Yorkshire is one of England’s most well-known and distinctive dialect areas. As the largest historic county in England, Yorkshire covers a sizeable area and is home to not just one dialect, but a diverse and varied range of words, phrases, pronunciation and forms of grammar.  The Survey of English Dialects was founded in Yorkshire, and the county is particularly well represented in the study. The Survey’s fieldworkers largely focused on gathering data from rural areas, including the Yorkshire Dales. Just as its networks of pasture and drystone walls tell the story of a changing rural landscape, the language of the Dales reflects the history of its people and their way of life.

The language of life

Yorkshire speech is often recognised by well-known words and phrases such as ee by gum (an exclamation), owt/nowt (anything/nothing), and the use of ye, thee and thou as second person pronouns. But the dialect of the region goes far beyond these stereotypes. It has been shaped by the history of the area and its traditional ways of life. The central Dales industries of dairying, sheep farming, lead mining and the wool trade have all added to the vocabulary. For a more in-depth exploration of dialect in the Dales, see the ‘Technically Speaking’ section below. 

Person with hand machinery

Cheese press in West Stonesdale.

‘Cheesemaking: Cheese Press’ (LAVCPHO/P1540) by Werner Kissling.

A bowl and wooden tools

The Folk Life Survey, carried out from 1960 onwards, continued the important work of the Survey of English Dialects by researching rural traditions and culture. It also focused strongly on Yorkshire. As a result, the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture has an especially rich collection of materials relating to ways of life and work in the Dales, including cheese, butter, and oatcake making, lead mining, knitting and much more besides.

Get involved

Do you have Dales dialect words to share?

Find out more

Click on the following links to immerse yourself deeper in Dales culture. Learn about the impact of sheep farming on local language, and pick up a few home remedies for free. To delve deeper into Dales dialect, visit our ‘technically speaking’ section.