Rochdale accent described as ‘broad’, ‘northern’ and ‘common’

Date published: 07 August 2015

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have been trying to find out what people's accents say about them and their survey found accents in Rochdale were described as ‘broad’, ‘northern’ and ‘common’ whilst Oldham accents are 'poor', accents in Bolton are 'country' and in Stockport and the South they are regarded as 'posh'.

Dr Erin Carrie and Dr Rob Drummond noticed that accents and dialects in Greater 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 judgments about these language varieties and their speakers.”

With blank maps of Greater Manchester in hand, each student went in search of people who were living in Greater 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 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 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.

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