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That instead of it.

The grammar of Standard English distinguishes between two different forms of most of the personal pronouns. The distinction has to do with whether the pronoun is the subject or the object of the sentence – as the following examples show:

I like Brenda but Brenda likes me
He saw Ashley but Ashley saw him
She loves Colin but Colin loves her
We adore Stewart but Stewart adores us
They admire Keith but Keith admires them

However, there is no such difference in the case of it:

It is raining and I hate it.

In Norfolk, though, we do make a difference. We still use it in places where we would use me, him, her, us, them. But in places where we would use I, he, she, we, they we don’t use it but that.

This is most obvious in weather expressions. Where other people would say: “it’s raining”, we say things like:

That’s raining
That’s hot today
That’s cold

But notice that we still say things like:

I hated it when that was raining.
We love it when that’s hot.

But it is not just in weather expression that this occurs:

Where’s the cat? That’s on the sofa.



Now, this is quite hard, so please concentrate.

In Norfolk we have two different vowels corresponding to the single long o of other forms of English. Happily, it’s mostly possible to tell which word has which vowel by looking at the spelling.

Words spelt with ou, ow and ol like soul, know, told are pronounced rather like they are in much of the rest of southern England, with a noticeable diphthong – a vowel which changes its quality between the beginning and the end.

On the other hand, long o words which are spelt with oa or o_e or just o, such as coal, hope, most, have a very different and distinctive Norfolk vowel which to many outsiders sounds very like the long u sound of loose – but in fact it’s not the same. It’s pronounced further back in the mouth and is very similar to the sound of ou in French nous ‘we’ and the long sound of u in German gut ‘good’.

This means, that in Norfolk, pairs of words like these aren’t pronounced the same:

French ‘ou’ sound   Diphthong
sole   soul
nose   knows
groan   grown
moan   mown
so   sew
toe   tow
throes   throws

The Beatles’ 1970s album used a pun, Rubber Soul, which doesn’t work in the Norfolk dialect. And writing IOU for ‘I owe you’ doesn’t work in Norfolk either, because the name of the letter o and the word owe are not pronounced the same.

There is another complication here, though. Another well-known feature of the Norfolk dialect is the ‘short o’.

This term refers to the pronunciation of words which belong in the left-hand column [above] like road, loaf, coat, whole, home, comb, bone, stone, loke, throat, and goat.

In the Norfolk dialect these words can – but don’t have to be – pronounced with the same vowel as foot. This means that road can rhyme with good, loke can rhyme with book, and throat and goat can rhyme with put.

This is optional, but acquiring this feature will truly qualify you as an Advanced-Level Norfolk Dialect Learner.

The trick is, of course, that you have to remember that you can use this pronunciation with words like the ones I’ve just listed, but you cannot use it with words which belong in the right-hand column [above] such as grown, known.

Reminder from the Basic Level: NEVER pronounce the r in words like cart, bird, fort, beard, dared, muttered!

“Good luck!”

Professor Peter Trudgill FBA  

Peter Trudgill FBA President of FOND
Honorary Professor of Sociolinguistics at the
University of East Anglia

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