Scottish accents holding their own as English dialects fade

New research shows Glaswegian accents are evolving
New research shows Glaswegian accents are evolving
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GLASWEGIANS now say “fink”, “peopo” and “moof” instead of think, people and mouth, according to a new study of the city’s changing accents.

The study reveals that the Scots accent is evolving, but unlike England where regional accents are becoming more homogenised the Scots accent is sticking to its roots.

Stanley Baxter's popular Parliamo Glasgow TV series

Stanley Baxter's popular Parliamo Glasgow TV series

Researchers at the University of Glasgow studied audio recordings dating back to rare excepts from Scottish soldiers during WW1.

The three year Sounds of the City study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, focussed on speech sounds of Glaswegians from each decade spanning the 20th Century.

Professor Jane Stuart-Smith, Director of the Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics (GULP), who led the research, said that Glaswegian was often “stigmatised”, but it had changed.

She said: “We were quite surprised by what we found. 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

Professor Jane Stuart-Smith

“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.”

Prof Stuart-Smith said that one development, which has spread across the UK, is the use of “F”’ for “TH” in words like think, due to engagement with popular TV shows set in London such as Eastenders.

The dropping of the letter “L” as in people to peopo of apple to appo is another example.

SEE ALSO: Scottish words: the Glasgow accent

Another set of finer changes, which are local to Scotland, include how vowels are pronounced in words like boat, goat and coat, or stop sounds that are pronounced in words like pin, top and cat.

The evidence shows that these features and others are local to Scotland and not affected by Anglo-English changes, and that they have been happening for 100 years or more.

She said more recent recordings find Glaswegians saying “shut your moof”.

Prof Stuart-Smith said: “Most Scottish people will produce an ‘L’ in a word like ‘people’. This is one of a the sound changes affecting consonants that are associated with England but have definitely been appearing in Scottish-English since the 1980s and 90s.

“Watching Eastenders, among other things, was a significant factor.

“In Glasgow it’s ‘hoose’ instead of ‘house’ and ‘mooth’ instead of ‘mouth’. But we have now got instances of people saying ‘shut your moof’.

“They don’t sound like Londoners, they are just picking up little bits.”

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

The study discovered 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 Sounds of the City team hopes that it will be a useful resource for students in Modern Studies and language and phonetic research projects, as well as a valuable educational tool for schools.

Prof Stuart-Smith said: “There are very few recordings of Scottish soldiers. There is one of a young soldier, William Bryce, who was recorded in a camp in Germany, and he is clearly Glaswegian.

“There have been changes but there has been a distinctive Glaswegian accent throughout this time. In some ways Glaswegian seems to be more resistant to the kind of changes that are going on in England.”

It is hoped that a similar study could be carried out in Edinburgh.

She added: “It would be so interesting to see what’s happening to Glasgow and Edinburgh over the course of the 20th century.”

SEE ALSO: Scottish words of the week: The Edinburgh dialect