West Country

WVPT's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime 

June 2022

First and foremost, intelligibility is at the core of our work; a close second is authenticity.  If you cannot be understood by the audience, then all authenticity brought to the dialect is irrelevant. There will be moments when we make a choice that seems less authentic, but always for the purpose of clearer communication. 

 

Rehearse and sing in dialect. Memorize your text in dialect. Revisit sound clips periodically to tap back into the sound/feeling of the dialect. ASK QUESTIONS if you are not sure about anything!

Swindon Map.png

People/History/Culture

Swindon is in the county of Wilthshire in the southwestern region of England known as Wessex (along with the counties of Dorset, Devon, and Somerset). Civilization can be dated back to the Bronze Age and it is thought to be mainly an agricultural town. The name Swindon originates form early Anglo-Saxon language describing the location: pig (swine) and the hill (down) it sits on. Population and industrialization increased as the canals branched through the UK and then again significantly when the railway was established. The railway works left Swindon in the late 1990s, causing a blow to the economy and population of Swindon. The city has since diversified as folks are more likely to leave or come to Swindon for job opportunities. This transient nature of the population has impacted the dialect to embrace a wider range of varieties found in London, so there is a lot of room for play within the various characters you will portray.

 

Interesting image to play with: Swindon’s transportation system boasts a Magic Roundabout which hosts 5 mini roundabouts within it. This fluid pattern resonates with Christopher’s focus as he navigates through the world he lives in AND it could serve as a beautiful reminder of the variety of prosodic and pronunciation possibilities in the dialect while following the outlined pattern.

 

Oral Posture

Charlie George, 30s, female,

Indian & English heritage 

Jazz Carlin, 25, female

  • Jaw: held fairly close without much need to open very widely

  • Tonge:

    • tip/blade — rests behind bottom teeth with various levels of precision in laminal/apical movement to roof of mouth

    • body — significant cupping in middle of tongue that affects front and back of dorsum

  • Lips: 

    • Corners — relaxed

    • Body — Lots of action here: pursing and trumpeting comes easily — it’s as though the sound lives right behind the lips or is gently pushed out in front of the lips

  • Velum: raised, giving the mouth a feeling of tallness

  • Food: imagine a gobstopper on your tongue you have to talk around carefully so it doesn’t fall out or down your throat

  • Image: tongue is a cup of tea and steam is rising up to tall roof of mouth in the raised velum - lips can serve as a spout to direct it out of the mouth

 

Swindon Voices: a variety of folks from the streets of Swindon

Prosody: Rhythm, Stress, Pitch

  • There is a significant variety in the range a West Country speaker will play with - certainly more so than many States speakers and even more so than most British speakers. There is a great tendency for ending words or syllables to carry a high rise in pitch with a little flick down.

  • Vowel sounds carry the emphasis and can not only be greatly varying in pitch, but in length and increased volume.

  • All varieties of emphasis (pitch, length, volume) happen within a syllable or even a single vowel.

  • Vocal Creak/Fry: while this is not a characteristic for all speakers of this dialect, it is a quality with high occurrence in West Country voices and is easy to embody for some variety play. 

  • LABAN QUALITY: gliding, floating, and some flicking

Notable Patterns

  • THE SWISH AND FLICK → (It’s leviOsa, not levioSA!) Rapid build to word/syllable that lengthens AND goes up in pitch - repeated and goes up higher in pitch on final rise.

  • Often times, it’s leading the thought, giving it possibility beyond finality of thought. A lot of vernacular in the West Country dialects will add little words of punctuation after the phrase/thought (i.e., but, ya know, so)

Prosody_A_Swindon_IMAGE_edited.png

“I mean a lot disliked her"

Swish & Flick
Swish & Flick - SLOW MO
Swish & Flick - Repeated Patttern
  • THE BOUNCING FALL → The lengthening of the sound comes in a more leading word of the phrase, contrary to the British tendency to emphasize ending operatives. Length, with a bit of volume, is used to emphasize the words and there is a downward patter of pitch, tumbling down as each phrase progresses toward the final word.

Prosody_B_Swindon_IMAGE_edited.png

“A lot of things that you could do here”

Bouncing Fall
Bouncing Fall - SLOW MO
 
 
 

Pronunciation: Salient Sounds

Consonants: You can play with the amount of detail you put into the pronunciation of consonants to reflect need/mood/age/etc. 

/r/ → [ ɹ̈ ]

Unlike many other dialects around the UK, this one will pronounce the /r/ sound that follows a vowel - much like you would hear in the States. There is a great deal of pirate association with this sound - think of the ‘arrrrrgh’ that is stereotypical pirate - he stereotype was originated by an actor from Swindon.

 

Christopher // take the PART of a policeman // won’t stay angry with me FOREVER

/h/

When the /h/ sound comes at the beginning of a word it is usually dropped - but NOT replaced with a glottal stop [ʔ].

