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Variation and Change in Aberdeen English

A Sociophonetic Study


Thorsten Brato

This book is the first major sociophonetic work on the urban accent of Aberdeen in North-East Scotland. The study shows how the accent has changed following the large-scale immigration from other parts of Scotland and the UK since the 1970s. It is rooted in a dialect contact framework and based on sociolinguistic interviews with a stratified sample of 44 Aberdonians. The study uses an innovative method to assess the importance of the individual speaker in innovating and conserving the local accent. Based on six phonological variables, it shows how the traditional variants are replaced or marginalised, supraregional forms gain ground and strongly marked forms typical of Glaswegian or London English are added to the local feature pool.

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2 Aberdeen and North-East Scotland


2 Aberdeen and North-East Scotland

With a population of approximately 207,000 (June 2006, Aberdeen City Council 2007a) Aberdeen, located at the mouths of the Rivers Don and Dee is Scotland’s third-largest city after Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is the administrative, cultural and financial centre of the North-East. Aberdeen is the northernmost city in the United Kingdom and has a very remote location. The next sizeable city (Dundee) is about 100 kilometres away, the populous Central Belt about 300 kilometres.

The North-East of Scotland is “not simply a geographical expression” (McClure 2002: 1), but rather one of a distinctive regional identity. Between 1890 and 1975 the North-East comprised the counties of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Kincardineshire and the County of Moray. After the 1973 Local Government Act the same area was referred to as the Grampian Region. It was made up of the City of Aberdeen, Banff & Buchan, Gordon, Kincardine & Deeside and Moray (Scottish Office 1980: 1). Following the 1994 Local Government Act, in 1996 the internal borders were redrawn again. The former Grampian Region is now made up of Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire (subsuming the former counties of Banff & Buchan, Gordon and Kincardine & Deeside) and Moray (Office of Public Sector Information 1994).1

2.1 Key historical developments

First inhabited about 8,000 years ago, the area around Aberdeen developed slowly until the onset of the industrial revolution. In 1801, the city had about 27,000 inhabitants. The fast-growing local textile...

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