Language variation in North-east England: /h/-dropping in Sunderland icon

Language variation in North-east England: /h/-dropping in Sunderland

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Language variation in North-east England: /h/-dropping in Sunderland

Lourdes Burbano-Elizondo

University of Sheffield

According to Trudgill (1990) the only remaining areas in England where /h/ is retained are East Anglia, on the one hand, and Northumberland and Durham, on the other. Although this is certainly one of the dialect markers of Tyneside English, in the North-east /h/-dropping is commonly regarded as a shibboleth of the dialect of Sunderland (Newcastle’s neighbouring city) (Beal 2000).

The present sociolinguistic investigation aims to determine whether some of the existing popular perceptions of the Sunderland dialect can be supported with actual data recorded in the city. For this purpose a sample of 30 speakers were interviewed using the new Survey of Regional English methodology (Llamas 1999). This paper will look into the presence or absence of /h/-dropping in Sunderland. The results of the data analysis will be presented and, where possible, correlated with both social factors, and attitudinal and identity issues, which are essential for the collective construction of the local identity.


Beal, Joan C. 2000 From Geordie Ridley to Viz: popular literature in Tyneside English. Language and Literarure 9 (4).

Llamas, Carmen. 1999 A new methodology: data elicitation for social and regional language variation studies. Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 7: 95-118.

Trudgill, Peter. 1990 The Dialects of England. Blackwell.

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