Dialects in the Media
We’ve explored how dialectology is studied in linguistics, but dialects also mentioned in the media all the time. Below are just a few articles that can give you an insight into dialectology research. Use these as a starting point to find out more.
One of the best websites to start with is the British Library, Sounds Familiar? page. It is a collection of resources from different dialectology studies and allows users to explore different varieties of English.
The Millennium Memory Bank was created by the British Library in 2000. It is one of the largest single oral history collections in Europe and is freely available. The project sought to look at the everyday experiences of the interviewees and reflect on them at a local level.
This article looks at how opinions of the accent of Bristol are changing and how it is becoming increasingly popular due to TV programs such as the renowned sitcom Little Britain.
Recent research has discovered that the regional accents of Britain are becoming increasingly more distinct from Standard English. It has also been found that these accents are likely to dominate over RP within the next 40 years.
Research has taken place to determine which accent the British people consider to be the funniest. Surveys are always being compiled to find out just what we think of each other’s speech as this article shows.
We hear a large example of different Varieties of English every day. This exposure has been shown to have an effect on the way we speak. A recent study has revealed evidence about the consequences of watching ‘Eastenders’ and the impact this has had on the accent of some people in Scotland.
Here is a clip of the cockney accent some of you may be very familiar with if you watch ‘Eastenders’ regularly:
The study suggests that accents can spread through the media as well. An example of is the Cockney feature ‘bovver’ /bɒvər/(‘bother’) appearing in Glasgow English rather than the more traditional ‘nae bother’. Another example is the with the word ‘think’ which can be pronounced like ‘fink’ like they do in ‘Eastenders’ rather than the typical Glasgow ‘think’. The research is one of the first ever studies to consider the effects of Dialectology in the media.
To read more on the effects of the Cockney accent in ‘Eastenders’ please visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/3531075.stm.
A touch of royalty…
Another interesting contribution of the media is the popular use of Received Pronunciation (RP) by many newsreaders and of course the Queen. In the ‘Standardisation and RP’ page, we discussed how the Queen’s speech is shifting, and we can see this by looking at the media. In a newspaper article from 2000 called ‘The Queen’s English of today: My ‘usband and I …‘, researchers have found that from the speeches in the 1950’s through to the 1980’s the Queens’ English had shifted.
To illustrate this, here is a video of the Queen’s first ever Christmas speech that was broadcast on television in 1957:
In contrast, here is the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast from 2015. Can you see any differences in her speech?
The diverse and ever-growing selection of reality TV shows, which follow the lives of normal people, show relaxed and informal conversation between people of many different dialects. Love them or hate them, these shows give some of the best representations of their accents and vocabulary specific to each region. However, with reality TV comes the stereotypes that we’re only too familiar with. They encourage the popular stereotypes of different varieties, from fake tan and vajazzles in Essex to champagne and aristocracy in Chelsea.
Made in Chelsea was first launched in May 2011 and follows several characters, in their daily lives, around the district of Chelsea, in London and areas of the West End.
It has allowed us to view the ‘elite’ world of the ‘posh’.
Desperate Scousewives was broadcast for the first time in November 2011. This show follows individuals around the urban city of Liverpool and clearly attaches a stereotype to their broad and recognisable accents.
The Only Way is Essex began in 2010 and is a BAFTA award winning reality drama. The cast of this show coin several new phrases such as “well jel” “reem” and “shut up” (as an exclamation). These phrases are now so popular that they have integrated into the public’s everyday vocabulary.
Linguistically, the media can act as a springboard to promote and spread accents and dialects to a huge spectrum of audiences. Consequently, these varieties become familiar to listeners. As accents and dialects carry stereotypes, the popularisation of reality television shows can encourage people to adopt certain features from those varieties.
The role of reality television in commodification:
Commodification is when language becomes a marketable product for example on t-shirts, mugs and mouse mats. The overwhelming success of these reality TV shows mean that the language used in them becomes commodified. These shows allow the audience to become linguists in their armchairs, assessing vocabulary, grammatical structures and phonological features, very often without even realising they’re doing.
Recent studies have shown how there has been an increase in the number of singers using their local accent when they sing. For example, The Arctic Monkeys’ lead signer Alex Turner often plays up his distinctive Sheffield accent during songs, and this is particularly obvious in the song Fake Tales of San Francisco:
Joan Beal investigates this in her paper “You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham.” Here, she suggests that the Arctic Monkeys use regional and local features, typical to the area they developed in. This could be seen as a way of the band indexing identity which means they confirm where they are from through their language use.
 Kasprzak, E., (2012). Yeah but no but: Is the Bristol accent gert lush?. BBC [online] (Last updated 07.04 AM on 29th March 2012) Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-17523102 [Accessed on 23.05.2012]
 Savill, R., (2010). British regional accents ‘still thriving’. Telegraph [online] (Last updated 11. 45 AM on 3rd January 2010) Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6927109/British-regional-accents-still-thriving.html [Accessed on 23.05.2012]
 What is Britain’s Funniest Accent? Sky News [online] (Last updated 6.53 AM on 21st August 2006) Available at: http://news.sky.com/home/article/13538589 [Accessed 23.05.2012]
 Beal, J., (2009). ‘You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham’: Dialect and Identity in UK ‘Indie’ Music. Journal of English Linguistics. London: Sage Publications. Available at: http://eng.sagepub.com/content/37/3/223.full.pdf [Accessed 20.05.2012].
- Picture of newspapers: NS Newsflash
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