The Times, London, 20 February 1999
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.
I've found 'th-fronting' (auditorily at least - I haven't yet checked acoustically) in the wordlist data (and also in the interview data, tho' this is not yet transcribed) in WC children - with a high degree of variability according to child and also phonetic environment. (It may be lexically conditioned - but I don't know - my wordlist didn't contain many examples, as I didn't expect to find it!) Real examples are found in the pronunciation of: 'bath', 'cloth', 'enthusiasm', 'maths', 'mouth', 'north', 'smooth', 'think', 'three', 'throat', 'thumb', 'tooth' (i.e. /th/ and one word- final instance of /dh/). Intervocalic /dh/ was either [dh] or a tap.
[...] I'd be hesitant to say, from this, that the children are speaking Estuary English. In terms of consonants - they do show l-vocalization (but I think they have been doing so for a while, and the resulting vowel is a much more open vowel), and glottalling (of course), but no h-dropping (that I'm aware of), and certainly no labial 'r' (if that is a feature of Estuary English). In terms of vowels - these seem to be pretty 'Scottish' (i.e. mainly Scottish Standard English - even in casual conversation, the incidence of Scots vowels seems to be lexically restricted, e.g. /hus/ house, /ut/ out etc) - with maintenance of the Scottish Vowel Length Rule. What I'm trying to say is that these children don't sound as if they're speaking Estuary English. It is my impression that certain features are changing (?levelling), but others are being maintained, so that new forms result, e.g. /muf/ for 'mouth'. Also new features may be arising (I found a number of young M using what sounds like a retracted /s/, ?alveolo-palatal or postalveolar.)
the title of the research project should read 'A sociophonetic investigation'. The Leverhulme Trust is the grant body. (Interestingly the title of the article in the Scottish version of the Times was different: 'Could Glesga' drown in the English estuary?')
Posted on the EE website by JCW 1999 02 26