HE’S gone to stay at HIS friends HOUSE // HALF an HOUR Christopher // HE said you went to the HOSPITAL

/l/ →

[ʊ̹] or [l]

When the ending /l/ comes after a vowel or consonant, it will not fully form by the tongue raising to touch the roof of the mouth, but will involve a lot of cupping and rounding of the mouth into the FOOT vowel [ʊ̹]: call, feel, smell, brittle

When the syllabic ending /l/ comes between two vowels, it is produced as a more typical [l]: call off, fellow

Not REALLY REAL at ALL // Does that mean I can STILL do my A-LEVEL?

/t/ → [ʔ] 

medial /t/ sounds (often spelled with two t’s) and ending /t/ sounds will frequently manifest into a glottal stop [ʔ]

STRUTTING round here as though // WON’T leave the FLAT on your own again // you LITTLE SHIT

ending

/-ing/

As is common with many US speakers, the ending /-ing/ will often cut the final velar plosive in its entirety. This occurs only with present participles (i.e., wishing, filming, typing), not with words such as fling or ring. 

Vowels & Diphthongs 

Lexical Set Keywords

IPA

Description // Additional Words

START

aəɹ̈

START words lean into the articulation of the /r/ sound so strongly they can often times turn into a diphthong: [aəɹ̈]

 

Farther // sharp // bark // bank CARD // You ARE looking at the STARS,

LOT

ɒː

This vowel sound gets looooooots of length. :)

 

Solve // stop // She cared more for that bloody DOG // eventually he got really CROSS

TRAP/BATH

æ

The TRAP and BATH vowels follow the North American tradition of merging [æ] - unique to this British dialect!

 

I CAN’T see any stars here // There is a PLASTIC BAG on the hedge

GOOSE


ʊ̹

GOOSE vowels can have an inclination to be a bit long [uː] and possibly more rounded [u̹].

Have you got any FOOD I can give him // DO YOU remember // I tried to pick YOU up and MOVE YOU

DIPHTHONGS: in general, diphthongs will usually extend the distance they travel and give nearly equal time to both vowels (rather than the typical shortening of the second vowel).

PRICE

ʌɪ̆
ɔɪ̆

The onset vowel in PRICE moves to a higher, rounded back vowel: [a] [ʌ] or [ɔ].

 

Be QUIET for a while // I LIKE looking up at the SKY // I can’t stay overNIGHT in your house,

MOUTH

ɛŭ

MOUTH diphthongs move to a forward onset vowel (as in DRESS [ɛ]) and move to a higher and further back vowel (as in GOOSE [u]).

 

NOW is not the time // COUNT the trains

FACE

ɛ̝ĭ

This diphthong’s onset vowel is a little lower (DRESS [ɛ]) and it’s ending vowel is a bit more closed (FLEECE [i]). 

 

MAIDA Vale // the LADY at the CAFE // there’s nothing I can do to CHANGE it

GOAT

ɛʊ̆
əoʊ̆
ɛoʊ̆

As is typical across many British dialects, there is a more forward and more open onset vowel to this diphthong/triphthong: [ɛʊ̆], [əoʊ̆], [ɛoʊ̆].

 

I was finding TOBY // I DON’T KNOW what I’ll do // are you GOING to come in

More Changes — a few unique ending sounds and syllabic emphasis patterns

/-ile/ endings 

All words with ending in -ile should be pronounced like the word "file"

(mobile, fertile, futile, tactile)

/-tory/

/-tary/

/-bury/

endings 

These ending sounds all become one syllable.

 

(secretary, dictionary, obligatory, monetary)

unique

stress patterns

The following are a list of words that have specific syllabic emphasis when spoken in RP

(week-END, alu-MIN-ium, tele-VIS-ion, maga-ZINE)

 
 

Play With It

Play with these sounds! The technical work is important, but don’t let it dictate the sounds you are making. Test the boundaries and find the flow of the prosody.

This video provides another way of listening to the dialect. Most folks are not able to decipher the conversations in their entirety and I invite you to lean into the UNdecipherable end of the spectrum to listen to the prosodic melody.

While none of these individuals are a strong fit for the characters with significant text in the script, they do provide a fun possibility to base chorus members off of.

  • IDEA - the International Dialects of English Archives: Look specifically at Southwest region: #8 (32, male, very near Swindon); 50 (male in 50s); 51 (female, in 50s); 70 (female, 21, from Devon but the sharper contrast in linguistic detail dropping is a good youth comparison for characters)

  • My YouTube Channel

  • Jazz Carlin - female swimmer

  • Billie Piper - actress (Rose on Dr. Who in 2005-6)

  • David Howell - chess grand master

  • Charlie George - comedian

  • Jamie Cox - boxer 

  • Dean Ashton - footballer

  • Hagrid in Harry Potter films

  • Broadchurch series takes place in Dorset 

  • Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse (based on a West Country accent)

Listening Suggestions