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In the Yorkshire accent the definite article is shortened to just t. E.g. 'I went on the bus' becomes something that sounds like 'I went ont bus'. How does one punctuate this? Is it 'I went on t'bus', which seems logical (as the apostrophe indicates missing letters) but does not reproduce the sound that one hears? Or could it be 'I went on't bus'?

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In Lancashire, expressions like 'He worked at t'mill' and 'She went down t'Mill' were once common. They're usually spelt out this way. The pronunciation seems different from across the Pennines, though - more like 'He work təh mill' and 'She went dowən Mill' - no sign of the 't' from the 'the'. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 4 '13 at 21:55
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@EdwinAshworth That comment should be an answer. –  MετάEd Oct 4 '13 at 22:20
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This is like Peter Kay saying "on tinternet", as well as this photograph on postcards from Cumbria flickr.com/photos/mark_farrell/6260209599 –  Tristan Oct 4 '13 at 23:10
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2 Answers

I'll defer to MετάEd, though I hope he realises that many consider the Yorkshire - Lancashire divide unsurmountable (isn't that a mixed metaphor?) - especially the Woodhead Pass in the snow.

In Lancashire, expressions like 'He worked at t'mill' and 'She went down t'mill' were once common. They're usually spelt out this way.

The pronunciation seems different from across the Pennines, though - more like

'He work təh mill' where the schwa is really almost a schwa and a half with a slightly raised intonation on the trailing half

and

'She went dowən mill' where the schwa is really only about half a schwa

  • no sign of the 't' from the 'the', except in the variant where the preposition to isn't elided (but the 'usual' spelling is the same):

'She went down tə Mill' (again spelt She went down t'mill).

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In Yorkshire, the sound does not in fact have a /t/ in it at all: it is usually a glottal stop, /ɔnʔbʊs/ (where /ʔ/ is a glottal stop) "on'bus". In rapid speech the /n/ often assimilates to the following labial /ɔmʔbʊs/ "om'bus", or the glottal stop disappears entirely (/ɔmbʊs/ "ombus").

English orthography has no standard way of writing this bit of regional English, but the most common spelling is "t'", so "I went on t'bus". As you say, this does not well represent the sounds, but that is true of much of English spelling.

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