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Local Dialect

You are in: Coventry and Warwickshire > People > Local Dialect > What the Vikings did for us

Prof Carl Chinn

Prof Carl Chinn

What the Vikings did for us

Where does the Coventry and Warwickshire accent come from? It turns out, according to Prof Carl Chinn, that it's a mix of Anglo Saxon and Norse.

“We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,” or so the famous Coventry City song goes, but do we have a distinct accent at all in Coventry and Warwickshire or are we just Birmingham lite?

Listen carefully and you’ll hear that although our accent isn’t as pronounced as Scouse, Geordie, Cockney or Brummie, there’s definitely a Coventry and Warwickshire sound – and it comes in three degrees. The north’s much stronger than Coventry, while South Warwickshire is weaker still.

A Viking

Vikings forms the East Midlands accent......

But why, when we’re so close to the West Midlands and the East Midlands, is our accent so different to our friends in Birmingham and the Black Country or Leicester and Nottingham? The answer, according to local history expert Professor Carl Chinn, lies with the Vikings.

But first, you have to travel back to around 500 AD when the Anglo Saxons first settled in the British Isle and the Mercia region was formed, which roughly covered what we now know to be the Midlands.

At that time, those in the area would have had a mixed accent, with the Germanic tones of the Anglo Saxon settlers and the British language that prevailed before.

Mercia was divided after the Viking invasions, when the Scandinavians captured most of the East of the region, splitting not just the area but the accent.

Meriden monument

...like Meriden, we're bang in the middle!

As time went on, as the counties and cities we know now were formed, the regional accents strengthened into the West Midlands and East Midlands accents we know today. However Coventry and Warwickshire’s accent stayed on its own, according to Carl, because of geography.

Even today, despite mass growth of our cities, there is a swathe of countryside separating Coventry from the rest of the West Midlands – the Meridan Gap.

“You have to remember that the gap was even wider then,” said Carl. “Sheldon was countryside until the 1930s and Sheldon was countryside until the 1930s and Yardley was rural until the 1910s.

“The gap may be physically the same in terms of distance but the separation of the settlements meant that Coventry wasn’t close enough to have the same accent as Birmingham.”

Anglo Saxon warriors

...Anglo Saxons formed the West Midlands accent...

Warwickshire also borders the East Midlands and our accent is a hybrid of the sounds from the West and Eastern sides of the old Mercia region.

“Coventry looks both ways, to the east of the East Midlands and the west of the West Midlands, and that is why it has its own sound.” distance but the separation of the settlements meant that Coventry wasn’t close enough to have the same accent as Birmingham.”

Warwickshire also borders the East Midlands and our accent is a hybrid of the sounds from the West and Eastern sides of the old Mercia region.

“Coventry looks both ways, to the east of the East Midlands and the west of the West Midlands, and that is why it has its own sound.”

last updated: 18/04/2008 at 11:01
created: 07/01/2005

You are in: Coventry and Warwickshire > People > Local Dialect > What the Vikings did for us



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