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29 October 2014

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The Voices Recordings
Interviewee James Cameron

Born: 9 May 1946

Lives: Kelvindale, Glasgow

Time lived in area: More than 10 years

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Listen to
James gives his take on the Kelvinside accent and its caricature of the language from the West End of Glasgow.

Language of interview: Scots

Duration: 0:39 (mins/secs)

About the interview

The participants were asked to describe how they spoke in their own words.

How do you describe your accent: "Distinct and hopefully grammatically correct."

Have there been other influences on the way you speak: "In various parts of the West End of Glasgow; namely, Partick, Hillhead, Hyndland and Kelvindale."

Do you have skills in languages other than English?: Yes

Other languages: Gaelic

About this interview
JAMES: I find that the perceived Kelvinside accent is's a kinda caricature of the usage of language in the West End, undoubtedly there are people "who speak like thaat, you know the perception of Kelvinsaaide", but I would say that it's very much in the very minority. The West End of Glasgow is made up of a whole constituency of villages if you like and yes, undoubtedly there are people, I would say - more now in the older generation than in the younger generations - where that sort of perceived proper usage of Glasgow English, West End English is still the order of the day, but I think it's to a much lesser extent than it used to be.
More about the speech in this clip

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes

The linguistic situation in Scotland is much more complex than, say, most of England. Linguists refer to it as a traditional dialect area in that an alternative vernacular variety - Scots - exists alongside a widely accepted 'prestige' standard - Standard Scottish English. Scots is most commonly spoken by the working classes and/or older speakers in rural communities, while Standard Scottish English is associated with the highly educated or the suburban middle classes, although large numbers of speakers are able to drift between the two depending on context. Rather like Standard English in England, individual speakers speak Standard Scottish English with their own particular accent, such as the Kelvinside accent of the West End of Glasgow. People from different geographical places clearly speak differently, but even within the same small community, people might speak differently according to their age, gender, ethnicity and social and educational background. The so-called Kelvinside accent, as mimicked by James here, is nowadays most commonly found among older middle class females in Glasgow. Considered prestigious within this group, many Glaswegians regard it with suspicion and consider it to be somewhat affected.

People's attitudes towards individual dialects or accents are purely subjective. It's important to stress that, from a purely linguistic point of view, no particular dialect or accent is better at communicating meaning than another. The fact that prestigious or highly regarded forms exist is more a reflection of value judgements based on social, rather than linguistic, criteria. All languages and dialects change over time and people's attitudes change, too. If the Kelvinside accent is no longer felt to be a suitable model by younger middle class speakers and is thus no longer widely heard, then this is a reflection of the social landscape of the time. There's a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that in England too, RP - the regionally non-specific accent of the educated middle classes - is no longer considered an aspirational model by many young middle class speakers in its former heartland, the south-east of England.

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