Scouse is threatened by the rising tide of Estuary English

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The Independent Online
THE LIVERPOOL accent, with its distinctive nasal twang, is being supplanted by the southern tones of Estuary English.

The phenomenon has been identified by Andrew Hamer, a regional accents expert at Liverpool University. He says that Merseysiders are increasingly speaking the watered-down form of Cockney that has already colonised much of the southern Britain.

Mr Hamer blames social mobility and EastEnders for the relentless march of Estuary English, which originated on the banks of the Thames in Essex and north Kent. He says that the trend is most noticeable in people under 30 and contrasts the sounds uttered by young scousers to those of earlier generations, whose pronunciation was influenced by the city's Irish immigrants.

"From my observations, these young speakers have started to say `fink' instead of `tink', and `bruvver' instead of `brudder'," Mr Hamer said. "It is the influence of the Cockney pronunciation."

Before the Irish arrived in Liverpool in the 19th century, seeking sanctuary from the potato famine, the native dialect was barely distinguishable from that of nearby Manchester. Immigrants from Lancashire, Scotland and Wales added to the linguistic mix, creating an accent described by one contemporary Merseysider as "one-third Irish, one-third Welsh and one- third catarrh".

Mr Hamer said the Liverpool accent had been in a constant state of flux. "I have tapes of elderly men born before the First World War who pronounce `fair' and `hair' as `fur' and `hur', which is the Lancashire influence," he said.

Many Liverpudlians will be pained by the prospect of becoming a linguistic footnote. But one likely to rejoice is the Liverpool-born novelist Beryl Bainbridge, who earlier this year called the scouse accent "stupid".