Southerners think Glasgow patter’s the matter
SOUTHERNERS don’t know their bahookie from their bunnet and struggle to understand up to a third of what Glaswegians say, scientists have shown.
A study by University of Glasgow academic Dr Jane Stuart-Smith found that the Glaswegian accent continues to baffle in England, with a group of volunteers from London failing to understand one in three sentences spoken by their Scottish cousins.
Dr Stuart-Smith said the combination of special words and lack of vowel sounds in the city’s accent were mainly responsible for the head-scratching south of the Border.
She also said some southerners expected not to understand anything a Glaswegian said.
The research involved recording the speech of four Glaswegians, all of them male, middle class and aged between 20 and 46.
A panel of 24 English speakers from Greater London was then played a total of 24 sentences and scored on their understanding.
The study, which was conducted in a variety of sound conditions, found that on average southerners failed to understand one in every three sentences spoken by Glaswegians.
Dr Stuart-Smith said there are many differences between Glaswegian English and southern English speech.
“Some relate to particular words – a Glaswegian will say ‘heid’ for ‘head’, or ‘aff’ for ‘off’, or ‘lang’ for ‘long’, or ‘oot’ for ‘out’,” she said.
She added that another crucial difference is that there are fewer vowels spoken in Glaswegian English.
“If you think about the words ‘full’ and ‘fool’, a Glaswegian speaker will pronounce both these words in the same way.
“A southern English speaker lengthens ‘full’, adding an extra vowel sound.
“The same applies to ‘palm’ and ‘Pam’, which Glaswegians pronounce in the same way. English speakers stretch out ‘palm’ with a long ‘aa’ sound.
“With the ‘cot’ and ‘caught’, both words would be pronounced the same way by a Glaswegian while in the south of England an ‘or’ sound would be added to ‘caught’.”
The point, said Dr Stuart-Smith, is that the Glaswegian accent makes different words sound the same, adding to the confusion south of the Border.
However, a big part of the lack of understanding is down to people expecting not to understand a Glaswegian.
“There is a stereotype that Glaswegians are hard to understand and speech perception can play a role,” she said.
“A lack of actual contact with Glaswegians may also be a factor for southern English speakers.”
Ian Pattison, the creator of Glaswegian comic anti-hero Rab C Nesbitt, said the findings demonstrated “latent discrimination” against Scots by their southern counterparts. “They have made the choice not to understand Glaswegians, it’s latent discrimination. They could have been prepared not to understand the accent, that could have been their pre-perception.”
Veteran Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter used examples of Glasgow patois for his series Parliamo Glasgow, shown on the BBC from the 1960s onwards.
Parliamo Glasgow was inspired by the BBC language programme Parliamo Italiano – “Let’s speak Italian” – with Baxter offering a tutorial-style English interpretation of everyday Glasgow blether.
Baxter in market situation, asking the female trader about her wares:
“Zarra marra onna barra, Clara?”
Translation: “Is that a marrow on your barrow, Clara?”
Examples from the discotheque – to a young lady a gentleman will make the request:
Translation: “Would you like to dance?”
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