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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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4 Theoretical frameworks


4 Theoretical frameworks

As discussed in chapter 2, the social situation in Aberdeen has changed quite radically over the last few decades. Large numbers of internal and external migrants have moved to the city and surrounding areas. The profound effects of this on a range of linguistic levels have already been discussed in the previous chapter. It is clear that the current linguistic situation of Aberdonian English is best captured within a dialect contact framework.

Dialect contact is defined by Trudgill (1986: 1) in a very general way as “contact between varieties of language that are mutually intelligible at least to some degree”, the outcome of which is usually some form of linguistic accommodation (Giles & Smith 1979) between the speakers. Accommodation can take place between social and regional varieties and can be short-term and long-term. Short-term accommodation has been illustrated amongst others by Coupland (1980) in his study of the speech of an assistant in a Cardiff travel agency. He found that the assistant adapted her pronunciation of some phonological features so that it matched that of her clients’ social background to quite a high degree. As regards long-term accommodation between speaker groups, Trudgill (1986: 24) argues that this is usually a regular process that follows fixed routes and that the linguistic outcomes can be predicted. The reason for this is the salience5 that is attached to markers: “[s]alient features will be accommodated to unless other factors intervene to delay, inhibit or even prevent...

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