THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

95 posts categorized "Accents & dialects"

23 February 2018

Linguistics at the Library - Episode 3

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PhD placement students, Andrew Booth & Rowan Campbell, write:

Is the UK in danger of losing its wide variety of local accents? In the third episode of Linguistics at the Library, Andrew and Rowan investigate why we might tone down our accent when talking to people from different areas, and whether the media is making all British accents sound the same.

This week’s ‘What’s the feature?’ used a clip from:

Millennium Memory Bank Recording in Quorn, Leicestershire. BBC, UK, rec. 1999 [digital audio file]. British Library, C900/09097. Available: https://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/Millenium-memory-bank/021M-C0900X09097X-2100V1

Studies mentioned:

Eckert, Penelope. 2003. Elephants in the room. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7(3): pp. 392-397. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9481.00231/full

Evans, Bronwen G. and Iverson, Paul. 2007. Plasticity in vowel perception and production: a study of accent change in young adults. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121(6): pp. 3814-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17552729

Milroy, Lesley. 2007. Off the shelf or under the counter? On the social dynamics of sound changes.  In Christopher M. Cain and Geoffrey Russom (editors): Managing Chaos: Strategies for Identifying Change in English, pp. 149-172

Gill, W. W. (1934). Manx dialect: words and phrases (No. 4). Arrowsmith http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/md1933/index.htm

Linguistics at the Library Episode 3

09 February 2018

Linguistics at the Library - Episode 2

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PhD placement students, Andrew Booth and Rowan Campbell, write:

In the second episode of Linguistics at the Library, Andrew and Rowan discuss some of the differences between regional accents and ‘RP’ (Received Pronunciation), and why people might feel that they have to change the way they speak to work in certain jobs. Using clips from the British Library’s Evolving English Collection, we look at the concepts of stigma and prestige, and how social factors can influence the way we perceive accents.

Tweet us your questions! @VoicesofEnglish

This week’s ‘What’s the feature?’ used a clip from: BBC Voices Recording in Driffield. BBC, UK, rec. 2004 [digital audio file]. British Library, C1190/16/02. Available: http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0016XX-0201V0

Interesting links:

Have you experienced discrimination due to your accent? Submit your story to the Accentism Project: http://accentism.org/

Peter Trudgill’s piece on modern RP: http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/estuary/trudgill.htm

Social Mobility Commission report: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/less-affluent-kids-are-locked-out-of-investment-banking-jobs

Prejudice against English teachers with Northern accents: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/research-exposes-prejudice-over-teachers-with-northern-accents/

Overt and covert prestige: https://linguistics.knoji.com/language-and-socioeconomic-status-overt-vs-covert-prestige/

Linguistics at the Library Episode 2

 

30 January 2018

Mr Tickle in Connected Speech

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PhD placement student Andrew Booth writes:

At the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library (2010-11), we asked visitors to submit recordings of their voices in specially designed telephone booths. Around 15,000 speakers took part, and the outcome is the Evolving English VoiceBank and WordBank – a collection of accents and dialect words from over the UK, and all around the world. Using the recordings can help linguists or language learners and language teachers in a variety of ways.

Connected speech is an umbrella term, which is used to describe the different processes of change words experience when spoken in natural and uninterrupted speech. It is easier to read a sentence with the words spaced evenly, thanitiswhentherearenospacesinbetween. In speech we do not have the luxury of set boundaries, and when natural speech occurs, some sounds are lost or changed to enable speed and fluency. The rhythmic organisation of English can cause letters to be inserted, changed or deleted. Here are some examples –

  • ‘ten minutes’ said quickly in the middle of a sentence may become /teminits/
  • ‘in bed’ in the middle of the sentence ‘sat up in bed’ could become /imbed/
  • ‘to a’ may become /towa/ in the sentence ‘came to a school’
  • ‘raw egg’ may become /ro:r eg/ when said quickly
  • ‘must have’ isn’t usually /must hav/, but pronounced /mustuv/

Teaching connected speech to learners of English can be an immensely complicated procedure if you are determined to spell out the rules and terminology that unveil the secrets to connected speech. Within connected speech we have the terminology of progressive assimilation which covers the first two examples above and linking or intrusive /r/ or /w/ explains the second two and weak forms which can explain the final one. Any or all of the terms are enough to put an English language learner (or anybody) off learning languages forever. However, by showing the features of connected speech the fluency and understanding of English can be improved rapidly.

