In my college “dialects” class, our instructor played a recording of a talented Irish actor imitating various Irish regional accents. When he got to Cork, he wryly observed, “In Cork, the voice always seems to be higher–every man thinks he’s a tenor in Cork.”
Well, at least that’s what I remember; it’s been years and I’ve never located that recording, nor do I know the actor responsible for it*. But after listening to Irish accents for a good decade, I have found this stray observation to be bear some truth. Consider, for instance, this clip of Cork native, hurler Seán Óg Ó hAilpín:
I picked Ó hAilpín because he is likely not a tenor–he sounds like a baritone to me. Yet his speech has a tendency, at emphatic moments, to ascend to the upper resonators of his vocal tract (head, nasal, mouth). This strikes me as a holdover from Irish, the language which has a marked impact on Western and Southern Hiberno-English. I suspect there are some articulatory factors at play, perhaps related to Irish’s contrast of velarized and palatized consonants (although I’m not sure how).
Since different accents center vowels and consonants in different parts of the vocal tract, it’s unsurprising that humans configure their anatomy to adjust. Scouse (the Liverpool accent) is also frequently described as high-pitched (when it isn’t described in less flattering terms). One can find instances of this, as is apparent in this clip with thickly-accented Merseyside footballer Jamie Carragher:
I bring this up in part because of my post several days ago about the connection between “race” and “voice quality.” In my mind, the Cork and Scouse are good examples of how very different the “voice” of different dialects and ethnolects can be, without taking anatomy into account.
*Caveats being, therefore, that I’m possibly paraphrasing (it might have been “Everyone is a tenor down in Cork” or “In Cork they all think they’re tenors), and that there is a slight chance some important detail has escaped my memory.