Somerset English

Here.
The Somerset English dialect.
I am sorry, but this is some of the most messed up English I have ever heard in my life. I could barely make out a single word this fellow is saying. Speaker is an elderly man, about 80 years old, from Somerset County in southwest England. This area is south of Wales and east of Cornwall in a region called Exmoor. It is heavily forested with rolling  hills. This is a rural area where homes are spaced far apart. Sheep grazing is a common industry.
This man’s speech was probably typical of the region 80 years ago, in the 1920’s. Nowadays few young people speak like this anymore, as most have adopted the more popular London dialect.
It is said that this accent is similar to that spoken by early immigrants to America from the Mayflower era to 50 years later, who came disproportionately from southwestern England for some reason. Why? Easy access to the coast from which to sail ships? There is a town in Virgina called Tangier that retains a Restoration Era English accent to this very day. It was settled in 1670 by English form the southwest of England near where this Somerset dialect is spoken.
The entire accent in this region is known globally by the term “West Country dialect.” It encompasses most of southwest England over to Cornwall, east to Bristol or so and then southeast at least to Bournemouth on the coast. It is quite a strong accent, and it is rather unique.
I am not sure what this even sounds like. It might sound a bit like Scottish or possibly like Scouse from Liverpool. It is possible that Middle or even Old English sounded something like this. A commenter from Ireland said that it sounds something like Irish Gaelic for some odd reason. Why would an English accent sound like Gaelic? Because of the nearby influence of Welsh perhaps?
But honestly I felt that it sounded more like German, or better yet, Frisian, than anything else. There is a dialect of Danish, actually a separate language, called Jutish spoken in the far south of Denmark that sounds something like Scots and possibly like this dialect. Danes report that Jutish, at least the hard form spoken by people middle aged and older, is not intelligible with Standard Danish. However, Jutish or Synnejysk is further from Standard Danish than Danish is Swedish. If this is true, then Jutish is surely a separate language.
As Old English came from the Frisian (especially North Frisian) region of far northern Germany and far southern Denmark, it makes sense that these lects would resemble each other. Recall that three tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, were the ones who invaded England, conquering it from decaying Roman rule. Old Saxon pretty much went to Frisian, especially West Frisian. The language of the Jutes is maintained today by the Jutish speakers.

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0 thoughts on “Somerset English”

  1. That particular accent at times sounds distinctly similar to Irish to me. But then, the south west accents always reminded me a bit of Irish from a distance. People in the rural south west have a VERY strong accent of their own and it is still going strong to this day. Its called the west country accent and its not really like anything else. England has a lot of very different accents.
    I’ll try to find a good clip or something showing it.
    I think the reason this is hard to understand is because the sound quality is so poor. I’m sure I would understand most of it if I could actually hear it.

      1. I’ve been reading some of your posts and I actually quite like you and I feel a little bit bad calling you a fucker when you’ve fought in Iraq but screw you for the scouser comment. Glasgow, London, Manchester and Birmingham have higher crime rates than Liverpool.

  2. I live in Dorset which borders Somerset (I have also lived in somerset) and so I understood him fine. This particular kind of west country accent is known locally as Wurzel and if you wish to hear a more modern version check out the band The Wurzels.
    Cablinasian Coward, I know that English males and Freisland males are genetically identical and the Freisland language is related to old English.

      1. Admittedly it is a very bad English and he is exaggerating for effect but I understand most of it except for the odd word. When I was twelve we moved from London to a tiny village called Cattcott ten miles from the mendips where this recording is from. In the eighties there were some people who spoke that way, probably more diluted now.

  3. Genetic research in the last couple of years has shown that there is a high genetic affinity between males from southern and eastern parts of England, northern Netherlans, Danes and northwestern Germans. If you look at history this is not very surprising. But the more you go to the western parts of England, to Wales and Scotland, the genetic affinities are closer to Ireland, the western fringe of France and even northernmost Spain. This also is not very surprising. Astonishing is in my opinion that females in the “Anglo Saxon” parts of eastern, central and southern England, where males have more genetic affinity to the more eastern parts of the European continent, are also more closely related to people in the western parts of the British isles and the Atlantic coastal regions of western Europe.

  4. The remnants of the Celts in the British isles after the Romans left kept, and in some areas regained, their independence in Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland from the invading saxons and Vikings until the norman invasion.

  5. Cornwall was known, during the time of Saxon dominance in the British Isles, as West Wales.

  6. Sounds Irish to me, too. If you listen to old tapes of James Joyce talking you will be able to hear the similarities between both dialects at a similar time, around 1920 or so. Even the modern Irish accent and the modern West Country accent, as Steve said above, sound similar.
    It’s not just his accent that is confusing people though, the words are also old words that we wouldn’t know.

    1. What do you mean the “Irish accent?” The Irish don’t even speak English! You call “Hiberno-English” English? Have you ever heard Gerry Adams “speak English?” The Shaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwon Foyyyyyyyyyyyyyn!

      1. Yeah, they are only different accents rather than dialects. Most of the ‘dialects’ you have used in your examples are not really dialects at all, most of the words are the same as ‘proper’ English but the accent is so idiosyncratic as to make most words unintelligeable to the outsider. Relatively few words are truly regional, or could be described as dialectical. For example, Liverpool or Scouse English which the American girl had such problems understanding is the same as proper English save a few words. Grammar and syntax are exactly the same unlike true pidgeon languages that use the syntax of the native language and add English words and bastardised words. It’s completely different to regional accents in England, or even Hibernian English, though that does use Gaelic grammar and syntax, it is very close to regional English because, I presume, most of Western and Northern Britain spoke some variant of Gaelic.
        You are right about Gerry Adams though, I can barely understand him myself sometimes, but I’d never say that to his face.

  7. Sorry, but there are at least two serious errors in your post.
    1) Synnejysk (I think, that is what you call ‘Jutish’.) is not ‘not intelligible at all’ with Rigsdansk. It’s quite different but I’m convinced, that most Danish understand it, if it’s spoken slowly. Moreover I never heard, that it derives from the language the “old Jutes” spoke. There is a dialect-continuum to sjællandsk via østjysk og fynsk and not a complete language-break. (I wonder why you’re insinsting in intelligibility of dialects/languages. I think understanding an unknown accent/dialect is owed to a large extend to your experience with variations of the language. You can train it!)
    2) Although Old English is closely related to Old Frisian, there was not one Northern Frisian who went to England. Frisians settled firstly in Northern Frisa after Jutes had gone to England. The Jutes left the place for them.
    On Wikipedia you’ll find the explanation, that the Western Dialects show a state closer to Late West Saxon and therefore more similarity to Low German than RP does.

    1. Well if you have been listening to the lect for a long time and you can understand it, then it doesn’t count. That’s called bilingual learning. I had always heard that Danes can’t understand the hardcore Jutish. And talking slow doesn’t count. You have to tape them talking at a normal speed and then see how much of it people with virgin ears can understand.
      I suppose it is a question that we need to look into more. The concept of intelligiblity is a good one in Linguistics.

  8. I’m originally from Newfoundland (England’s 1st colony) and I understood a good chunk of what he was staying in this recording. Newfoundland was mostly settled by people from Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Hampshire. Our Newfoundland dialects are similar to those of the old West Country.
    These dialects are part of our history, and something we should cherish and be proud of.

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