As a rule, when teaching English, I will stay as far away from the terms above as possible. They only deter learners and do not help when pupils are already learning in a language that isn’t their mother tongue. However, I will not skirt the subject and have found a few rules that may help my teaching. Examples of a few of these are below:

Rule 1 - When a word ends in a consonant and the next begins with a vowel, the consonant may move to the other word or straddle between the two words: fast asleep sounds like fas•tasleep or back upstairs sounds like back ͜   upstairs

Rule 2 - If the consonant at the end of one word is the same as the start of another, the end consonant is not finished and merges with the beginning of the following word- thought ͜   to himself, less ͜   strict

Rule 3 - If a word ends in a single /n/ and the next begins with a /b/, /m/ or /p/ - the /n/ disappears and becomes a /m/ (see examples above)

Rule 4 - With non-stressed words of only one syllable that are not central to the context, compare the sentences – yes, we can! to we can do it! – the word can is much stronger in the first than the second

The examples above may seem to be imperceptible to a native speaker of English, they may even seem impossible when you try and say them in isolation. However, after listening to Mr Tickle time after time, I found that we really are chained to the conventions of connected speech, even though we do not know them.

Listen to the first minute and a half of the following excerpts from Mr Tickle read by native English speakers; see if you notice any of the rules in these sentences: (The first voice is someone from the South East of England, the second is from Manchester and the third is a Spanish speaker)

C1442X1339X1655X3044 extract 1

He was having a dream.  It must have been a very funny dream because it made him laugh out loud, and that woke him up.

C1442X1339X1655X3044 extract 2

He sat up in bed, stretched his extraordinary long arms, and yawned an enormous yawn.

C1442X1339X1655X3044 extract 3

Today looks very much like a tickling day,” he thought to himself.

Note that the Manchester speaker is also using connecting speech for /g/ in words ending ng. This could be another blog post in itself!

If we compare the same passage to a speaker whose first language generally does not use these connected speech features, you may be able to hear a difference. The Spanish speaker in the extracts above puts the same emphasis and length on each syllable:

In English we love to assimilate and compress words together or even delete letters from their original place when we speak naturally. There are many more examples of connected speech in the excerpt above that I have not included. Awareness of some of these features can help a learner not only to sound like a native speaker but also help them to understand these weird and interesting variations of our speech.

26 January 2018

Linguistics at the Library - Episode 1

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PhD placements students Andrew Booth and Sarah Rowan write:

Episode 1
The first episode of Linguistics at the Library introduces the British Library’s Evolving English Collection, which is a sound archive capturing the diversity of English accents and dialects. Podcast hosts Andrew Booth and Rowan Campbell are working with this archive as part of a PhD placement, and every few weeks will be bringing you a fresh discussion about linguistics and how to identify different accents.

This week’s ‘What’s the feature?’ used a clip from:

BBC Voices Recording in Newcastle. BBC, UK, rec. 2005 [digital audio file]. British Library, C1190/32/01. Available: sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialec…1190X0023XX-0101V0

Interesting links: 
The glottal stop in Glasgow: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2…ogenised-london 
The Bristol ‘l’: blogs.bl.uk/sound-and-vision/20…n-idea-dialect.html 
An in-depth look at the Newcastle accent: www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/sou…ase-studies/geordie/

Follow Rowan and Andrew on Twitter on @VoicesofEnglish

Linguistics at the Library Episode 1

Andrew Booth and Rowan Campbell

15 January 2018

Recording of the week: Anglo-Romani and dialect

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This week's selection comes from Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English.

