Pure dead fabulous - Scots accent takes on a Home Counties lilt
SEE YOU, James, your patter is pure gentleman’s underwear.
Elaine C Smith and Joanna Lumley are not quite as far apart as many may have thought - the Home Counties’ accent is spreading to Scotland.
Following last week’s furore when health secretary John Reid accused Jeremy Paxman of insulting him over his Glasgow pronunciation, Scots scientists have revealed that Glaswegians are in fact using more "English" speech patterns and dropping their Rs.
Dr Jim Scobbie from the Speech Science Research Centre at Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, is carrying out the research on children and adults at the Glasgow Science Centre.
The ongoing study comes after speech experts noticed that the accents of many young Glaswegians were becoming closer to the English upper classes.
Scobbie said language experts first noted a decline in the use of the much-parodied Scots rolled R during the 1990s, but this process appears to have accelerated in the last few years.
Residents of Maryhill, an area of Glasgow perceived to have a "strong" accent, are now dropping the consonant altogether at the end of words with words such as ‘car’ and ‘bar’ are changing in pronunciation to ‘cah’ and ‘bah’.
However, contrary to claims that English television programmes are influencing the way Scots speak, Scobbie believes the dropping of the final R is a natural development.
"To the casual listener it may sound like the R has been dropped completely as it is in England, but when you look at the ultrasound images you can see the tongue starts to shape an R before the sound trails off."
He said if it was a case of merely copying English pronunciation there would be no evidence of the R at all. And he claimed that within Glasgow there were also differences with the dropped R more common in Maryhill than Bearsden.
"There’s a natural tendency in all languages for consonants to become weaker at the end of the word than at the beginning. So you might still get the burred R at the start of word even if people are losing the final R.
"You can call it laziness, but when you speak you want to concentrate on what you’re saying not how you’re saying it."
Scobbie said that within a generation the final R could well be lost completely, meaning it would be no different from the English pronunciation and if the change was a natural development it could soon spread to other parts of Scotland.
Scobbie added other changes that had been noticed in pronunciation including a loss of the aspirating H sound. As a consequence, words such as ‘which’ were beginning to be pronounced ‘wich’ north of the border and some young Scots were even being recorded as saying ‘lock’ instead of ‘loch’.
However, Scobbie cautioned against being judgmental over changes in accents. "[Using the ultrasound equipment] I’ll be able to explain to visitors to the centre that Glaswegian is both scientifically important and as well-articulated as any other accent of English. This may seem surprising for an accent which is often criticised as sloppy or unattractive."
Another aspect of the changing Glasgow accent which Scobbie hopes to investigate during the study are changes in the pronunciation of the letter L. Scobbie believes among some Glaswegians it is also beginning to turn into a vowel sound at the end of words.
"Some speakers avoid tongue tip contact against the skin behind the upper teeth very systematically if it precedes silence or a consonant such as m, p, b, f, v where the tongue tip is not involved, but before a vowel re-instate the contact. That such very clear rule-based variation happens with L is a new discovery and the ultrasound can show it very clearly."
He hopes the findings will allow for advancements in speech therapy.
"The Glasgow accent in particular is ideal for research because of these various types of R and L. Studying them with ultrasound will enormously increase the amount of articulatory data on two of the hardest consonants of English for children to learn, for therapists to treat, and for some language learners to master."
Stuart Cosgrove, Channel 4 director of Nations and Regions, and a noted commentator on Scottish culture, said: "There’s no doubt that languages are always in flux but it is equally true that Glasgow parlance has influenced language in the south as well.
"The word ‘minging’, originally a Glasgow word for filthy, was picked up by Ali G and is now in frequent use throughout the country."
SNP culture spokesman Michael Matheson said: "This research does not match up to my experience in Glasgow which has a healthy, strong cultural identity, part of which is its accent.
"I find the idea that it’s similar to a Home Counties accent bizarre and I am sure most people in Glasgow will agree.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east