Pitmatic (originally "pitmatical"), also colloquially known as "yakka", is a dialect of English used in the counties of Northumberland and Durham in England. It developed as a separate dialect from other Northumbrian dialects such as Geordie partly due to the specialised terms used by mineworkers in the local coal pits. For example, in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear the word Cuddy is an abbreviation of the name Cuthbert but in Durham Pitmatic cuddy denotes a horse, specifically a pit pony.[1] In Lowland Scots, cuddie usually refers to a donkey or ass but may also denote a short, thick, strong horse.[2]

Traditionally, pitmatic, together with some rural Northumbrian communities including Rothbury, used a guttural R. This is now less frequently heard; since the closure of the area's deep mines, many younger people speak in local ways that do not usually include this characteristic. The guttural r sound can, however, still sometimes be detected, especially amongst elderly populations in more rural areas.


While in theory pitmatic was spoken throughout the Great Northern Coalfield, from Ashington in Northumberland to Fishburn in County Durham, early references apply specifically to its use by miners especially from the Durham district (1873) [3] and to its use in County Durham (1930).

Dialect words in Northumberland and Tyneside, including many specific to the coal-mining industry, were collected in the two volumes of Northumberland Words by Oliver Heslop in 1892 and 1894.[4][5]

Although he did not use the term, Alexander J. Ellis's work on the language of miners "between rivers Tyne and Wansbeck" has been studied as an early transcription of Pitmatic, which used informants from Earsdon and Backworth.[6] In the 1950s, the Survey of English Dialects included Earsdon as a site and many of the forms recorded matched the transcriptions in Ellis's early work, although some appeared to have modified under pressure from other forms of English.[6]

Harold Orton compiled a database of dialect forms for 35 locations in Northumberland and northern Durham, known as the Orton Corpus.[6]

In 1973, a book Pit Talk in County Durham was written by a local miner named David John Douglass, who later moved to South Yorkshire and published a series of socialist books.

In media

Nowadays "pitmatic" is an uncommon term in popular usage. In recent times, all three dialects have converged, acquiring features from more Standard English varieties. English as spoken in County Durham has been described as "half-Geordie, half-Teesside" (see the article about Mackem).

Melvyn Bragg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 about pitmatic as part of a series on regional dialects.[7] Pitmatic has rarely featured in entertainment. One of the few cases is the second episode of Ken Loach's series Days of Hope, which was filmed around Esh Winning in Durham with mostly local actors, although the lead Paul Copley has a Yorkshire accent.

Related forms of English

Other Northern English dialects include


  1. ^ Durham Cathedral sermon discussing pitmatic
  2. ^ "cuddy". Dictionary of the Scots Language.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Volume 1
  5. ^ Volume 2
  6. ^ a b c An Atlas of Alexander J. Ellis's The Existing Phonology of English Dialects, http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/EllisAtlas/Index.html, has further details.
  7. ^ Melvyn Bragg explores Pitmatic in a BBC Radio 4 programme


  • Dictionary of North-East Dialect, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2004).
  • Pitmatic: The Talk of the North East Coalfields, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2007).

External links


Ashington is a town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, with a population of 27,864 at the 2011 Census. It was once a centre of the coal mining industry. The town is 15 miles (24 km) north of Newcastle upon Tyne, west of the A189 and bordered to the south by the River Wansbeck. The North Sea coast at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea is 3 miles (5 km) away.

Many inhabitants have a distinctive accent and dialect known as Pitmatic. This varies from the regional dialect known as Geordie.

Bill Griffiths

Bill Griffiths (20 August 1948 – 13 September 2007) was a poet and Anglo-Saxon scholar associated with the British Poetry Revival.

Bobby Thompson (comedian)

Robert Michael "Bobby" Thompson (18 November 1911 – 16 April 1988) was a stand-up comedian, actor and entertainer from Penshaw, Sunderland. Although he was raised in Penshaw, he also lived in Great Lumley and Barley Mow, near Chester-le-Street, later moving to Whitley Bay.

