I was just wondering how there are so many variations of dialects in England, which isn't really a very large country, they have Brummie, Yorkie, Cockney, the one in Liverpool, I don't know what's the name for that and etc. etc. So how did these counties acquire their distinct accents? I'm looking for definitive answer and if possible with some compelling historical evidence.

  • Yes, that's all right, I'm not surprised there are 100s of dialects still extant, but my question is how it was possible for these to have emerged in such a small country. My question primarily relates to England. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 9:41
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    Norway has a far smaller population than England, but even tiny communities have, or had, their own dialects. This goes right down to the level of individual hamlets, or even farms! Obviously isolation was a factor in this, but it's worth pointing out that a small country can still develop very many dialects. England is not unique in this regard.
    – Silverfish
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 10:07
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    You have missed out many. There are the Geordie's (North East England), Scots, Welsh, Lancashire, the West Country, Norfolk & East Anglia, etc. the Liverpool accent, incidentally is known as Scouse. It is very different to the rest of Lancashire.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 10:09
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    I've often wondered about this same thing. My theory is that most British natives not moving around a lot could be the reason to this. Indeed, when I'd been there, I learned that several countrymen didn't travel out of their village since many generations! Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 11:07
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    Andy, I think you have the hypothesis that English is more varied nowadays geographically than others. We should probably define lots first, but for canonical definitions, it's not the case (most European langs have lots of regional dialects; maybe not Russian?). But let's suppose it is the case. A possible explanation (is it the right form) would be that there is no strong central language authority or strong social adoption tendency. Are you looking for a reason why language X is more diverse than language Y? geographic and social barriers.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 16:37

2 Answers 2

  • The dialects of present-day English can be seen as the continuation of the dialect areas which established themselves in the Old English period.

The following extract can help:


  • The dialectal division of the narrower region of England into:

  • 1) a northern, 2) a central and 3) a (subdivided) southern region has been retained to the present-day.

  • The linguistic study of the dialects of English goes back to the 19th century when, as an offspin of Indo-European studies, research into (rural) dialects of the major European languages was considerably developed. The first prominent figure in English dialectology is Alexander Ellis (mid-19th century), followed somewhat later by Joseph Wright (late 19th and early 20th century).

  • The former published a study of English dialects and the latter a still used grammar of English dialects at the beginning of the present century. It was not until the Survey of English Dialects, first under the auspices of Eugen Dieth and later of Harald Orton, that such intensive study of (rural) dialects was carried out (the results appeared in a series of publications in the 1950s and 1960s).


  • The main divide between north and south can be drawn by using the pronunciation of the word but. Either it has a /u/ sound (in the north) or the lowered and unrounded realisation typical of Received Pronunciation in the centre and south, /ʌ/. An additional isogloss is the use of a dark /ɫ/ in the south versus a clear /l/ in the north. The south can be divided by the use of syllable-final /r/ which is to be found in the south western dialects but not in those of the south east. The latter show ‘initial softening’ as in single, father, think with the voiced initial sounds /z-, v-, ð/ respectively.

( www.uni-due.de)

List of main English dialects in Europe:

  • British English (BrE)

  • North

  • Northern:

    • Northeast (including Mackem (spoken in Sunderland) and Geordie) Lower North
    • Central North (including Cumbrian dialect) Tyke (spoken in Yorkshire) Central Lancashire Humberside
  • Central

    • West Central Merseyside Northwest Midlands West Midlands (including Black Country English and Brummie)
    • East Central Central Midlands Northeast Midlands East Midlands
  • South

    • East South Midlands East Anglia Home Counties
    • Southwest Upper Southwest Central Southwest Lower Southwest
  • Corby English

  • Scotland

    • Northern Scots
    • Central Scots
    • South Scots
    • Insular Scots Ulster Scots
  • Wales

    • Welsh English

    • North East English a toned down Scouse/Manchester accent due to English population

    • Pembrokeshire dialect

  • Ireland

  • Republic of Ireland

    • Hiberno-English
    • Yola dialect
  • Northern Ireland

    • Mid Ulster English
    • Ulster Scots English
  • Isle of Man

    • Manx English
  • Channel Islands

    • Guernsey English
    • Jersey English
  • Gibraltar

    • Llanito



Dialects are everywhere in any language, because the whole of a population is no homogeneous body but an agglomeration of various ethnic groups. Even if there were a homogeneous population varieties would come into being as language has a natural tendency to variety. But there is also the opposite tendency due to printed media to make language uniform. So most people master the standard language and a dialect.

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    Please no more a priori arguments. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 12:37
  • I know Kant's philosophical terms a priori and a posteriori knowledge, but I can't understand what you mean by "no more a priori arguments". By the way the largest regional diversification has been found in the German language area.
    – rogermue
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 17:23

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