The Times, London, 20 February 1999

Glasgow puts an accent on Estuary

by Gillian Harris, Scotland correspondent

THE quickfire Glaswegian patter that has baffled generations of visitors to Scotland's biggest city is being infiltrated by Estuary English.

The language of EastEnders has crept into the West of Scotland dialect, particularly among children who speak in a tongue called "jockney".

A grant of 20,000 has been awarded to academics at Glasgow University to monitor the changes. Early indications suggest that traditional Glaswegian will struggle to survive. The researchers say that the insidious spread of Estuary English, which has its roots in Essex and Kent, has been felt in such citieis as Derby, Newcastle and Hull.

In Glasgow, the most northern outpost of Estuary English, examples of jockney include "muvver" rather than "mivver", and "toof" rather instead of "tuth".

Jane Stewart-Smith, who is co-ordinating the year-long research project, believes that the changes will be assimilated into Glaswegian just as Irish and Gaelic influences have been in the past. "Glaswegian is like a melting pot," she said. "From the last century a lot of linguistic influences have been absorbed into the language to produce an accent that is very distinctive."

The research, entitled Accent Changes in Glasgow -- A Sociophonic Investigation, is being carried out by Claire Timmins and Fiona Tweedie, who will listen to tapes of 32 Glaswegians.

Dr Stuart-Smith said: "In very early work we have been seeing the changes. We were amazed to find that the Glasgow accent, distinctive as it is, is changing."

The linguistic traffic is not all one way. The glottal stop, believed to have its origins in Glaswegian, has been embraced by youngsters in southeast England, who swallow their ts, ps and ks like true Scots when using such words as "sta'ement" and "sea'belt".


Comments by John Wells:

Dr Stuart-Smith (note how the careless journalist spells her name wrongly the first time) can no doubt answer for herself, but this reads like a typical media-hype exaggeration.


Posted on the EE website by JCW 1999 02 26

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