You’ve Changed Your Tune: Dialect change

Activity: OtherPublic engagement and outreach (general)


Linguist Sam Hellmuth of the University of York provides a first description of Middlesbrough English intonation patterns and shows that there is a stark difference in the intonation patterns used by younger and older speakers.

Intonation patterns form a large part of how we characterise regional accents and dialects; it is not hard to think of dialects that meet the description of having ‘sing song’ intonation, for example. However, the description and documentation of variation in intonation patterns across English dialects lags far behind our understanding of other accent features such as vowels and consonants. Variation by age group is a common indicator of dialectal change, and in this case the intonational change closely matches previously documented change in Middlesbrough consonants. Older Middlesbrough speakers use an intonation pattern which matches the stereotype of ‘a Yorkshire accent’, which we also see in recordings of older (but not younger) York speakers.

This event was hosted as an online talk by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society as part of its York Café Scientifique series.
Period9 Jun 2021
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • intonation
  • accent change
  • York
  • Middlesbrough