Which vowel phoneme, START or TRAP, do people in the North of England usually use in can’t?

(Obviously the northern START is pronounced like a longer version of TRAP, which is not the case in the south, but that’s not what I’m talking about, just in case of any confusion)

  • 8
    Where in the North of England? Newcastle, York, Manchester, Cumbria, Durham, Hull, etc?
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 18 at 19:01
  • The accent that I was originally curious about was North Yorkshire but it got me wondering about all the northern accents that didn’t otherwise undergo the bath-trap split
    – Monkle
    Commented Jun 18 at 19:35
  • Presumably you mean raised in a northern locale. There isn't a smooth distribution of accents, because the population moves around. Commented Jun 18 at 20:37
  • 7
    Uh… I’m all for pedantry when it aids understanding but I really doubt anybody had that misunderstanding…
    – Monkle
    Commented Jun 18 at 20:50
  • I’m all for pedantry when it aids understanding but I really doubt anybody had that misunderstanding As Winston Churchill would say, that should be carved above the lintel of cottages. Well, he said that about insurance, but, you know.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 19 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


Short answer: PALM

According to Wells's Accents of English (1982)—the very book which gave us the lexical sets like START, TRAP, PALM, and BATH—while the TRAP–BATH split is largely absent in the north of England, words like calf, half, calve, halve, rather, Slav, shan't, can't, Iraq, corral, morale, Iran, Sudan, and banana usually have PALM (p. 135). He says, "if we were considering their pronunciation in England alone, and leaving North America out of account, we should place half, can't, banana, etc. in the PALM set rather than in BATH" (p. 356). Note though that in some accents, particularly "towards the west", there is no contrast among TRAP/BATH/PALM/START to begin with (p. 354).

  • I'm reminded of a classic movie farce whose title escapes me (not "My Fair Lady"), where a speech teacher is trying to get the "dumb blonde" character to pronounce "I can't stand it" as "I cahnt stahnd it".
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 19 at 14:47
  • @Barmar that surprises me, the TRAP-BATH split didn't typically affect /a/ before /nd/, so I'd have expected the TRAP vowel here (which the late Queen had)
    – Tristan
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:25
  • 1
    I think it's "Born Yesterday", with Judy Holliday. But I'm having trouble finding the scene with Google. The characters are all American, so it's not really about British pronunciation.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:33
  • 2
    @Barmar Singing in the Rain: youtube.com/watch?v=X5Jp-j2PeO8
    – messenger
    Commented Jun 19 at 22:16
  • 1
    @messenger No wonder I couldn't find it, I was looking for "I can't stand it", but she was saying "I can't stand him". :)
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 19 at 22:52

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