Accent(uating) The North-South Divide

Toddler L’s speech, language and communication is really coming along at the moment. Gone are the inaudible grunts or hand gestures. Instead, we are greeted with a plethora of words carefully constructed to form (part) sentences.

It’s nearly a year to the day since I wrote about her first words and well over seven months since I wrote about her growing vocab. Comparing the kid she is today to the one she was then is pretty mind-blowing. At this rate, it won’t be long before she’s on Countdown. Hell, she might even be starring in ‘Dictionary Corner’.

These language skills are pretty awesome. Being able to have actual conversations with your kid is special. Sure, it can be frustrating, repetitive and confusing, but it’s special nonetheless. It may sound weird, but having regular chats with her allows me to figure out how she ticks. I’m beginning to get to know her – and see her – as an actual person. 95% of these conversations involve treating me as her bitch as she makes demands, but I’m OK with that. For now.

It’s funny though. As her language skills have developed, we’ve started to notice variations in her pronunciation. I don’t mean that she says the same word in different ways depending on her mood. I’m referring more to the words which she pronounces differently to the missus and I.

As the daughter of a Yorkshireman and Mancunian living in Hertfordshire, we expected her to be a little ‘confused’. If the missus and I can’t agree on the pronunciation of “tongue” [me: “tung”, Hay: “tong”] or even be bothered to correctly say words like “anything” [me: “oat”, Hay: “out”], Toddler L never stood a chance. Throw in the fact that she lives in a pretty middle-class area with people who talk properly, it was only a matter of time before their influence showed and a North-South divide was created.

There’s a definite Southern emphasis to some of her words. A word like “Mummy” takes on the form of “Ma” rather than the more guttural “Muh”, which is how I pronounce it. There’s not really any logic though – she’ll say “barth”, but pronounce “path” without the “ar” sound, when you’d probably expect it to be “parth”. Starting nursery has definitely had a strong say in her pronunciation, as has kid’s TV shows like Peppa Pig. There’s not that many Northerners on kid’s TV shows it would appear.

I’m not particularly fussed though. I’m not bothered by the North-South divide. I have an appreciation for where I grew up and where I come from, but this doesn’t define me. I just don’t get the whole Northern Monkey / Southern Fairy thing which is still so prevalent when we visit relatives back home. It’s all a bit odd. Incidentally, that’s probably what the other kids will call Toddler L when she starts school due to her mixed up accent!

Impressively though, I think Toddler L is also a bit bilingual. It’s not something we’ve taught her, but she appears to be picking up German. There’s no German blood in the family – although my dad did live there for a few years as a kid. So, who knows, it may have seeped into his DNA through some kind of osmosis. How else can you explain her overuse of the word “mein”?

Have you noticed anything ‘interesting’ in how your kid(s) pronounce particular words? Do you have a North-South divide in your family? Let me know below!

  • Ted seems to be picking up a Northamptonian accent and it isn’t the nicest accent in the world. So long as he doesn’t start calling people duck I will be happy! We have family ranging from Essex and Surrey to Shropshire and Manchester so he is bound to pick up a bit from everyone. I think nursery is the main contributor though as his key worker has a really broad local accent and he says Up as “Uhp” and Are We as “ahh wee” 🙂

  • Tom Briggs

    I was born in North Yorkshire to a dad from Kent (albeit in a mining community in which everyone came from the north east and Scotland) and a mum from Essex. I had hearing problems too, so I had a very odd accent that sounded like the Vikings on Mike the Knight! We moved to Sussex when I was very young and, via a combination of an operation and a reception teacher who hated northern accents, I eventually lost it.

  • Super Busy Mum

    Haha I have NO clue what the difference is between the two accents, being from Northern Ireland. But I bet she sounds proper cute either way!

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