It was great to see Peaky Blinders back for a fourth series as, among its many delights, it offers a rare glimpse in the mainstream media of Anglo-Romani. Given the presence of traveller communities across the UK it’s perhaps not surprising that Romani has influenced local dialect in many parts of the country. Speakers either side of the English-Scottish border, for instance, will be familiar with terms like gadgie [from gaujo = ‘(non-gypsy) man’], mort [= ‘girl, woman’], mooey [from mui = ‘mouth, face’], radgie [from radge = ‘mad, angry’] and scran [= ‘food’]. A small set of Romani words are used more widely, including cushty [from kushti = ‘good’], mullered [= ‘dead, killed’] and mush [= ‘man (esp. as form of address’] and a recent collaboration between the British Library and Guardian newspaper to document regional words confirmed the relationship between Anglo-Romani & dialect as contributors supplied numerous expressions including chore [= ‘to steal’ (Poole)], dinilo [= ‘fool, Idiot’ (Portsmouth)], jukkel [= ‘dog’ (Carlisle)], ladging [= ‘embarrassing’ (York)] and tuvli [= ‘cigarette’ (Newark)].

Gypsies_camping_-_probably_Swansea_(20740154331)

Probably the most unfortunate contribution of Anglo-Romani to English is the word chav, which in recent years has been adopted by young speakers all over the country to refer negatively to a stereotypical young ne’er-do-well characterised by cheap designer clothes, anti-social behaviour and low social status. The word derives from the much more endearing Anglo-Romani word chavvi [= ‘boy, son’] and illustrates how certain social groups have unfortunately always attracted suspicion and condemnation. A WordBank contributor from the Medway, Kent who can pukker [= ‘to speak’] Romani explains, for instance, how he will often jel down the tober to see my little chavvis in my vardo [‘go down the road to see my children in my caravan’], while another contributor submitted an expression assumed to be local to Newark, seemingly unaware of its Romani origins. The book Romani Rokkeripen To-Divvus (Thomas Acton and Donald Kenrick, 1984) records mandi [= ‘I’], buer [= ‘woman’] and rokker [= ‘to talk, speak’].

Jel down the tober to see my little chavvis in my vardo  (BL shelfmark C1442/2355) 

Mandi don't know what the buer is rokkering (BL shelfmark C1442/1079)

Over 400 recordings capturing English dialect and slang worldwide can be found in the Evolving English Wordbank collection on British Library Sounds.  

Follow @VoicesofEnglish and @soundarchive for all the latest news. 

31 October 2017

Made-up about this boss new Liverpool Dickie

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Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English, writes:

We can all probably remember the first time we met a Scouser [= ‘person from Liverpool’] face to face. Leafing through Tony Crowley’s excellent Liverpool English Dictionary immediately transported me back to 1983 and a fellow first year student in halls of residence who regularly described himself as dead made-up [= ‘really pleased/excited’] or disdainfully proclaimed that’s last [= expression used dismissively of e.g. unpleasant drink or food/embarrassing choice of clothing/dismal taste in music]. Made-up and last are both in Crowley’s wonderful new dictionary, which is the culmination of years of research into Liverpool English. There have been countless entertaining and informative treatments of Scouse [= ‘the dialect of Liverpool’] – both in print and online – but Crowley provides a long overdue authoritative inventory of Liverpool vernacular based on evidence from published works, thus enabling a reader to trace the provenance of over 2,000 fascinating expressions.

