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23 September 2014
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Language and Place by Prof Peter Trudgill
Also on Voices
Accent-uate the positive

In Your Area
What do you think about your local accent?
Talk about Voices in your area

Did You Know?
'Twirlies' is the name given to pensioners by Liverpool bus crews. Their free bus passes become effective at 9am but if they arrive before this, they enquire 'Are we too early?'
Liverpool Voices

Page 1 of 7
1. Language and identity
2. Dialect areas
3. Origins of regional differences
4. Influence of other languages
5. Change and spread
6. The media
7. Other dialects and languages

1. Language and identity

Most British people feel that where they are from is very important. For many of us, the place where we grew up has a special significance. This is not true of all of us - more often than in the past, families move around the country, and there are many people who had a nomadic childhood and are not really 'from' anywhere. But for a majority of people, pride and interest in the area where they grew up is still a reality.

An important component of this local, personal identity is the way we speak - our language, accent and dialect. For some of us in the British Isles, this regional identity is tied up with the fact that we speak another language in addition to English as our mother tongue - Welsh in Wales, Norman French in the Channel Islands, Gaelic in Scotland, Irish in Ireland. And nearly all of us who are monolingual in English display regional features in the way we speak our language, although there are upper-class people who have regionless accents, as well as people who for some reason want to hide their regional origins. The vast majority, though, speak in a way which identifies them as coming from a particular place. They speak like the people they grew up with, and differently from people who grew up somewhere else. People may change the way in which they speak during their lifetimes, especially if they move around, but most of us carry at least some trace of our accent and dialect origins with us all of our lives.

Other people can use this information to help work out where we are from, and will say things like "You must be a Londoner", "You sound as if you're a southerner", "Whereabouts in Scotland are you from?", or "You're from Yorkshire, aren't you?". And labels for people of different regional origins are freely used - for example 'Geordie', 'Cockney', 'Jock', 'Taffy', or 'Scouse' depending on what you sound like when you speak.

There is a social component to this variation as well. The 'higher' up the social scale you look, the more you will find that accents and dialects are less 'broad' - the more 'broad' a way of speaking is, the more regional clues there are as to exactly where a speaker comes from.


Your Comments
What do you think of your accent?

Bradley from Surrey
I personally believe that identity is shapped by the society we live in. its cultural differences and variations influence the way we live our lives on a daily basis thus influcing what we do. If we were born in England, we are English if when we are 27 years of age and we decide to move to Spain for instance, does that automatically make our nationality Spanish? - of course it does not because it is the society where we were born which is the paramount decider in our lives. I believe we need to take into account all peoples and their believes thus allowing for a common identity to be shared between us. What do u think?

Lindsey (ba) linguistics
Pple wth dialcts/accents specific to regions spk wth chrctr. Anyne who sys otherwse is tlking rubbish!The uniformity and superiority BBC english spkers blieve they hv is tdious.And uttr nsense.Aftr all, where did crrectnss originate frm.Nowhere.Lets gt rd of the dctionary.

richard sadleir, Lower Hutt NZ
many years ago I shared a job with a chap from Friesland. When he spoke in his local dialect, I was amazed at how much I could understand. The major difference was in the nouns but the rest was understandable.

B in Sussex, but from NW
Asking for a Southern Comfort in pubs used to cause confusion with bar staff in Brighton. I eventually learned to ask for a Satharn Camfat. That seemed to do the trick.

bryan, London
i m a 26 years old belgian frenchspeaking living in London. i moved from belgium when i was 18 to Paris, France. The french were taking the piss at my belgian accent so much and constantly so i had to speak like a frenchman... Then i moved to London in 1999 with a very poor english... I learned it very quickly! especially because i dont talk to french people here in London so i got to talk english all the time! people tell me in London that my accent is unique and undescrible. when i go to brussels i forget so many words in french that my brother told me to stop acting like Jean Claude Van Damme! lol...

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