Lancashire accent showcased by the likes of Eric Morecambe and Les Dawson is dying out according to experts

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
How do you pronounce your ‘r’s towards the ends of words like Shearer, purr, nerd and pore? And what about those in car, bird and her? 

The Lancashire accent is dying out, according to new research - and could be gone completely in the next few generations.

Traditionally, parts of Lancashire have very clearly articulated 'r's, similar to the stereotype of Cornwall and the West Country. The pronunciation of these ‘r’s towards the ends of words is called rhoticity.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the evidence, according to Lancaster University researchers, is that our ‘r’s are becoming a thing of the past – apart from in Blackburn where the ‘r’ is still rolling - but more softly in younger generations.

Morecambe comedy legend, Eric Morecambe.Morecambe comedy legend, Eric Morecambe.
Morecambe comedy legend, Eric Morecambe.

What have the researchers found?

According to lead researcher Dr Danielle Turton, who worked with Dr Robert Lennon on the research project, the ‘r’ in the spelling for speakers from these areas means that it should be pronounced like an ‘r’ at the beginning of a word, rather than just creating a longer vowel.

“Speakers from places like Blackburn usually differentiate between pairs of words such as ‘stellar’ and ‘stella’, whereas most of England would consider them to be the same,” says Dr Turton

“However, for the youngest speakers in Blackburn, these 'r’s are very weak, which raises the question of whether future generations will even hear these weak 'r’s at all, and whether this distinction will eventually fade away. Accent change is often like a puddle: it dries up in most places and leave remnants around the edges, hence why Cornwall and East Lancs behave similarly here today.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Jim Bowen who lived in Hornby.Jim Bowen who lived in Hornby.
Jim Bowen who lived in Hornby.

The paper, ‘An acoustic analysis of rhoticity in Lancashire’, published in the Journal of Phonetics, examines rhoticity - the pronunciation of the consonant ‘r’.

It presents the first systematic acoustic analysis of a rhotic accent in present-day England.

The dataset comprises spontaneous and elicited speech of 28 speakers from Blackburn, where residual rhoticity remains.

“Although sociolinguistic studies of rhoticity in England exist, there are almost no descriptions of its phonetic properties, so this is the first time we’ve been able to monitor this change from a gradual weakening of the ‘r’,” explains Dr Turton.

“This is notable because it provides evidence for language change happening so gradually that people don’t notice it.”