'Me' vs 'my' [pronunciation] in British English

18

I noticed that British people sometimes use me instead of my. For example, Liam Gallagher does it quite often. Example:

The wind was strong I have nearly lost me pants

What is a story behind this alteration? Is it appropriate in formal language? Do people really speak like that? Or is this a dialect rather than a widely spread manner?

Untapped Soul

Posted 2020-08-15T15:05:47.063

Reputation: 523

6It's one of the main features of Northern accents. – Wistful – 2020-08-15T16:26:32.593

2@Lambie - The sentence itself is not idiomatic by a long stretch, only the mi for my. More idiomatic would be 'The wind was so strong I nearly lost mi pants." Though if your accent would use mi like that, it would also transform I into à like in lad – gone fishin' again. – 2020-08-16T10:27:31.813

1@gonefishin'again. or indeed almost pronounce I as uh especially when talking fast. – mdewey – 2020-08-16T12:33:49.803

1@mdewey - In Northern BrE? Interesting. What town, if you're a native? It's not one I'd think would shift to a schwa [though many others do in N.BrE ;) – gone fishin' again. – 2020-08-16T16:32:36.707

2@gonefishin'again. no quite generally. I think the use of me for my is quite widespread in fast informal speech in BrE. – mdewey – 2020-08-16T16:50:43.323

There is no "generally" in BrE, there is a line drawn across the country - Liverpool to the Wash, very roughly - one side speaks one way, the other side another. – gone fishin' again. – 2020-08-16T16:52:55.613

@mdewey - btw, I was talking about your schwa for I not mi for my. – gone fishin' again. – 2020-08-16T18:29:18.707

@gone fishin' again: Plus lots of regional dialects/accents. Perhaps less so today than in the past, given electronic media, but still lots of differences perceptible even to a casual visitor: https://englishlive.ef.com/blog/english-in-the-real-world/rough-guide-british-dialects/

– jamesqf – 2020-08-17T16:55:07.703

@jamesqf - yup, I'm a N.BrE native, now living in London, hence my questioning the schwa for I earlier. – gone fishin' again. – 2020-08-17T16:58:14.000

Answers

26

It's a very common pronunciation of 'my' in the North of England (and some Australian accents).

According to Wikipedia:

Other areas of the North have regularised the pronouns in the opposite direction, with meself used instead of myself. This appears to be a trait inherited from Irish English, and like Irish speakers, many Northern speakers use reflexive pronouns in non-reflexive situations for emphasis.

Moreover, the vowel in 'me' (the one you're referring to) is shorter ([mi]) than that of the regular 'me' ([mi:]) and this pronuncation of 'my' is usually used where 'my' is unstressed.

The pronunciation of emphatic/stressed 'my' was [mi:] in Middle English (before the Great Vowel Shift) and its unstressed/unemphatic form was [mi].

The Great Vowel Shift was a vowel change (1400-1700) that shifted almost all the long vowels to diphthongs but it did not affect short vowels. So the pronunciation of emphatic 'my' shifted to [aɪ]* but the short vowel in 'my' [mi] in its unemphatic form remained unaffected in some accents (Northern British, Irish, some Australian accents etc).

*GVS shifted [iː] to [aɪ]. For example, the pronunciation of 'bite' was /bi:t/ before the GVS.

Edit: See JDeBP's comment:

It is important to stress that this is not a substitution of "me" for "my" as the question asserts. It is a pronunciation of "my", and can also be observed for many other words ending in "-y", including the word "many" in this very sentence.

Wistful

Posted 2020-08-15T15:05:47.063

Reputation: 4 155

13It is important to stress that this is not a substitution of "me" for "my" as the question asserts. It is a pronunciation of "my", and can also be observed for many other words ending in "-y", including the word "many" in this very sentence. – JdeBP – 2020-08-16T03:00:23.247

1@JdeBP I didn't understand the example about "many". Is "many" ever pronounced "man-eye"? – Pedro A – 2020-08-17T13:28:21.423

4@PedroA No, and that, I believe, is the point. – Asteroids With Wings – 2020-08-17T13:57:21.737

1@PedroA It's men-ee and the ee is the same sound in "me", but it's spelt with a "y" – user253751 – 2020-08-17T14:09:52.277

1@AsteroidsWithWings ah, I get it now, thanks – Pedro A – 2020-08-17T14:31:45.933

1So is this related to the phenomenon of pronouncing the the "y" in "my" as a schwa? – Tim Seguine – 2020-08-17T15:23:44.987

1No. 'My' in its weak form is often pronounced [mə] (in fast speech) in many accents, not just Northern British accents. – Wistful – 2020-08-17T15:33:50.317

2"the pronunciation of emphatic/stressed 'my' was [mi:] in Middle English (before the Great Vowel Shift) and it's unstressed/unemphatic form was [mi]": was that also true in the north? Did the vowel shift introduce a regional variation in pronunciation that didn't exist before? If so, why did it affect this word and not (for example) "dry"? (Or did it?) Also, this being an English language site, I would change it's to its, but I don't have sufficient reputation to do it /maɪˈsɛlf/. Also, wouldn't beet have been pronounced /be:t/, so still differently from bite? – phoog – 2020-08-17T15:47:39.313

2@phoog, You're absolutely right. Re "was that also true in the north? Did the vowel shift introduce a regional variation in pronunciation that didn't exist before?": As far as I know, it was also true in the North and it introduced regional variations in pronunciation. There are lots of remnants of Middle/Old English in the North For example, people in the North pronounce 'put' with [ʊ] rather than [ʌ]. You also hear 'house' being pronounced with [u:] (hoose) in the North. It's because GVS didn't affect some words in the North. I don't know why. – Wistful – 2020-08-17T16:11:21.730

2Re "why did it affect this word and not (for example) "dry"? (Or did it?)": Because words like me, myself, the, at, an, them etc (I'm not a grammarian so I don't know the umbrella term for these words, sorry) are often reduced and pronounced in their weak forms. For example, you might've noticed that them is reduced to em in fast speech. However, you cannot reduce the words that have meaning on their own like 'dry' so it does not have a weak form. – Wistful – 2020-08-17T16:14:28.273

2Re "Also, this being an English language site, I would change it's to its": Ah.... it's my annoying but useful 'autocorrect' feature. I was typing on phone so the autocorrect turned its into it's. – Wistful – 2020-08-17T16:15:45.030

1Re "Also, wouldn't beet have been pronounced /be:t/, so still differently from bite?": Yes, that's my bad. I was talking about the pronunciation of 'beet' in Modern English. I should've written /bi:t/ instead. – Wistful – 2020-08-17T16:18:05.163

I have a typo in my second comment. "For example, people in the North pronounce 'put' with [ʊ] rather than [ʌ]": I meant *but* not put. – Wistful – 2020-08-18T03:54:10.230

5

It is very common to avoid pronouncing the long "ai" sound in "my" when speaking fast and/or informally.

Some people use a schwa as in "I've lost mə keys."

In Britain a short "i" sound is common, e.g. "I've lost mi keys."

My guess is that Gallagher said "...lost mi pants" rather than "lost me (mee) pants."

chasly - reinstate Monica

Posted 2020-08-15T15:05:47.063

Reputation: 4 332

1I have to note that this was not the Gallagher‘s quote. It was just a sentence I have made up. I have heard him say me in some interview. And yes, it sounded more like mi. – Untapped Soul – 2020-08-15T16:23:19.293