View Full Version : Is the English West Country accent Celtic?

06-19-2018, 12:15 AM
Here's something I've been meaning to post here for a while. Is the English West Country accent Celtic? I was born and bred in Bristol, although only a small amount of my actual genetic ancestry was from there. I had a strong West Country accent when I was young, although it's mellowed in the 20 years that I've been away. I've never checked this out online, but the "r" sound and the "oi" instead of "i" always reminded me of the Irish accent, and this, as well as the fact that the Cornish accent is very similar, made me think the accent came from a Celtic language that was once spoken in the region. However, I remember some years ago watching an episode of the popular archaeology programme Time Team, where they claimed that Phil Harding's Wiltshire burr (also pretty close to the Bristol accent) was Saxon. As an interesting non-Celtic aside, in Bristol we all (old people included) said "ass" instead of the normal "arse" used everywhere else in the Isles as far as I know. My guess is that this is why Americans say "ass" too, given the early influence of settlers from Devon and elsewhere in the West Country. When we were in the city centre we also said we were "down town", which I always assumed is where Americans got "downtown" from, which isn't used in England or elsewhere in Britain outside of the West Country as far as I know. Any thoughts?

06-19-2018, 12:46 AM
About 40 years ago when I lived on Sheppey, I had a good ear for accents and wandered around a bit.
Part of the broad accent of the west seemed to me to be common to most agricultural workers south of the Wash.
My Australian country cousins also have a somewhat broader accent than city folk, so I put this common part down to slow country versus quick city - a noisy cityscape needs lots of consonants to be heard, while the quiet country is fine with broad vowels.
And I recently saw something about long vowels being reassuring to livestock and dogs, but that may have been in a work of fiction.

The Cornish broad vowels were to me very similar to those Wiltshire and Bristol sounds, but broader.
So I will agree with you there.
But to prove your point you may have to connect Welsh with the west country. Does that work?

What does work is to propose some similarity across what was broadly Wessex, so maybe Phil Harding was right about a Saxon connection.
Or at least Thomas Hardy's Wessex.

06-19-2018, 02:01 AM
I hear some similarities between West Country accents and those of southeastern Ireland, such as Kilkenny and Wexford. It would make sense for West Country accents to have some Celtic influence in the pronunciation, considering that it is one of the places in England with the most Celtic (or pre-Saxon) ancestry.