Scouse (to rhyme with mouse
) is the accent
of the city of Liverpool
and environs. Liverpool being squarely in the north of England, it has characteristic northern
features, but it also has other features different from the surrounding country. Some of these it has in common with Irish
accents, since Liverpool was the main port of entry from Ireland into England. The distinctively local accent is a recent development, arising from the huge influx of Irish in the mid nineteenth century.
The general northern vowel features include the use of [U], the vowel of put, full in words such as cut, fun, where southern accents have split into two sounds. (It may be considerably forward, [
u], as with Scottish.) It also uses [a] in words like bath, pass, chance, the same vowel as in cat, had, where southern accents have shifted the bath words further back to [A] as in palm.
A vowel more specific to the region near Liverpool is the merger of the sounds of fare and fur. The native sound is more like the fur vowel [3:] but under southern influence it may be more like a retracted fare vowel [E:]. There is considerable class variation in the exact realizations of sounds: some speakers are much more influenced by prestige southern pronunciations than others. So all the following are merely generalizations about a 'typical' Scouse accent.
For some speakers the vowel of go has a very fronted first element, [eU]. This makes it resemble a very upper-class (and old-fashioned) Received Pronunciation version of that sound, but it does not have that class connotation in Liverpool.
One of the most noticeable things about the consonants is that they have greater friction. At the beginnings of syllables stops tend to become affricates, so [tsen] and [dzad] for ten and dad. After a vowel stops may be opened out into fricatives: [k] becomes [x] and [t] becomes a slit fricative, like an [s] but without the sibilance. This unusual sound is also an Irish feature. But between vowels it may become an [r], as in get it said as gerit.
As with Irish, the dental fricatives [T] and [D] of thin and then are not used, becoming stops [t] and [d], though with the characteristic Scouse friction described above.
In common with much of the north-west, the consonant [g] is always pronounced in words such as sing, singer.
It shares with both Irish and Northern accents that the [l] sound is clear in all positions, that is not velarized: so both L's in Liverpool are pronounced alike.
The intonation of Scouse is different from the southern accent RP, using more rises in statements, and a fall in questions: so in the question Are you from Liverpool? has a rise in Li- then falls, whereas an RP speaker would use a continuing rise.
Lectures by Professor John Wells, UCL, author of the standard guide Accents of English, 1982, Cambridge.
Knowles, G. 1978. 'The nature of phonological variation in Scouse', in Trudgill, P. (ed.) Sociolinguistic Patterns in British English, Edward Arnold. Also available at
The phonetic symbols used here are SAMPA.