Liverpool English DictionaryIt’s intriguing, for instance, to be able to consult his entries for items in the Library’s own Evolving English WordBank – examples of contemporary dialect and slang words and phrases submitted to the British Library by members of the public in 2010/11. The following items that feature in both resources include established Liverpool favourites such as made-up [= ‘pleased’]; forms that reflect local pronunciation, like antwack(y) [= ‘antique’]); references to local specialities, customs and folklore, such as Wet Nellie [= type of bread pudding] and Hickey the Firebobby [= bogeyman evoked to frighten children/deflect them from asking awkward questions]; and recent coinages, like jarg [= ‘fake, useless, rubbish’]. Returning to 1983, it turns out my new friend was actually from Formby, so might potentially be dismissed by sticklers as a Plastic Scouser [= ‘person from the Liverpool hinterland rather than the city itself’]. Intriguingly, there’s no entry for Plastic Scouse(r) in Crowley’s dictionary, although there are several (conflicting) definitions in Urban Dictionary and elsewhere online including this BBC Voices Recording. Opinions as to the exact geographic boundary of Scouseland [= ‘Liverpool’] inevitably vary, but towards the end of our first term my mate from Formby certainly staked a genuine claim to membership of the wider Scouse community by asking me if I was intending to put up any chrizzie dezzies [= ‘Christmas decorations’] in my room. This brilliantly playful construction is an example of a highly productive process of word formation in Liverpool English – abbreviating the stem of an existing word and adding the suffix <-y> or <-ie> (e.g. plasticplazzy) and/or changing the final consonant of the stem before adding the suffix (e.g. plasticplaccy).

Crowley includes several of these highly distinctive hypocoristic forms. Many are arguably universal in colloquial speech, like bevvy [= ‘drink’ (from ‘beverage’)], bezzie [= ‘best mate’], butty [= ‘sandwich’ (from ‘bread-and-butter’), chippy [= ‘chip shop’], footy [= ‘football’], offy [= ‘off-licence’], pressie [= ‘present’], sarnie [= ‘sandwich’],  trackie [= ‘tracksuit’], tranny [= ‘transistor radio’] and wellies [= ‘Wellington boots’]; others are probably more geographically and/or socially restricted, such as bezzies [= ‘best clothes’], cozzie [= ‘swimming costume’], lazzy [= ‘elastic’], lecky [= ‘electricity supply’], lippy [= ‘lipstick’], photie [= ‘photograph’] and trainies [= ‘trainers’]. Even more noteworthy, though, is the set of entries that are, if not absolutely unique to Merseyside, then much more common there than elsewhere. Several refer to significant local landmarks, such as Dellie [= ‘Adelphi cinema’], Mizzy [= ‘Wavertree Playground’ (known locally as ‘The Mystery’)], Parly [= ‘Parliament Street’], Scotty Road [= ‘Scotland Road’], Sevvy Park [= ‘Sefton Park’], Tocky [= ‘Toxteth’] and Vauxy [= ‘Vauxhall Road’ (I’ve never heard Vauxy in reference to the Vauxhall Road in London, for instance)]; others refer to municipal institutions or authority figures that have special local significance, including binnie [= ‘binman’], bizzies [= ‘the police’ (from ‘busybody’)], corpy [= ‘Liverpool Corporation’], cuzzies [= ‘customs officer’], lanny [= ‘landing stage’], ozzy [= ‘hospital’], plainee [= ‘plain-clothes detective’]; while several relate to domestic objects and/or cultural activities including food, daily routine and leisure pursuits, such as avvy [= ‘afternoon’], conny onny [= ‘condensed milk’], cowie [= ‘cowboy film’], finny addy [= ‘finnan-haddock’], loosie [= ‘cigarette sold individually’], mobie [= ‘mobile phone’], muzzy [= ‘moustache’], emmy oggie [= ‘empty house’], rollie [= ‘roll-up cigarette’], squashies [= ‘squashed/broken chocolate sold at reduced price’] and sterry milk [= ‘sterilised milk’]. As a productive form, Crowley’s dictionary cannot possibly hope to be comprehensive, but forms like conny onny and mobie demonstrate how this process applies equally to traditional and to modern household items and my mate's use of chrizzie dezzies shows how it can be used to create highly original forms that may or may not be adopted more widely – the BBC Voices Recordings captured basies [= ‘baseball boots’] and grungies [= ‘fan of grunge rock music’], for instance.

Crowley’s dictionary is a unique celebration of the extraordinary ingenuity and creativity of Scouse vocabulary. To explore the equally distinctive Scouse accent, try this recording in the Library’s Evolving English VoiceBank.

