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DISCUSS: Dialect Diversity 003

From:Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>
Date:Monday, April 19, 2004, 8:42
This is the third of three articles; the first two suggesting that dialect
diversity in the UK is actually increasing contrary to expectations, and the
third that the various Yorkshire accents/dialects are flattening out to a
kind of omni-yorkshire

By 'eck! Bratford-speak is dyin' out

By Tim Wyatt

The Bradford accent is rapidly vanishing and could disappear altogether
within a generation, replaced by an all-purpose Yorkshire dialect, according
to researchers.

It means that time-honoured pronunciations like "Bratford" could soon drift
into linguistic extinction.

The shock findings predicting the eventual demise of the distinctive Tyke
twang have been aired at a top level conference at Newcastle University.

The discovery was made by linguists at Aberdeen University using the latest
digital sound technology. They presented their findings to hundreds of
delegates at the prestigious four-day international Socio-linguistics
Symposium in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Dr Dominic Watt, from Aberdeen's Centre for Linguistic Research, and
Bradford-born researcher Jenny Tillotson have discovered that Bradfordians
are increasingly speaking like people from Hull and East Yorkshire.

"What we suspect is a sound change sweeping west from East Yorkshire via
York, Leeds and Bradford. It could eventually end up in Manchester,"
explained Dr Watt.

The academics examined the way Bradfordians pronounced their vowels and
found that traditional speech patterns were being slowly but surely
swallowed up by an East Coast brogue.

"Most of my work has involved showing that standard regional English accents
are emerging rather than local dialects. A levelling process is going on.
Specific accents like Bradford's are being overtaken by a more general
language - a kind of icon of Northern-ness," added Dr Watt.

He forecast that eventually Yorkshire would have its own general accent as
would the North East, the Midlands and the North West. Linguistic
idiosyncracies which had previously distinguished Stanningley-speak from a
Bingley burr would be consigned to history.

"If you speak to young people especially, the last thing they want is to
sound like someone from the South so they hang on to the sound."

Interestingly, research revealed that despite the East Coast creep, there
was also a generation gap. By minutely analysing digital recordings, Dr Watt
found that there were growing differences in the accents of the young, the
middle-aged and the elderly.

"You probably have to go through two or three generations before you see any
marked differences. It's a gradual rather than abrupt thing," he added.

Other academics at the symposium reject Dr Watt's findings. They argue that
rather than being annihilated, many ancient accents worldwide are undergoing
a revival because of huge population shifts.

They say widespread global migration means that there is literally a
"dialect explosion" in which two traditional ways of speaking are grafted
together to form something new. One example of this, they say, would be
Serbo-Bradfordian in which the Balkans mix with Bowling or Barkerend.

Posted Monday 05 April 2004