News | Thursday, 6th August 2015
Manchester’s first “accent and dialect map” created
Social stereotypes of language revealed by research
WHAT do people think your accent says about you?
That was the question that sociolinguists at Manchester Metropolitan University set out to answer, and in doing so have created the city’s first “accent and dialect map”.
Dr Erin Carrie and Dr Rob Drummond noticed that accents and dialects in Manchester have received very little linguistic attention to date, and so asked their final-year students to carry out a “perceptual dialectology” project – a type of study that asks non-experts to identify accents and dialects and give their opinions about them.
Dr Drummond, Lecturer in Linguistics at the University, said: “Studies such as this one help linguists to understand people’s perceptions about where different language varieties are spoken and how they differ, as well as people’s social judgements about these language varieties and their speakers.”
With blank maps of Manchester in hand, each student went in search of people who were living in Manchester and willing to take part in the study. Participants were asked to draw borders on the map to show areas where they thought people spoke differently from others and to provide words to describe the accents and dialects of each area that they had identified. They were also asked to provide some information about their age, gender, place of origin and place of residence.
The resulting maps were analysed, and from them the team created a composite map showing where the major dialect areas were perceived to be. The map shows different colours for each area, with the darker sections indicating their ‘cores’. The most commonly used words to describe each area were added to the map, with the size of the word indicating the frequency with which it was used.
Dr Drummond said: “The key outcome of this project is a map of Manchester showing five clear dialect areas, with words characterising each. The findings suggest that perceptions of accents and dialects in the city are closely linked with social stereotypes about the people who speak them, and several of the words that were provided appear to be descriptions of people or areas rather than accents or dialects.
“It is important to note that the dialect areas and descriptions shown on the map are the collective impressions of the people of Manchester themselves and not those of language experts who often have less direct knowledge and experience of the local area.”
Follow-up studies are planned for the 2015-16 academic year, with the aims of consolidating the findings of the project and pursuing this area of research within the Department of Languages, Information and Communications at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Notes to editors
If you wish to speak to Dr Drummond or Dr Carrie, please contact Kat Dibbits in the Manchester Metropolitan University press office on 0161 247 5278 or email K.Dibbits@mmu.ac.uk.