Norfolk dialect

Peter Trudgill, Professor of Sociolinguistics at UEA, gives us an insight into Norfolk's distinctive way of speaking.

Norfolk dialect

The Norfolk dialect is quite different from the other dialects of the south of England, such as the West Country and the Home Counties. Our accent, which we are very proud of, does not drop its h's. And we don't pronounce our r's in the West of England manner either. They say heart "aarrt", we say "haaht". And if some people think our accent sounds "rural", well of course in the country areas it is. But we like to point out that the urban area of Norwich has a quarter of a million inhabitants. And that, like Norwich, our accent is modern and innovating too.

One innovation that most other people in the English-speaking world haven't got round to yet is that we are very happy to pronounce fear and fair, really and rarely, here and hair the same. If a friendly Norfolk person calls you dare, you'll know what they mean. And you might like a nice pint of bair in an ancient city centre Norwich pub, or sitting by a Broadland river – where it will help if you remember that boat may well sound like boot to you.

We are proud of our innovative grammar too. We no longer bother with that pointless verbal -s that encumbers other less streamlined dialects. We say He drive very fast; She write books; My friend like you. And we say that rather than it: That's wus cold las'night. On one of our hot summer days, we might ask Is that hot enough for you? And if we really, really like the fish and chips in Cromer, we are quite capable of saying That in't too bad ‑ we are a polite people and our verbal style prefers under- to overstatement.

Another innovation is that we have re-introduced the distinction between singular and plural you, which was so carelessly lost elsewhere. You is singular, and youtogether is plural. How are you getting on, together? does not mean the same thing as How are you getting on together?

Welcome to Norfolk. Do you have a good time, together.

All Norfolk people agree about the pronunciations of the following places:

Spelt Pronounced

Acle Aycle

Ashmanhaugh ASHm'no

Aslacton AzLACt'n

Belaugh Beeluh

Bergh Apton BerAPT'n

Colney Coaney

Corpusty CORpuhsty

Costessey Cossey

Deopham Deep'm

Dereham Dear'm

Elsing Elz'n

Fulmodestone FULLmuhst'n

Gimingham Gim’n’m (with a 'hard g')

Happisburgh Haze-bruh

Haveringland Havverl'nd

Hautbois HUBBuhss

Heigham Hay-um

Hellesdon Helzd'n

Keswick Kezzick

Matlaske Matluhsk

Postwick Pozzick

Rushall Rue-sh'll

Sall Saul

Shotesham Shots'm

Stody Studdy

Swardeston Swaw(d)st'n

Tacolneston Tackle-st'n

Tivetshall Tivvets'll

Walsingham Wolz'n'm

Wickmere Wickmuh

Wortwell Wuttle

Wymondham Wind'm

Then there are names which we don't all agree about. The disagreement comes from the fact that many place-names now have new spelling pronunciations. Here are the older pronunciations uninfluenced by the spelling:

Spelled Pronounced

Aylsham Ells'm/Ellsh'm

Cley Clay

Coltishall Colts'll (with Colt- rhyming with bolt)

Crostwick Crossick

Foulsham Fowlss'm/Fowlsh'm (with Fowl- rhyming with soul)

Garboldisham Garb'lss'm/Garb'lsh'm

Hoveton Hofft'n

Hunstanton Hunst'n

Letheringsett Larnsuhtt

Martham Mart'm

Northrepps Nurrepps

Salhouse Sallus/Selluss

Southery Suddery

Southrepps Surrepps

Stiffkey Stewkey

Walsham (N. and S.) Walss'm

Weybourne Webb'n


Peter is also the author of The Norfolk Dialect (Poppyland Publishing) and Honorary President of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND).

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