The Northumbrian dialect refers to any of several English language varieties spoken in the historic English region of Northumbria, which includes most of present-day North East England. This may include such varieties as:
- Northumbrian Old English, an Old English dialect from which Early Scots is descended
- Geordie, perhaps the most famous dialect of English spoken in the region, largely spoken in Tyneside, centered on Newcastle
- Mackem, a dialect of English spoken in Wearside, centred on Sunderland
- Smoggie, a dialect spoken in Teesside; an area at the southern tip of region which straddles the border of Yorkshire and County Durham
- Pitmatic, an older slang or lexicon used in mining towns in Northumberland and Durham (still spoken in Ashington)
- Northumbrian dialect, a disappearing English dialect or Anglic language variety spoken in the counties of Northumberland and Durham which is closely related to Scots and Cumbrian.
This article focuses only on the final variety, most commonly known in academic literature as Northumbrian English or Northumbrian dialect.
- In Northumberland and northern County Durham /ɹ/ is traditionally pronounced [ʁ] or perhaps even [ʀ], a feature known as the Northumbrian burr. Once a widespread feature, the burr was commonplace in 19th century Tyneside speech and was found as far south as Durham City in the 18th century. Nowadays this sound is largely confined to older residents in rural Northumberland.
- /hw/ is traditionally realized as [ʍ], particularly in rural Northumberland and Weardale.
- In contrast to most other varieties of Northern English, the traditional dialects of Northumberland and County Durham are largely H-retaining. However, H-dropping is now reported on Wearside (see the article about Mackem).
- As with most Northern English dialects, final /ŋ/ sound is reduced to [n] e.g. waakin for walking.
- In common with most dialects of England, Northumbrian has lost /x/. Scots /x/ typically corresponds to /f/ in Northumbrian cognates, compare Scots loch [lɔx] and cleuch/cleugh [kluːx] with Northumbrian lough [lɒf] and cleugh [kluːf].
- The most conservative forms of the dialect undergo L-vocalization as in Scots, producing waa for wall needfu for needful.
- Nurse-north Merger: [ɔː] in words such as bord (bird) forst (first). This is a result of the Northumbrian burr modifying adjacent vowels.
- The letter "i" in words like find, blind or pint is pronounced as [ɪ], as opposed to [aɪ], and so "find" would rhyme with wind (noun) or stint.
- Occurring throughout much of north and west Northumberland, the vowel /oʊ/ in words like "phone" and "tone" moves closer to a [ɜ] sound, so "phone" would be pronounced the same as the word "fern". Amongst those with stronger accents, the same process can happen to the /ɒ/ sound, so "cod" would be pronounced as "curd".
- The vowel sound [ɔː] as in call corresponds to [aː] (represented by aa or more traditionally aw). And so call, walk and talk are caal, waak and taak in Northumbrian.
- This creates some minimal pairs based upon phonemic vowel length, such as te tak /tak/ ("to take" in some dialects, such as those of Wearside) vs. te taak /taːk/
- The diphthong [aʊ̯] in words such as down and town corresponds to the long vowel [uː] (written as "oo"), therefore down and town are "doon" and "toon" in Northumbrian. However, it is shortened to [ʊ] when followed by [nd], so "pound" and "found" are "pund" and "fund".
- Long vowel [uː] in words such as book and cook typically corresponds to other sounds, such as [jʉː] or [ʉ.ə], as in the word skeul (school).
- Lack of foot-strut split, as in other Northern English varieties.
- Diphthongisation of Northern Middle English [aː] to i+e or i+a, producing forms such as byeth, styen and hyem for "both", "stone" and "home". However, older forms such as baith, stane and hame, which are shared with Scots, survive in some Northumbrian dialects.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is unique within Northumberland. The local speech has characteristics of the North Northumbrian dialect and due to its geographical location, has characteristics of the East Central Scots dialect as well.
This Dialect has several distinguishing features from the Geordie dialect and features of this dialect include the "Northumbrian burr", a distinct pronunciation of the letter R and elongation of vowels although this feature is not just specific to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
A sociological study of the Anglo-Scottish border region conducted in the year 2000 found that locals of Alnwick, 30 miles (48 km) south of Berwick, associated the Berwick accent with Scottish influence. Conversely, those from Eyemouth, Scotland, 9 miles (14 km) north of Berwick, firmly classed Berwick speech as English, identifying it as Northumbrian.
Classification in relation to English and Scots
The Northumbrian Language Society, founded in 1983 to research, preserve and promote the Northumbrian language variety, considers it as divergent enough to be not a dialect of Modern Standard English but, rather, a separate English (Anglic) language of its own, since it is largely not comprehensible by standard English speakers. Northumbrian has perhaps an even closer relationship with Modern Scots, and both are sometimes considered as distinct languages derived from Old English but close relatives, or as essentially the same language, albeit with minor differences. The similarities are not commonly or formally recognised due to sensitivities on both side of the border. The status of Scots and Northumbrian as either languages or dialects therefore remains open to debate.
