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Title: Accent variation and attitude on the Merseyside/Lancashire border : a sociophonetic study of Southport and Ormskirk
Author: West, Helen Faye
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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Recent sociolinguistic studies have argued that speaker identity is accentuated in border regions due to speakers’ desire to project a strong sense of identity (Llamas 2007; 2010; Beal 2010, Britain 2010). The AISEB (Accent and Identity on the Scottish/English Border) project shows the effect of national political affiliation on linguistic output, observing that linguistic diversity along the Scottish/English border appears to be increasing in some areas in a way that coincides with heightened speaker attitudes in relation to the nearby boundary. In the light of these findings, increased attention has been paid to urban zones which are geographically either next to perceptual and/or physical boundaries or within areas which have undergone a political boundary change. Following the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972, the creation of the administrative county of Merseyside provides us with fertile ground for the study of the relationship between language variation and regional identity. Although Liverpool sits at the heart of the administrative county and the wider region, Merseyside and its immediate environs are a diverse mix of the urban, suburban and rural with quite different social, industrial and economic histories. In particular, the town of Southport, situated seventeen miles north of Liverpool, are often positioned by both residents of Liverpool and the towns themselves as quite distinct entities from the urban centre of the administrative county, despite both having been included within the borders of Merseyside from its inception (West 2013). These locations, peripheral to the urban core of the region, provide us with the opportunity to examine the interplay of language variation, speaker identity and the subsequent direction of linguistic change. This thesis investigates the diffusion of local Liverpool features – the lenition of intervocalic and word-final /t/ and /k/ and the fronted merger of NURSE and SQUARE (Knowles 1973) – in speech from a corpus of 63 speakers stratified by age, socioeconomic status and gender. I show that despite the links with Liverpool, the features of the Liverpool accent are not diffusing as rapidly as originally hypothesised. To investigate possible reasons for this, the thesis examines whether there is a correlation between speakers’ language use and their spatial mobility patterns by mapping their contact and attitudinal behaviour onto their linguistic production. I suggest that Liverpool’s negative stereotype (Montgomery 2007) may be acting as a barrier to the diffusion of Liverpool features: a negativity that could potentially be heightened in Southport due to the movement of the political border.
Supervisor: Kerswill, Paul ; Watson, Kevin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available