12 October 2017

LISTEN: 140 Years of Recorded Sound

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Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound is the Library's new free exhibition in the Entrance Hall Gallery until 11 May 2018.

This exhibition also inaugurates the Library’s Season of Sound which, includes happy hour listening sessions, a series of talks and late-night shows.

What would you find?

  Gallery_blog

100 Sounds

In the exhibition space we present 100 sounds from the archive, amounting to nearly seven hours of playing time, dating from 1889 to 2017 and covering music, drama, oral history, wildlife, environmental sounds, accents and dialects, and radio.

Many of the selections are rare and unpublished and they can be accessed from any of the exhibition’s listening pods, which have been designed for a secluded and prolonged listening experience.

Hand-out_blog

 Some of my favourites…

  • Radio drama: a musical excerpt from an off-air recording of a radio play by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin - The People in the Park made in 1963. This is an example of a radio drama which was not saved by the BBC and which the British Library has preserved from an off-air recording. The chosen musical excerpt is representative of the humour and the strong feminist message of the piece.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan live at WOMAD recorded by the British Library in 1985. The Library has 2500 hours of recordings made at the WOMAD Festival by a team of volunteer staff from 1985 till the present.
  • Brendan Behan singing ‘The Old Triangle’ in 1954 from his play The Quare Fellow. This is a private recording donated by the Theatre Royal in Stratford East.
  • An excerpt from an oral history interview with chef Cyrus Todiwala, interviewed by Niamh Dillon in 2008, recalling his reaction to first encountering Indian restaurant menus when he arrived in the UK from India in the 1990s.
  • A wildlife recording of a Turkish soundscape at dusk made by biologist and field recordist Eloisa Matheu in 2010.
  • Hugh Davies performing his composition ‘Salad’ on a variety of egg and tomato slicers in 1978.

Also… the voice of Florence Nightingale; James Joyce reading from Ulysses; the voice of Brahms; Maya Angelou live in Lewisham; the earliest recording of British vernacular speech; bird mimicry; whale songs; …

‘Mystery tracks’

To put you in the zone we have installed five ‘mystery tracks’ at the very front of the exhibition space. If you are curious to know the ‘when’, ‘where’ and the ‘who’ of the mystery tracks, the details are revealed in a hand-out available elsewhere in the space.

Mystery tracks 1blog 

Timeline

For reference there is a timeline listing key developments in the history of recorded sound (including radio), and illustrating how the effect of recordings and recording technologies has changed our relationship to sound over the years.

Listen timeline_blog

Artefacts

The British Library has a collection of rarely seen audio players and other artefacts. For this exhibition we have taken a few out of storage. Players include an Edison home phonograph from 1900 and a Nagra SN miniature tape recorder from 1970. The artefacts include a colourful selection of picture discs and the original nickel-plated stamper used to press a disc version of Tennyson reciting 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' in 1890.

Listen to Tennyson reciting 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

Edison Diamond Disc phonograph_blogEdison Diamond Disc phonograph (c.1919)

Boy Wireless

To illustrate how archival sounds can inspire new works in the 21st century, composer and sound artist Aleks Kolkowski has created a unique sound installation.

Boy Wireless was inspired by a diary kept by a sixteen-year old radio enthusiast, Alfred Taylor, writing in 1922-23, at the dawn of broadcast radio. The original diary is also on display in the space.

BoyWireless_B Boy Wireless sound installation by Aleks Kolkowski

Aleks Kolkowski_blogAleks Kolkowski at the British Library cutting souvenir voice recordings on the exhibition’s opening night.

Save Our Sounds

The Library’s sound archive is one of the biggest on the planet. It contains six and half million audio recordings from all over the world in over forty different formats. The preservation of recorded sound is at the heart of our work. In 2016 the Library launched the Save Our Sounds Programme to digitise the most vulnerable items in our collection and in other collections across the UK. Donations to support the programme are welcome.

Follow @BL_DramaSound and @soundarchive for more news.