David John Douglass

David John Douglass, sometimes known as Dave or "danny the red", is a political activist in Tyneside and Yorkshire . He is a member of the IWW, the NUM and Class War, and was formerly in the Revolutionary Workers' Party (Trotskyist) and the Socialist Union (Internationalist), of which he was a leading member. He is a regular contributor to the Weekly Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee). He has also written Pit Talk in County Durham (1973), a book about the dialect Pitmatic.

He holds an MA in Industrial Relations and Law.He worked as a coalminer in the coalfields of Durham and South Yorkshire, and was NUM Branch Delegate for Hatfield Colliery from 1979. He appears in the documentary The Miner's Campaign Tapes to discuss the role of the popular media in the strike of 1984-85. In 1994-95 he was Branch Secretary at Hatfield Main, but after the pit was privatised the NUM no longer had any recognition there.From 1994 to 2006 he helped to run the Miners Community Advice Centre in Stainforth.He worked at the National Coal Mining Museum for England as a researcher on the exhibition Strike, Not the End of It, and subsequently published a book with the same title on the history of industrial disputes in British mining.The three volumes of his autobiography were published between 2008 and 2010.

English language in England

The English language spoken and written in England encompasses a diverse range of accents and dialects. The dialect forms part of the broader British English, along with other varieties in the United Kingdom. Terms used to refer to the English language spoken and written in England include: English English, Anglo-English and British English in England.

The related term 'British English' (which in American English is often used to mean English English and Anglo-English) has many ambiguities and tensions in the word "British" and as a result can be used and interpreted multiple ways, but is usually reserved to describe the features common to English English, Welsh English and Scottish English (England, Wales and Scotland are the three traditional countries on the island of Great Britain; the main dialect of the fourth country of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, is Ulster English, which is generally considered a sub-dialect of Hiberno-English).

English language in Northern England

The English language in Northern England has been shaped by the region's history of settlement and migration, and today encompasses a group of related dialects known as Northern England English (or, simply, Northern English in the United Kingdom). Historically, the strongest influence on the varieties of the English language spoken in Northern England was the Northumbrian dialect of Old English, but contact with Old Norse during the Viking Age and with Irish English following the Great Famine have produced new and distinctive styles of speech. Some "Northern" traits can be found further south than others: only the northernmost accents of Northumberland and Tyneside retain the pre-Great Vowel Shift pronunciation of words such as town (, "toon"), but all northern accents lack the FOOT–STRUT split, and this trait extends a significant distance into the Midlands.

There are traditional dialects associated with many of the historic counties, including the Cumbrian dialect, Lancashire dialect and Yorkshire dialect, but new, distinctive dialects have arisen in cities following urbanisation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: The Manchester urban area has the Manchester dialect, Liverpool and its surrounds have Scouse, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne has Geordie. Many Northern English accents are stigmatised, and speakers often attempt to repress Northern speech characteristics in professional environments, although in recent years Northern English speakers have been in demand for call centres, where Northern stereotypes of honesty and straightforwardness are seen as a plus.

Northern English is one of the major groupings of England English dialects; other major groupings include East Anglian English, East and West Midlands English, West Country (Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall) and Southern English English.

English of Northumbria

Northumbria English is a dialect of Northern English ("Northumbrian Language" typically only refers to broadly spoken Northumbrian whereas Northumbrian English may just refer to Standard English as spoken in Northumbria and featuring various Northumbrian words and forms) linguistically closest to Lowland Scots. Northumbrian is made up of several dialects, with the Geordie dialect (Tyneside) being perhaps the most famous dialect spoken in Northumbria. The other dialects are Northern (spoken north of the River Coquet), Southern or Pitmatic (typically spoken in mining towns), Mackem (spoken in Wearside) and arguably Smoggie (Teesside). It is spoken mainly if not exclusively in the modern day counties of Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was much more extensive than this, covering Yorkshire and some parts of Lancashire and Scotland.

List of dialects of English

The following is a list of dialects of English. Dialects are linguistic varieties which may differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. For the classification of varieties of English in terms of pronunciation only, see Regional accents of English.

