Accent Change in Glaswegian: Final report

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Annexe 4: Linguistic variables

The following 8 consonant variables were specified in the grant proposal:

(th): TH-fronting. The pronunciation of /th/ as [f], in e.g. think, something, has been reported anecdotally in Glaswegian since the early 1980s (see Macafee 1983; 1994; Stuart-Smith 1999). The more usual Glaswegian (and Lowland Scots) variant is [h] (Macafee 1983).

(dh): DH-fronting. In Glaswegian, at least intervocalically, in e.g. brother, a tap is a common variant for /dh/ (Macafee 1983). The pronunciation of /dh/ as [v], in e.g. smooth, was found in the pilot study (Stuart-Smith 1999).

(l): L-vocalization. The change of /l/ to a vowel took place during the history of Scots, as in e.g. aa for all (e.g. Macafee 1983). More recently, L-vocalization similar to that found in Cockney English, to a back rounded vowel or before a consonant in e.g. well, milk, has been reported in Glaswegian: Macafee (1983); Stuart-Smith (1999).

(t): T-glottalling. The glottalling of /t/ between vowels and word-finally, as in e.g. butter, but, has long been a stigmatized feature of Glaswegian (Macaulay 1977; Macafee 1983; Stuart-Smith 1999a); T-glottalling in non-standard southern English may originate from Glaswegian.

(x): X-loss. Scottish English has a distinction between /x/ and /k/, as in loch and lock, but this is being lost for some speakers (Macafee 1983; Stuart-Smith 1999, Lawson and Stuart-Smith 1999).

(hw): HW-loss. Again, Scottish English maintains the distinction between /w/ and /hw/ in pairs such as wine and whine. Loss of this distinction is reported in Macafee (1983), Stuart-Smith 1999, Lawson and Stuart-Smith 1999.

(r): R-loss. Scottish English is typically rhotic, with pronunciation of postvocalic /r/ in e.g. car and card, as well as red (Wells 1982). Loss of postvocalic /r/ is reported in Edinburgh schoolchildren by Romaine (1978), and anecdotally for Glaswegian in Macafee (1983), Stuart-Smith (1999).

(s): S-retraction. A retracted variant of /s/, auditorily closer to  is commonly found in all positions in the word in working-class (Lowland Scots) speech.

A further three variables were added during the course of the project:

(k): K-realization. In order to investigate the changes in (x), in particular, the possible merger of /x/ with /k/, we also examined typical pronunciations of /k/, in e.g. lock.

(w): W-realization. Similarly, the finding of [w] for (hw), suggesting merger of /hw/ with /w/, necessitated a consideration of typical /w/ pronunciations, in e.g. wine.

(r2): R-realization. The auditory analysis of postvocalic /r/ proved complex yielding a huge array of variants. When subsequent categorization still resulted in 11 variants, we separated the variation into two variables, R-loss - considering the vocalization/loss of postvocalic /r/, and R-realization - considering the articulation of /r/.

Large-scale homogenization in the consonant systems of urban accents across the UK is currently taking place (papers in Foulkes and Docherty 1999), largely through the diffusion of features typical of non-standard Southern English accents, and the levelling out of traditional dialect features.

In Glasgow, TH/DH-fronting and L-vocalization, features of diffusion elsewhere, are also innovations or additions to the Glaswegian consonant system. T-glottalling is also diffusing throughout British urban accents, but an increase in this feature in Glasgow represents a retention or strengthening of a traditional Glaswegian feature. So too does maintenance of S-retraction. However, X-loss, HW-loss, and R-loss reflect the loss of traditional Scottish features from the Glaswegian accent.