Margaret Ferguson

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Research title: Sociolinguistic study of dialect acquisition in young children in south west Scotland

Research Summary

The dialect of the Rhins of Galloway in south west Scotland is referred to as “Galloway Irish”.   It is  characterised by traditional norms which differ considerably from standard Scottish dialects and shares many features  with those of Northern Ireland including a clear /l/ in all positions and a low, backed /a/.     My recent research into the phonological features of the area has highlighted the role of age, gender and speech type on the changing nature of  these traditional variants i.e. that these are indeed dominant and enduring features of the local accent but that there is some evidence of loss across generations, especially in younger speakers.   The present research aims to explore further the sociolinguistic variation in the distinctive accent of this area.   I am conducting a study into the acquisition of a range of linguistic variables  by preschool children aged three to four years.

The research  involves the recording of children's naturally occurring talk in two environments, firstly at home with caregivers and secondly in their nursery setting with peers and nursery staff.       The audio files will be transcribed and a corpus created from which linguistic variables can be extracted and analysed to identify patterns of variation and change across the two conditions.

  • How do very young children acquire community norms?
  • What is the role of their caregivers in this process?
  • What is the influence on their speech when they engage in social interaction in a nursery environment?
  • How does the contact with others influence their patterns of speech?


Grants & Awards

Wigtownshire Local History Trust, January 2019, £485 for the purchase of field recorders and Lavalier microphones.