This is why Mackems speak with such a distinctive accent and what makes it different from Geordie

An academic from Sunderland University explains the history of the Mackem accent.

Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 10:04 am

People from the North East of including, including us Mackems, are well known for our accent and dialects.

But how did the infamous accent develop?

Dr Michael Pearce, senior lecturer in English language at the University of Sunderland explained that regional accents, including those in the North East, have a far longer history than standard English.

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So it turns out Bobby Thompson was preserving our heritage with the way he spoke. Pictures here in 1983 at the opening of the new Top Rank Bingo and Social Club in Sunderland's former Odeon Cinema.

He said: “For about 1,000 years there was no standard; in the Middle English period, the age of Chaucer, texts were written down in the local dialect of the place they were produced in.”

Lang history of the North East accent

Dr Pearce said: “What really gets me going is the fact that so many of the features of North East accents have such a long historical pedigree.”

For example the way that Mackems pronounce the o in long, strong and wrong with an ‘a’ sound rather than an ‘o’ sound dates back more than a century.

Dr Michael Pearce, senior lecturer in English language at the University of Sunderland,

Dr Pearce said: “During the early Old English period, around 1,500 years ago, all speakers of English, who were originally migrants from northern Germany and Denmark, would have said ‘lang’ rather than ‘long’.

“All adjectives which in modern English are spelled with -ong would have been pronounced with ‘a’ rather than ‘o’.”

So it turns out us Mackems are just keeping up that tradition.

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So we’re reet in how we pronounce things?

Dr Pearce said that pronouncing words like night and right as ‘neet’ and ‘reet’ is another example of how people from the North East have preserved a much earlier pronunciation of the words.

“And what about words like night and right? Do you sometimes pronounce night and right as ‘neet’ and ‘reet’? People who do are also preserving an earlier pronunciation.”

Dr Pearce makes similarly robust defences for ‘dee’ (do), ‘diz’ (does).

Tyneside and Wearside split

As much as we may not like to admit it, in terms of accent pronunciation we share a fair few similarities with our neighbours on Tyneside.

You can often tell where in the North East someone’s accent is from depending on if they drop the ‘H’, Dr Pearce says.

In Newcastle and Northumberland people tend to pronounce the H in words like hat and hotel, but some people from Sunderland don’t.

And the further south you go towards Durham and Hartlepool the more likely people are to drop their H’s.

Dr Pearce said: “H-dropping is an interesting accent feature to consider in North East England. This is a more recent development in the accents of the North East.

“Research has shown, for example from the Survey of English Dialects, carried out in the 1950s and 60s, that County Durham was an area where ‘h’ was variably dropped, although it was retained in Northumberland and Tyneside.

“More recent research I did suggests that ‘h-dropping’ is associated with south-west County Durham and a narrow coastal strip extending as far north as Sunderland.”