06 September 2017

Peng Tings on my WhatsApp

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Rosy Hall is an ESRC-funded PhD student from Oxford University working with the BL's Spoken English collections. She writes:

If you’re a school teacher, or in fact if you know any British human aged under 18, you’ll also be aware that the best word to describe someone you fancy these days is peng. It used to be fit. Before that there was hot, cute, and gorgeous. But right now, it’s peng.

C1442 Peng: speaker b.1994

Um, a word me and my friends use a lot is peng. Um, it it it genuinely means like good-looking, and you can use it for people, like if you saw a boy or a girl that you thought was good-looking, a lot of my friends would say ah she’s peng or he’s peng. You can use it for food, you can use it for anything. Um, I I genuinely, I have no idea where it’s come from, but it’s it’s funny to see reactions of generations before mine to listen to it, cause when I said it, my grandma had absolutely no idea what it meant! {LG} And you do – yeah. That’s it really.

School-yard buzz-words pop up all the time – sometimes only fleetingly, while others stick around and enter our mainstream vocabulary (just think of how new cool seemed a few years ago – and even my Dad says minging now!). This process can’t be controlled – what does or doesn’t catch on depends on factors such as frequency of usage and power dynamics between speakers. An awareness of this is at play when Mean Girls’ character Regina George cruelly tells her schoolmate Gretchen: ‘Stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen.’ But peng is definitely happening. And so, for that matter, is piff – another current favourite for ‘attractive,’ as explained by the speaker below. Tony Thorne’s 2014 Dictionary of Contemporary Slang dates this term to ‘mid-2000s.’

C1442 Piff: speaker b.1994

Um, well a slang word we use is piff, which is like, say like if you see someone who’s good-looking, or some – a girl that’s good-looking or a boy who’s good-looking it’s like ah, she’s piff! Like, or ah he’s so piff look at him sort of thing. Don’t know where it comes from cause we have quite a lot of words to describe people and how they look like peng, which also means the same thing. I don’t have a clue where it comes from, to be honest I think they’re quite stupid but they’re just really catchy and everybody uses them. So yeah that’s the slang we use. Piff! P. I. F. F.

Peng appears to have first become a part of spoken British English around 2004-5. It had a slow start in life; BBC Voices, a dialect project which surveyed over 1200 speakers in the UK, recorded only two instances of the word, both in young British Caribbean speakers in the East Midlands. It took off between 2005 and 2010, it seems, since peng was the single most popular vernacular word contributed by under-18s in the recording booths at the Evolving English exhibition in 2010-11. Cambridge Dictionaries included peng in their New Words blog in 2011. And its 2015 appearance in English grime artist Stormzy’s track ‘Know Me From’ (‘Peng tings on my WhatsApp and my iPhone too’) places it firmly at the core of the youth slang lexicon.

As suggested by the BBC Voices data, it’s likely that peng entered English by way of contact with speakers of Caribbean varieties. It may be related to Kushung peng, a word used in Jamaica for marijuana (as in Frankie Paul’s 1985 ‘Pass the Kushung Peng’). Of course, linguistic borrowing is nothing new, but is the way in which English has acquired a great many of its words – from Latin and French right through to German (rucksack), Yiddish (schmuck), and Hindi (pyjamas); very often this is related to English having been forced on others under colonial rule.

In more recent times, a new variety of English called Multicultural London English (MLE) has evolved at home, in diverse multilingual and multicultural environments, and peng is part of this picture. The exchange here is very much two-way; the same BBC Voices speakers who were early users of peng also use ‘brassic’ for broke or ‘lacking money’ – Cockney rhyming slang for skint (brassic lint).

Like it or loathe it, teens and tweens are our richest source of new coinages and language practices, and no doubt there'll be some new competition for peng in the playground this year as well as plenty of other new slang terms. Try testing your own knowledge in this BBC back-to-school slang quiz, and you can get up to speed with more young language on the Evolving English WordBank.

 

Continue the conversation with us @VoicesofEnglish