Cardiff English

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Location of Cardiff (red) within Wales

The Cardiff accent, also known as Cardiff English1 is the regional accent of English, and a variety of Welsh English, as spoken in and around the city of Cardiff, and is somewhat distinctive in Wales, compared with other Welsh accents.2 Its pitch is described as somewhat lower than that of Received Pronunciation, whereas its intonation is closer to dialects of England rather than Wales.3

It is estimated that around 500,000 people speak Cardiff English. The accent is generally limited to inside the city's northern boundary, rather than extending to the nearby South Wales Valleys where the spoken variety of English is different. However, the accent area spreads east and west of the city's political borders, covering much of the former counties of South Glamorgan and south-west Gwent, including Newport and coastal Monmouthshire.34

The dialect developed distinctively as the city grew in the nineteenth century, with an influx of migrants from different parts of Britain and further afield. The Cardiff accent and vocabulary has been influenced in particular by those who moved there from the English Midlands, the West Country, other parts of Wales, and Ireland.5


The formation of the modern Cardiff accent has been cited as having an Irish influence, similar to the influence of the Liverpool accent, given both cities' status as major world ports.2 However recent analysis has shown the accent to have much older, local roots, the investigation uncovered findings in conflict to the view that the accent has strong origins outside of the local area, as it summarises that:

"The Cardiff accent has been analysed by a number of dialect experts from England and they tend to emphasise the influence of immigrants from Ireland and the South West of England. But they often forget about the impact the local dialect of Welsh has had on the city's accent. Everyone knows that Cardiffians tend to pronounce their 'ah' sounds more like an 'eh' sound - for instance, 'Kairdiff' rather than 'Cardiff', 'dairk' instead of 'dark', etc. But that's exactly what local Welsh speakers would have done years ago. Turning their 'as into 'e's is one of the characteristics of 'Y Wenhwyseg' (the older, local dialect). Perhaps the non-Welsh speaking residents of Cardiff are more faithful to the original pronunciation than the Welsh speakers who have moved to the city in recent years!" 6

According to a BBC study, the Cardiff accent, as well as that of Liverpool and East London, is in the process of changing due to the modern influence of immigration on youth, primarily of Arabic and Hindi influence.7

Social variation

Research has shown that there is a great sociolinguistic variation on the Cardiff accent, that is to say, a difference in the way people speak from different social backgrounds in Cardiff. Unsurprisingly, those from a more affluent background generally speak with a less broad accent, closer to that of standard English, compared with people from a working class background.1 Thus, the city itself has different dialects, with people from the less affluent eastern and western districts of the city having a stronger and broader accent than those living in the more affluent north Cardiff.


Cardiff English monophthongs, from Coupland (1990:93-95)
Cardiff English diphthongs, from Coupland (1990:97)

A common first reaction to the accent is often that it is scarcely different from what is considered a "proper Welsh accent", which is usually seen by most outside Wales as being the variety spoken in the South Wales Valleys. Cardiff English shares many phonetic traits with the English spoken in the Severnside area of England, but differs in being non-rhotic.3


The pitch of the Cardiff accent is generally closer to English accents rather than Welsh, but with a higher range than in Received Pronunciation (RP). Nevertheless, the average pitch is lower than other South Wales accents and RP. The accent tends to be consistent in pitch with strong expression, such as annoyance, excitement and emphasis. Pitch is one of the factors that the Cardiff accent and other South Wales accents share most closely.3


The accent is sufficiently distinct from standard English that researchers from the University of Birmingham have carried out research on the accent in an effort to improve speech recognition software.8

Place names in Cardiff, such as Crwys and Llanedeyrn, may be pronounced in a way which reflects rules of neither Welsh nor English.5

Differences from Standard English


Common differences of the Cardiff accent from Standard English or Received Pronunciation include:

  • The substitution of /ɪə/ by øː39
    • here /hɪə/ pronounced [hjøː] or [jøː] in broader accents
  • A more open pronunciation of /ʌ/ as in love and other9
  • /ɑː/ is widely realised as æː, giving a pronunciation of Cardiff /ˈkɑːdɪf/ as Kaddiff [ˈkæːdɪf]
Received Pronunciation Cardiff English Received Pronunciation Cardiff English
ɑː æ Cardiff [ˈkɑːdɪf] Kaddiff [ˈkæːdɪf]
ɒ ɑ hot [ˈhɒt] aht [ˈɑt]
ɑː a(ː) bath [ˈbɑːθ] baath [ˈbaːθ]
ɪ happy [ˈhæpɪ] apee [ˈapiː]
ɛə ɛː square [ˈskwɛə] squeh [ˈskwɛː]
ɔː ʌː thought [ˈθɔːt] thuhht [ˈθʌːt] Rounded vowels may be pronounced as unrounded in broader accents3
ɜː øː nurse [ˈnɜːs] nuus [ˈnøːs] The mid central unrounded vowel /ɜː/ may be realised as a rounded front vowel [øː] in middle-class varieties3
  • /k/ and /x/, the latter found in Welsh words as 'ch', are used interchangeably when using a Welsh word in English3
    • Mynachdy as [məˈnaxdiː] or [məˈnakdiː]
  • -ing [ɪŋ] realised as -in [ɪn] at the end of a word3
    • singing /ˈsɪŋɪŋ/ as singin [ˈsɪŋɪn]
  • /ð/ is often omitted3
    • that /ðæt/ as at [at]
  • /w/ as in sweet may be realised without lip-rounding, making it closer to a velar approximant [ɰ]
  • Aspiration is stronger in the stressed syllables of /p/, /t/, and /k/3
  • Glottalisation is weaker, especially in broader forms of the accent; that is the pronunciation of /t/ between two vowels or the last letter after a vowel at the end of a sentence3
    • kitten /ˈkɪtən/ as ki-uhn [ˈkɪʔn]
  • /h/ may be dropped from words, as in some other urban accents of English.1
    • human /ˈhjuːmən/ as yuman [ˈjuːmən]
  • /tj/ and /dj/ are usually realised as [tʃ] and [dʃ]3
    • tube [ˈtjuːb] as chube [ˈtʃuːb] ('ch' as in 'church', not 'sh')
  • Wasn't /ˈwɒzənt/, and similar words such as doesn't and isn't, may be realised with a [d] under the influence of a nasal vowel rather than [z], producing [ˈwɑdn̩] or just [ˈwɑn].3
  • A final /ts/ cluster is sometimes realised as [s]3
    • It's dead is realised as iss-ded [ɪs ˈdɛd]
    • He gets chips as he gess chips [hiː ɡɛs ˈtʃɪps]
  • Final pre-consonantal /t/ and /d/ may be dropped3
    • started collecting as starteh collecting [ˈstaːtɪ kəˈlɛktɪn]

Main differences from other Welsh variations of English

Common differences that are unique to the Cardiff accent, and not widely found in other varieties of Welsh English include:

  • /ɑː/ is often realised as the more open [æː] in words like are, hard and Cardiff. This can give a quite iconic local pronunciation of Cardiff Arms Park9
  • Open-mid back vowel /ʌ/ is realised as the more central vowel [ɜ]
  • /l/ before vowels, /j/, and dark [ɫ] is pronounced clearer than in other South Wales varieties, 'breaking' rather than rolling into the following word3
  • Vowels are generally closer to Received Pronunciation in Cardiff English than in other Welsh varieties, but with a tighter inner lip rounding3