- Northumbrian includes some strong plurals such as ee/een (eye/eyes), coo/kye (cow/cows) and shough/shoon (shoe/shoes) that survived from Old English into Northumbrian but have become weak plurals in Standard Modern English – ox/oxen and child/children being exceptions. Regular Northumbrian plurals which correspond to irregular in Standard English include laifs (loaves), wifes (wives) and shelfs (shelves)
- T–V distinction: Use of the singular second-person pronouns thoo or tha and thee in southern Northumberland and Durham. These forms are not found in northern Northumberland where only ye is used.
- Aa's (I is) and thoo's (thou is) are the first and second person present forms of the verb "to be" in southern Northumberland and Durham. In northern Northumberland Aa'm (I am) is favoured as in Scots and Standard English.
- In Northumbrian the definite article is unreduced as in Standard English and Scots. Notable exceptions include Weardale and Teesdale, where the definite article is reduced to t' as in Yorkshire and Cumbrian.
- The English verb "to be able" is in Northumbrian in the older form 'te can', for example "aa used te cud sing" 'i used to be able to sing'.
Some Northumbrian words include:
- aa / aw - I
- aboot - about
- aalreet or aareet - a variation on "alright" or "hello" (often used in the phrase "aalreet mate"). The "l" sound is also often dropped, meaning it is pronounced as "aa'reet"
- aye - yes
- bairn/grandbairn - child/grandchild
- bari - "good" or "lovely"
- banter - chat/gossip
- belta - "really good", used in the film Purely Belter
- bess - "please ya bess" for "please yourself"
- te boule - to roll, however te boule aboot means to "mess around"
- bray - to overpower or defeat someone, usually in a physical sense
- byer - cow house
- cannot or canna - cannot
- canny - "pleasant", or like in Scots "quite" (therefore something could be described as "canny canny")
- chud - chewing gum
- clart or clarts - "mud" as in "there's clarts on yor beuts"
- cuddy - a small horse or a pony
- te dee - do
- deeks - "look" as in "Gie’s a deeks" - "Gimme a look"
- divvent, dinnit or dinna - "don't"
- divvie - an insult, referring to a stupid person
- doon - down
- ee - oh, an exclamation of shock
- fitha, faatha or fadder - "father"
- te gan - to go ("gannin" or "gaan" = going)
- gadgie - man
- git awesh - "go away"
- geet, varry - very
- gie's- "Give me", compare "Gimme"
- haad - "hold" example: keep a haad means "keep a hold" or "look after", and haad yor gob means "keep quiet".]
- hev or hae - have
- hacky - "dirty"
- haddaway - "get away"
- hairn (or hen) - similar to "hinny", see below
- hinny a term of endearment - "Honey"
- hoose - house
- ho'wair, ho'way or ha'way - "come on"
- te hoy - to throw 
- hyem - "home"
- us- me, for example Pass us the gully meaning "Pass me the knife"
- ket - sweets
- te knaa - know
- lekky - electricity, or electric
- te lend - often used for borrow, (lend us a bi meaning "Can I borrow a pen?")
- like - used as a filler in many sentences; usually every other word, e.g. like, is he on aboot me or like, summat, like?
- mair for "more" (compare with German "mehr")
- mam/maa a variation of Mother
- man - often used as a generic term of address, as in "Giv uz it heor noo man" or "haway man"
- marra - Friend. Used like "mate" - aareet marra meaning "hello friend")
- me or ma - my (compare: myself > meself or mesel)
- mollycoddle - overprotect, "wrap in cotton wool"
- muckle - similar to "canny", in the sense of meaning "quite". It can also mean "big", for instance "Yon hoose hez a muckle windae" means "that house has a big window"
- ner, na or nar - no
- neb - nose (nebby = nosey)
- neet - night
- nettie - toilet
- nivvor - never
- noo - now,
- nowt - nothing
- owt - anything
- pet - a term of address or endearment towards a woman or a child
- plodge - to stomp about or wade through something ungracefully
- radge or radgie - crazy
- sel - "self" as in mesel = myself, yersel = yourself, hesel = himself, horsel = herself, waselves, thaselves
- shuttin for "shooting" thus simply shortening the "oo" vowel sound
- snek - nose
- spelk - a splinter
- stot - to bounce. A well-known local bread bun called a 'stottie cake' receives its name from the fact the dough is 'stotted' about when being made.
- summat or summick - something
- tab - cigarette
- tiv or te - to. The former is usually used when the following word begins with a vowel. There's nowt tiv it - "there's nothing to it"
- toon - town (or specifically Newcastle)
- wa - "our". used in a more general sense unlike "wor" below as in "Divvint touch wa bags" means "Don't touch our bags"
- willent, winnit - "won't"
- wor - our, Used primarily to denote a family member, such as "wor bairn"
- wu- "us" as in What ye deein te wu? means "What are you doing to us?"
- yark - verb meaning to hit or move abrasively. Believed to be a corruption of "jerk"
- ye or 'ee for you as in What are 'ee deein meaning "What are you doing?"
- yor, thee - your
- Thomas Moody, The Mid-Northumbrian Dialect, 2007
- Bill Griffiths, A Dictionary of North East Dialect, 2005
- Cecil Geeson, A Northumberland & Durham Word book, 1969
- Richard Oliver Heslop, Northumberland Words. A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Northumberland & on the Tyneside. 1893