Word 4 Word examines traditions of regional language which show few or no signs of significant standardisation in order to demonstrate the power of the closed community on language.
What are the reasons for language change in some situations and yet not in other envirioments? Why do some groups maintain a critical mass of speakers and a degree of need that encourages them to use their older more distinctive forms in the face of the pressures towards standardisation that are strongly affecting some of the older forms of regional speech elsewhere in the country?
In Northern Ireland at Kilwaughter on the north Antrim coast and on Rathlin Island, two contrasting groups of Ulstermen and women speak in varying degrees different strands of traditional Northern Ireland dialect. The Rathlin group as an island community find themselves much more cut off from the mainstream of linguistic evolution, though emigration for employment has demonstrably meant certain rounding out of local characteristics.
In Kilwaughter a group of older Ulster Scots speakers demonstrate audibly and memorably both the resilience of their old rural dialect and their centuries-old connection with the Scottish mainland a few short miles across the water. The programme examines in addition the particular sectarian and social issues that have meant the sustained place of Ulster Scots within the northern linguistic landscape and compares them with the very different language arena of urban Dundee, where a mix of modern slang and old rich Scots dialect are fostered by the closed communities of the 'schemes' (housing estates).
How do young and old address dialect - what fosters it and what dilutes it? Is it inevitable that pressures such as fashion and social (upward) mobility, physical mobility and the new connectedness via mobiles, Internet and broadcast media are going to change the shape of vernacular? Why is it that in Dundee there are conditions that foster a form of vernacular that is indigenous and local and distinctive? Bring in evidence from the Salford group where new vernacular is driven by the closed community of school and friends. The need to be able to communicate using a shared lexicon causing problems for Jak on MSN.
Bestselling children's writer and poet Michael Rosen has written a specially commissioned verse about the myriad forms our current vernacular takes. Follow this link to read the poem.
Dermot Murnaghan has spent most of his career in broadcast journalism. Before joining the BBC, he spent more than a decade fronting ITV's national news bulletins from London. He joined the BBC in the Autumn of 2002, becoming Breakfast's main presenter immediately Read Dermot's article on Word 4 Word