'Neds' have their own style of pronunciation to distinguish themselves, study says

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YOUNG men described as "neds" have their own style of pronunciation which sets them apart from other youngsters, a linguistic study has proved.

• A stereotypical image of a 'ned', armed with a knife and out looking for trouble at night. But this scene from Peter Mullan's hit film tells only one side of the story

Researchers studied youngsters at a secondary school in the South Side of Glasgow from 2005-8, in what is one of the first studies of its kind.

It found that you can tell who is a "ned" just by listening to how they pronounce words.

Dr Robert Lawson, from Birmingham City University, found that young men identified as neds - working-class adolescent males stereotypically linked to hooliganism and antisocial behaviour - pronounce some words differently from other young men growing up in Glasgow.

Dr Lawson said: "Although there exists in Scotland a stereotypical idea of the 'ned voice' in shows like Chewin' the Fat, in reality we know very little about how adolescent males in Glasgow actually sound.

"This study is one of the first to try and provide a quantitative analysis of adolescent male speech, and the results show that young men make fine-grained adjustments to their speech which generally demonstrates alignment with membership of a particular group in the school".

Dr Lawson, an English language lecturer, originally from Carluke in South Lanarkshire, studied 25 students over a period of three years.

He categorised the young men in the secondary school into four groups: alternative (sometimes identified as goths or moshers; sports (those interested in watching and playing sports, and who wear casual clothes); schoolies (academically conscientious) and Neds.

He concluded that although adolescents categorised as neds sounded different from other young men, other groups also had their own way of speaking.

Dr Lawson also found the ned group were not associated with violence any more than the alternative or sporty group, exploding the myth that this group was more focused on aggressive behaviour.

He urged caution. "Simply listening to the way someone says 'cat' isn't enough to determine membership of a particular group," he stressed.

"Someone's social identity is constructed through a number of different practices, including dress and other social activities, and speech is only a part of this."

Dr Ross Deuchar, who is presenting a lecture on marginalised youth on 25 January at the University of the West of Scotland, agreed.

He said: "In my own work in and around Glasgow I found some young men in deprived urban communities abhor violence and will try to stay away from violent subcultures."However, I also found that most of the young men I worked with associated their housing schemes with violent subcultures and felt that Glasgow tended to have a 'hard man' reputation and a strong reputation associated with knife crime.

"Many felt that they needed to gain a reputation as a good fighter because of the lack of other opportunities to gain a sense of status and identity.

"I think 'ned' is a most unfortunate term to use in an academic report - it stigmatises young people from working-class, deprived backgrounds who may have had few opportunities to experience positive family role models or opportunities for meaningful employment."

How to parliamo ned...

DR ROBERT Lawson categorised adolescents in a school in Glasgow into four groups: alternative (sometimes identified as goths or moshers), sports (interested in watching and playing sports, wear casual clothes), schoolies (academically conscientious) and neds.

Teenagers in the ned category pronounced the vowels of "man", "bar" and "cat" in a markedly different way to other adolescent males. The way they say certain sounds was at the lower and front part of the mouth, compared with the other speakers.

Other groups tended to speak towards the back and top of the mouth. The difference creates the alternative pronouciations of words such as "glass", which have a harder, flatter sound in the first group or a softer, often perceived as "posher", sound in the latter.

However, the author of the study warned that a way of speaking isn't enough to categorise someone as a ned - dress, social activities and other practices identify someone as from a particular group.

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