The study, by Glasgow University, interviewed 48 people from the city who were fans of the BBC soap and found they had started to speak like the Cockney characters.
The linguists at the university found that despite their Scots accent not using language features, such as “f’” for “th” the people in the study who watched the programme would say “fink” instead of “think” and “toof” instead of “tooth”. They also found that the “l” sound in words such as “milk” and “people” would change, resulting in “miowk” and “peopow”.
The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and published in the American journal Language, is the first evidence to prove that active, engaged TV viewing helps to accelerate language change.
Researchers said the results show significant correlations between using these features and strong emotional and psychological engagement by the viewers of the programme.
The study said that simply being exposed to TV is not sufficient to cause accent change; for someone’s speech to alter, they need to regularly watch the show and become emotionally engaged with the characters.
The authors said TV and other forms of popular media constitute one of many factors that accelerate language change and more powerful factors, such as social interaction between peers, has a much stronger effect.