Glasgow & West Scotland

Scots accent 'less eroded' than English regional accents

Billy Connolly, Sir Alex Ferguson, Robert Carlyle and Gregor Fisher and Elaine C Smith Image copyright BBC/PA

The Scots accent is flourishing and proving resilient against a growing homogenised anglicised accent across English regions, new research suggests.

A team from Glasgow University studied recorded speech of Glaswegians from the early 20th Century to the present.

They found evidence of common UK accent changes, such as the use of "f" for "th" in words like think, and a dropped letter 'l', as in people to peopo.

Overall though, the researchers said the Scots accent remained distinctive.

The three-year Sounds of the City study, was led by Professor Jane Stuart-Smith, director of the university's laboratory of phonetics.

'Quite surprised'

"We were quite surprised by what we found," she said.

"The assumption is that traditional dialects generally across the UK are being eroded and some are dying out altogether, but what we have learned, particularly with the Glasgow accent, is that Scots accents are actually flourishing.

"Interestingly, what is not happening in Scotland is the dilution of accents to a more homogenised anglicised accent on the scale that we are seeing in England, and in fact the Scots accent remains very distinctive."

As part of its study, the Glasgow team built up a digitised body of recorded speech sounds.

The team said its work suggested the distinctive Scots accent had undergone two kinds of changes.

One set are common accent changes, which have spread right across the UK, such as the "f" and "l" examples.

The team said this change was being spread partly by dialect contact and partly by the popularity of TV shows set in London.

The project also uncovered a second set of finer changes local to Scotland.

Changing Scots

These included how vowels were pronounced in words such as boat, goat and coat, or stop sounds that are pronounced in words like pin, top and cat.

The researchers anticipated these sounds either to be stable over time, or perhaps to be changing in the same way as in Anglo-English accents.

Their evidence suggested, however, that these features and others were all changing, the changes were local to Scotland and not affected by Anglo-English changes, and that they had been happening for 100 years or more.

The Glasgow team said the trigger for some of these changes appeared to be the period around the First World War.

The study focused on six audio recordings, made in 1916 and held by the British Library, of Scots soldiers from German Prisoner of War camps.

From those recordings researchers found evidence to show that even a century ago, and perhaps even earlier, Scottish accents were already changing.

The research and findings of the project will be made available to students and other researchers via an online resource.

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