Dialects can be defined as "sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible." English speakers from different countries and regions use a variety of different accents (systems of pronunciation), as well as various localized words and grammatical constructions; many different dialects can be identified based on these factors. Dialects can be classified at broader or narrower levels: within a broad national or regional dialect, various more localized sub-dialects can be identified, and so on. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost unintelligible to speakers from other regions.

The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into three general categories: the British Isles dialects, those of North America, and those of Australasia. Dialects can be associated not only with place, but also with particular social groups. Within a given English-speaking country, there will often be a form of the language considered to be Standard English – the Standard Englishes of different countries differ, and each can itself be considered a dialect. Standard English is often associated with the more educated layers of society, as well as more formal registers.

British and American English are the reference norms for English as spoken, written, and taught in the rest of the world, excluding countries where English is spoken natively such as Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. In many former British Empire countries where English is not spoken natively, British English forms are closely followed, alongside numerous AmE usages which have become widespread throughout the English-speaking world. Conversely, in many countries historically influenced by the United States where English is not spoken natively, American English forms are closely followed. Many of these countries, while retaining strong BrE or AmE influences, have developed their own unique dialects, which include Indian English and Philippine English.

Chief among other native English dialects are Canadian English and Australian English, which rank third and fourth in the number of native speakers. For the most part, Canadian English, while featuring numerous British forms alongside indigenous Canadianisms, shares vocabulary, phonology and syntax with American English, leading many to recognize North American English as an organic grouping of dialects. Australian English likewise shares many American and British English usages alongside plentiful features unique to Australia, and retains a significantly higher degree of distinctiveness from both the larger varieties than does Canadian English. South African English, New Zealand English and the Hiberno-English of Ireland are also distinctive and rank fifth, sixth and seventh in the number of native speakers.


Mackem, Makem or Mak'em is the informal nickname for residents of and people from Sunderland, a city in North East England. It is also a name for the local accent (not to be confused with Geordie); and for a fan, whatever their origin, of Sunderland A.F.C. It has been used by (a proportion of) the people of Sunderland to describe themselves since the 1980s, prior to which it was mainly used in Tyneside as a disparaging exonym. An alternative name for a Mackem (except in the sense of a football supporter) is a Wearsider.

Northern England

Northern England, also known as the North of England or simply the North, is the northern part of England, considered as a single cultural area. It extends from the Scottish border in the north to near the River Trent in the south, although precise definitions of its southern extent vary. Northern England approximately comprises three statistical regions: the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. These have a combined population of around 14.9 million as of the 2011 Census and an area of 37,331 km2 (14,414 sq mi). Northern England contains much of England's national parkland but also has large areas of urbanisation, including the conurbations of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Teesside, Tyneside, Wearside, and South and West Yorkshire.

The region has been controlled by many groups, from the Brigantes, the largest Brythonic kingdom of Great Britain, to the Romans, to Anglo-Saxons and Danes. After the Norman conquest in 1066, the Harrying of the North brought destruction. The area experienced Anglo-Scottish border fighting until the unification of Britain under the Stuarts, with some parts changing hands between England and Scotland many times. Many of the innovations of the Industrial Revolution began in Northern England, and its cities were the crucibles of many of the political changes that accompanied this social upheaval, from trade unionism to Manchester Capitalism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the economy of the North was dominated by heavy industry such as weaving, shipbuilding, steelmaking and mining. The deindustrialisation that followed in the second half of the 20th century hit Northern England hard, and many towns remain deprived compared with those in Southern England.

Urban renewal projects and the transition to a service economy have resulted in strong economic growth in some parts of Northern England, but a definite North–South divide remains both in the economy and the culture of England. Centuries of migration, invasion and labour have shaped Northern culture, and the region retains distinctive dialects, music and cuisine.


Northumberland (; abbreviated Northd) is a county in North East England. The northernmost county of England, it borders Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a 64 miles (103 km) path. The county town is Alnwick, although the County council is based in Morpeth.The county of Northumberland included Newcastle upon Tyne until 1400, when the city became a county of itself. Northumberland expanded greatly in the Tudor period, annexing Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1482, Tynedale in 1495, Tynemouth in 1536, Redesdale around 1542 and Hexhamshire in 1572. Islandshire, Bedlingtonshire and Norhamshire were incorporated into Northumberland in 1844. Tynemouth and other settlements in North Tyneside were transferred to Tyne and Wear in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972.

