialect of Upper Calderdale". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society. XV (LXXXI): 24–37.
  57. ^ Aveyard, Edward (2019). "Berliner Lautarchiv: the Wakefield Sample". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society: 1–5.
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  59. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 239–240.
  60. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 202–203.
  61. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 191–193.
  62. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 190–191, 233.
  63. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 373–379.
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  67. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 231.
  68. ^ a b Petyt (1985), p. 238.
  69. ^ Petyt (1985), pp. 182–183.
  70. ^ Petyt (1985), p. 183.
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  74. ^ Back sleeve of the vinyl First o't'sort, 1978, Logo Records, LTRA 505 Mono
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  76. ^ "Your Voice, Accentuate the positive". BBC. March 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  77. ^ Dialect in Films: Examples of South Yorkshire. Grammatical and Lexical Features from Ken Loach Films, Dialectologica 3, page 6
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  83. ^ "Milburn"These are the facts"". Canadian Content. canadiancontent.net. 1 July 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  84. ^ Camping, Katie (28 January 2008). "Interview: Cribs' Ryan Jarman". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 26 November 2009.
  85. ^ "The Syndicate". Matthew-Lewis.com. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
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  87. ^ "Wallace and Gromit star Peter Sallis confesses he can't stand Wensleydale cheese". 6 November 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
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  93. ^ Corner, Natalie (16 February 2016). "BBC bosses blame accents yet AGAIN over Happy Valley sound issue because dialect is Yorkshire". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
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  96. ^ radiotimes.com
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  98. ^ Yorkshire named top twang as Brummie brogue comes bottom | UK news | guardian.co.uk


Further reading

Several nineteenth century books are kept in specialist libraries.