Research has shown that southern English dialects are spreading, but it’s not just about teatime dinner: the north is also pushing back.
Researchers from York University, Lancaster University and New York University surveyed more than 14,000 English speakers and compared the way they speak today with the results of similar studies there. 70 years ago.
The findings are somewhat “mixed”, said Dr George Bailey, from the Department of Language and Linguistic Sciences at the University of York. “The big takeaway for me is that you hear we’re all going to be talking the same way, whether it’s 40, 50 or 100 years from now… these worries are too dramatic,” he said. he declares.
“The characteristics of the northern dialect are maintained. We won’t all sound the same.
The survey mapped people’s responses to questions about pronunciation, grammar and the use of certain words against where they lived between the ages of 4 and 13 – the key years for language and language acquisition. development of our way of speaking.
Bailey said they discovered that a particular feature of the dialect was crawling north.
People across England used to pronounce ‘cut’ and ‘foot’ to rhyme, but that changed in the 17th century and now rhyming pronunciation is a northern thing.
Research shows that the dividing line progresses north, with people in and around Midlands counties such as Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire moving from a ‘northern’ form to a “southern” shape.
However, there was also evidence of Norse traits continuing to flourish and spread.
For example, the rhyming pronunciation of “fur” and “bear” is more common than ever in Lancashire and Merseyside, and is even spreading, with its emergence in Hull and Hartlepool on the east coast of England.
The reasons for this are difficult to pinpoint, Bailey said. “Most of the time, the language changes because of face-to-face contact; it is speakers from different backgrounds who travel. When you talk to someone, you often subconsciously converge on them, and these short-term effects can build up over a long period of time.
In the future, researchers hope to examine census data to track population movements and migration patterns and see how they correlate with accent trends.
Whether someone pronounces the “g” in “finger” and “singer” is another key dialectal marker, with a silent “g” in singer now the most common form.
In the 1950s, speakers who articulated the “g” in both words were mainly found in the North West of England and the West Midlands, but the new survey found that this pronunciation was spreading beyond its traditional boundaries, in Herefordshire, Preston, the Ribble Valley and Nottinghamshire.
Similarly, the investigation revealed that the term ‘lolly ice’ rather than ‘ice lolly’, which was meant to be used exclusively in Liverpool, was now common in North Wales as well.
Bailey said research has shown there is still a rich variety of accents in the UK.
“People often think we’re all going to speak the same way and the London accent is spreading. We found evidence of this, but we also found the opposite.
“Accents are always an integral part of people’s identities. It’s like a marker of who we are and where we come from, not just geographically but socially. There’s real pride in that and it’s not something we’re going to give up lightly.
The research is published in the Journal of Linguistic Geography.