Lying on the Anglo-Scottish border, Northumberland has been the site of a number of battles. The county is noted for its undeveloped landscape of high moorland, now largely protected as the Northumberland National Park. Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England, with only 62 people per square kilometre.

Northumbrian burr

The Northumbrian burr is the distinctive uvular pronunciation of R in the traditional dialects of Northumberland, Tyneside ('Geordie'), and northern County Durham, but it is now prevalent only in the older residents of rural Northumberland.


Scouse (; also, in academic sources, called Liverpool English or Merseyside English) is an accent and dialect of English found primarily in the Metropolitan county of Merseyside, and closely associated with the city of Liverpool. The accent often extends through neighbouring areas

and across the Liverpool City Region, including Birkenhead and the wider Wirral Peninsula, as well as Ellesmere Port, Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire and Skelmersdale in Lancashire.The Scouse accent is highly distinctive, and has little in common with those used in the majority of neighbouring regions. The accent itself is not specific to all of Merseyside, with the accents of residents of St Helens and Southport, for example, more commonly associated with the historic Lancastrian accent.North of the Mersey, the accent was primarily confined to Liverpool until the 1950s when slum clearance in the city resulted in migration of the populace into new pre-war and post-war developments in surrounding areas of Merseyside. South of the Mersey, Scouse spread very early to Birkenhead in the 19th century but much later to the rest of the Wirral. The continued development of the city and its urban areas has brought the accent into contact with areas not historically associated with Liverpool such as Prescot, Whiston and Rainhill in Merseyside and Widnes, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.Variations within the accent and dialect are noted, along with popular colloquialisms, that show a growing deviation from the historical Lancashire dialect and a growth in the influence of the accent in the wider area.Inhabitants of Liverpool can be referred to as Liverpudlians, Liverpolitans or Wackers but are more often described by the colloquialism "Scousers".

St Cuthbert's Society, Durham

St Cuthbert's Society, colloquially known as Cuths, is a college of Durham University. It was founded in 1888 for students who were not attached to the existing colleges. St Cuthbert's Society is a Bailey college, based on Durham's peninsula next to the River Wear, although it also has other accommodation a few minutes' walk away in Old Elvet.

St Cuthbert's retains its title of 'society', although its workings have changed since its formation. Its foundation differed from that of Durham's other colleges in that it was established as a common room for, and by, its students. Other Societies followed: St Aidan's Society – now St Aidan's College, and the Graduate Society – now Ustinov College. It is still home to the highest proportion of local students of those at Durham-based colleges (although not if the two Stockton-based colleges are included), and also traditionally houses a high proportion of mature students.

It is the only collegiate body to offer undergraduates catered, self-catered, and part catered accommodation.

Survey of English Dialects

The Survey of English Dialects was undertaken between 1950 and 1961 under the direction of Professor Harold Orton of the English department of the University of Leeds. It aimed to collect the full range of speech in England and Wales before local differences were to disappear. Standardisation of the English language was expected with the post-war increase in social mobility and the spread of the mass media. The project originated in discussions between Professor Orton and Professor Eugen Dieth of the University of Zurich about the desirability of producing a linguistic atlas of England in 1946, and a questionnaire containing 1,300 questions was devised between 1947 and 1952.

Wingate, County Durham

Wingate is a village in County Durham, England.

Wingate is a former pit village with a mixture of 19th-century, post-war, and more recent housing developments. It was originally inhabited by around 30 farmers before 1839 when coal was discovered. It is located in the East of County Durham, three miles south west of Peterlee, and seven miles north west of Hartlepool. As with most villages in the area, it grew rapidly with the development of coal-mining in the region.

The name Wingate is said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon words windig (windy) and geat (road) meaning windy road. Like all County Durham villages, residents are known to speak the pitmatic dialect although new housing developments has seen a sharp increase in the village's population.

Dialects and accents of Modern English by continent
North and

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