Wigan's dialect stands out as one of a kind in university study
Wiganers have long known that the way they speak is special - and now it’s official!
Research into the voices of people living across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs has revealed that Wiganers have a distinct dialect of their own.
The Manchester Voices research project, led by sociolinguists at Manchester Metropolitan University, has found people think there are four main distinct regional dialects - dubbed Manc, Lancashire, Wigan and posh.
Emerging findings show people think the “Manc” accent is situated mostly in the city of Manchester itself, while residents of south Manchester, Trafford and Stockport are more likely to sound “posh”.
While residents of the northern boroughs of Bury, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham are characterised as speaking “Lancashire”, Wiganers have a distinctive dialect of their own and more likely to catch the “buz” or read a “bewk” than their Greater Manchester neighbours.
As if evidence were needed, last year Darren Wood from Aspull brought out some Wigan dialect stickers for people to put in their cars (while raising money for the hospice). They proved very popular.
Manchester Voices is the most detailed ever research study of its type and will eventually culminate in a permanent installation in Manchester Central Library celebrating the diversity of language in the region.
Research associate Dr Holly Dann said: “This research gives a fascinating insight into the huge amount of accent and dialect variation between the boroughs of Greater Manchester. It also suggests that Greater Manchester residents are really good at picking up on these differences.
“For example, the results of the dialect mapping task suggested that Wigan is thought to have the most ‘unique’ accent and dialect, whereas Trafford and Stockport are less local sounding, and this was reflected in our analysis of the spoken data.”
In the first stage of the research, conducted during the coronavirus lockdowns, researchers asked more than 350 people to draw and describe the different accents and dialects on an online map, as well as asking people who were born and raised in one borough to submit a recording of themselves speaking.
Intern Jack Taylor analysed the 80 recordings submitted to the project by people who had spent most of their lives in one borough. He focused on the pronunciation of the words “bear” vs “burr”, “book” vs “bewk”, “school” vs “skewl”, and “bus” vs “buz”.
The team found the “bewk” pronunciation of “book” was most often found in Wigan, while people in Wigan and Oldham were more likely to catch a “buz”.
Rochdale and Wigan residents were most likely to say “burr” for “bear”.
People from all over Greater Manchester sometimes said “school”, “skewl”, or something in between, but Wiganers said “skewl” the most.
When compared to the public perceptions of accents and dialects, the findings reflect the suggestion that people in Trafford and Stockport may have less “local” accents, and that Wigan is particularly distinctive. The analysis also suggested that “burr” and “bewk” may be lessening over time, with younger people – especially young women - being more likely to say “bear” and “book”.
The Manchester Voices research project is ongoing and the research team still want to hear from members of the public to build on these early findings. They are currently touring the 10 boroughs in the Accent Van, a mobile recording booth where visitors can be interviewed by a talking computer about accents, dialects and identity in Greater Manchester.
People can also take part by visiting the Virtual Accent Van at virtualvan.manchestervoices.org/
Schools and colleges can get involved by signing up for the second part of the project. The first part saw pupils learn about language and identity while also making a podcast. Email [email protected]
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