Pronunciation model: Manx English

View the Manx English pronunciation key here.

Situated in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is a self-governing crown dependency of the United Kingdom and not part of the United Kingdom itself. 80 miles northwest of Liverpool lies the capital, Douglas, though the island sits between Northern Ireland to the west, England to the east, Scotland to the north and Wales to the south. It has an area of 221 square miles (572 square kilometres) and a population of just over 85,000 (2011 census), a huge increase on the 48,000 population of 1961. Manx Gaelic emerged from the Goidelic Celtic language of Irish settlers, but it was the 300+ years of rule by a Lancashire family that provided the model of English for many of these speakers; the shift to English as a first language evolved over several centuries, with the death of the last first-language Manx Gaelic speaker as recent as the 1970s (see Hamer 2013).

Manx English (MXE) today continues to evolve and, in pronunciation terms at least, the accent has not quite settled. The differences between the MXE descriptions of Barry (1984) and Hamer (2013) in part reflect the impact of the increased immigration, particularly since the 1980s, and most of these from England. The result has been an increased influence of English accents, most notably from northwest regions of England (such as Liverpool and Lancaster). Meanwhile, a reducing influence of Manx Gaelic on Manx English has diminished the distinctive Gaelic flavour of the variety, despite the recent reinvigorated interest in Manx Gaelic (supported by Culture Vannin, formerly the Manx Heritage Foundation).

As with all OED pronunciations, the model of Manx English aims to represent the speech of educated urban speakers of standard English. The descriptions of both Barry and Hamer have laid the foundations for the model, evaluated and updated through editorial review of recent Manx English recordings and with expert consultation to reflect current patterns of MXE pronunciation. The model reflects certain aspects of variation which can be currently observed in MXE, though some of these are unlikely to exist longer-term, being notably less common in the speech of younger generations. The key features of vowel pronunciation for this variety are described below.


 TRAP æ PALM ɑː + æː CURE uə RABBIT ɪ
 BATH æː START ɑː + æː FACE eɪ ADDED ə
 ɑɪ BEAUTIFUL syllabic
 CLOTH ɒ + ɔː NORTH ɔː VOICE ɒɪ PIANO i + j

The phonologically context-dependent lengthening once typical of several short vowels, and which gave rise to a highly distinctive MXE rhythmical stress, is diminishing in modern MXE. Strong lengthening appears primarily to remain in older speakers or dialect poetry, such as with the dress vowel before stops, fricatives, nasals and approximants. TRAP/BATH, once identical in length, are now more distinct, while CLOTH demonstrates that the lengthening of /ɒ/ to /ɔː/ (where retained) is now nearly exclusively before voiceless fricatives. In specific entries the LOT vowel may be fronted to /æ/.

The STRUT vowel is consistently /ʊ/, though some words with British English /ʌ/ or /ʊ/ may be MXE /ɒ/.

British English /ʊ/ is sometimes traditionally MXE /uː/, most noticeably before /k/, though this is changing towards /ʊ/ for younger speakers. The model also follows Hamer in representing how a significant number of speakers have /æː/ instead of /ɑː/, by representing PALM and START vowels with both forms.

Barry describes several diphthong ‘switches’ between British English and MXE though most are not reported by Hamer, except for British English /iː/ sometimes being MXE /eɪ/. As with /uə/ occasionally being used for otherwise /ɔː/ vowels, these are adopted on a case-by-case basis. The fronted element of the MOUND vowel remains commonplace (/æʊ/), while SQUARE is shifting from /eɪə/ (as reported by Barry) towards the /ɛː/ noted in many current speakers (and is the pronunciation used here). The PRIDE vowel is described by both Barry and Hamer as having a fronted first element (/æɪ/) but a backer first element is noted in many speakers’ current speech.

The back fricative /x/ is a feature of Manx Gaelic which is retained in Manx-origin words by some MXE speakers, otherwise pronounced as /k/ or /ɡ/. A distinctive MXE articulation is the realization of /t/ produced against the teeth (a ‘dental stop’). However, unlike Irish English, the salience of this sound in MXE appears to lie more in its manner of articulation than its place, and so is represented as /t/ not /θ/. Hamer notes a tendency for /t/ to become a dental fricative in words such as Easter, but this is not particularly noticeable in many modern MXE speakers. The realization of /θ/ as a dental stop by some speakers is reflected as /t/ only for entries where current evidence suggests the stop pronunciation is current, and may be given as a variant. The devoicing and stopping of /ð/ found in the speech of some speakers is not reflected. More general patterns of word-medial and word-final devoicing with /ð/, /z/, /v/, /d/ or /ɡ/ are not represented by rule, but may be so if sufficiently strong as to crossover with the equivalent voiceless sound and sufficiently common for a given entry. The potential loss of the glottal fricative when occurring in an unstressed second element of compounds is represented by bracketing /(h)/.

A noticeable feature in the speech of current MXE speakers is the strong syllabicity of /n/ and /l/ consonants in e.g. gibbin, carval, Tynwald. Schwa appears more likely with certain types of more complex clusters, as in loaghtan, tholtan. The present participle suffix -ing is given both as more traditional MXE /ən/ and increasingly common /ɪŋ/.

Clusters: Formerly /hw-/ wh- words are realized as /(k)w-/. Word-final clusters /nd ld lt st lv nt ft/ are often reduced to the first element, and the likelihood of such reduction is indicated on a case-by-case basis.

Glottal stop and lenited allophones of /t/ may be noted where appropriate in the audio of our MXE speakers, but are covered by the phonemic-level transcription of /t/. Similarly, a palatal variant of the /l/ sound may be heard where orthographic li sequences occur (e.g. traa dy liooar).

Manx English at one point was at least partially (if not fully) rhotic, but is now a non-rhotic variety. In some contexts /r/ is realized with a tap or trill, a feature potentially noted in the audio but not in transcription. Linking /r/ is a feature (in e.g. over-age), with intrusive /r/ (in e.g. drawing) more variable and therefore bracketed.

Key sources for Manx English