Cardiff pronunciation IPA Received pronunciation IPA
C'm year8 [ˌkm̩ ˈjøː] Come here [ˌkʌm ˈhiə]
Clack's pie8 [ˌklæks ˈpaɪ] Clark's pie [ˌklɑːks ˈpaɪ]
Aw-righhh8 [ˈɔraɪ] Alright [ɔːlˈraɪt]
Merm8 [ˈmɜːm] Mum [ˈmʌm]
Fatha8 [ˈfæðə] Father [ˈfɑːðə]
Haff a lagga or a pint of Dack?8 [ˈæf ə ˈlæːɡə ɔr ə ˈpaɪnt ə ˈdæːk] Half a lager or a pint of Dark? [ˈhɑːf ə ˈlɑːɡə ɔːr ə ˈpaɪnt ɒv ˈdɑːk]


Grammatical differences

  • A common feature of the Cardiff accent is, in colloquial language, the tendency to use a 3rd person singular verb conjugation when referring to the 1st/2nd person singular or plural. For example, I lives in Cardiff rather than I live in Cardiff.1
  • When asking the whereabouts of something, a Cardiffian may ask Where's that to?,8 with the grammatically unnecessary addition of the preposition to, which indicates a direction even though this meaning would not actually be implied.
  • Double negatives are a feature of Cardiff English, as in some other urban accents of English.1
  • Cardiff English is marked by frequent assimilation and elision, when two distinct sounds merge into one when pronounced in sequence. Therefore, bearing in mind the dropping of /ð/, in these may be pronounced as [ɪnˈniːz] (in-neez), rather than [ɪn ˈðiːz].3
  • Contrasting elements of meaning in a sentence, e.g. "I'll be over there now, in a minute."5

Vocabulary differences

Words and phrases generally used in South Wales and Cardiff

lush;8 cracking great, fabulous, attractive
dap1 plimsole
to dap1 to bounce
tidy1 a general term of approval


The accent can be heard in varying degrees in the voices of Frank Hennessy, Charlotte Church, Colin Jackson, Craig Bellamy and Stan Stennett.2

Although based in nearby Barry, accents heard in the sitcom Gavin & Stacey are not Cardiff or Barry accents, with the exception of the character Nessa, played by Ruth Jones who is from the city.10


The former Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan pointed out in a pamphlet of Cardiff that having a strong Cardiff accent has long been an issue of class, recalling how teachers at a Cardiff high school prepared pupils for the middle class professions by reciting: "Hark, hark the lark In Cardiff Arms Park!"2

In a survey, carried out by the BBC, Welsh accents are among the least popular accents in the UK. However, the Cardiff accent was rated higher than that of nearby Swansea.11

In the 1960s, Gwyn Thomas, a Valleys man, described the speech of Cardiffians in the following way:12

"The speaking voices of this city fascinate. The immigrant half, the visitors from the hills, speak with a singing intonation, as if every sentence is half-way into oratorio, the vowels as broad as their shoulders. The Cardiff speech, a compound of the native dialect and a brand of High Bristolian, gives an impression of a wordly hardness. They speak of 'Cairdiff', 'Cathays Pairk', and for a long time it is not amiable to the ear. There is an edge of implied superiority in it to the rather innocent and guiless openness of the valley-speech."


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Google Books | World Englishes: Critical concepts in linguistics
  2. ^ a b c d Real Kairdiff BBC Accessed 2 March 2010
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Google Books | The phonetics of Cardiff English
  4. ^ The Roots of Cardiff English
  5. ^ a b c Guardian Cardiff | A Cardiff Story: A migrant city
  6. ^
  7. ^ BBC News| East End Cockney accent 'fading'
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i BBC NEWS | Wales | Computers to learn Cardiff accent
  9. ^ a b c Accents and dialects of the UK: Cardiff Accessed 2 March 2010
  10. ^ Daily Mail | Gavin & Stacey: Ten things you didn't know about the popular comedy
  11. ^ BBC NEWS | Wales | Welsh proud of 'unpopular' accent
  12. ^ The Language of Cardiff


  • Coupland, Nikolas (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, ISBN 1-85359-032-0 

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