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Title: Linguistic variation and change in a North-East border town : a sociolinguistic study of Darlington
Author: Atkinson, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2719 4351
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis presents a sociophonetic study of Darlington, an urban area in the North East of England which has not previously been the focus of linguistic investigation. The study of Darlington is further motivated by the geographical position of the town on the North Yorkshire/South Durham boundary: an area which previous research suggests coincides with a number of dialectal isoglosses. The study examined phonological variability in the speech performance of 32 Darlington English speakers. A total of ten linguistic variables were initially considered for more in-depth investigation across two different styles, a reading word list and free conversation. Consequently five variables were chosen for detailed analysis in light of the results from the pilot study and the fact that they could be compared with existing accounts of the same variables in previous studies of other North- Eastern urban areas, such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Middlesbrough. The five linguistic variables (word-initial (h), word final and word medial (t), and the FACE and GOAT vowels) were sampled from speakers recorded in formal (by way of a reading word list) and informal (by way of a 40 minute free conversation) situations in dyads. The dyads were composed of pairs of speaker of the same sex, age and ‘class’. The study also surveyed aspects of the identity construction of the Darlington speakers and the role played in this by accent. A questionnaire was used to record the 32 Darlington English speakers’ overt comments towards their accent and towards their regional identity (an approach which has been adopted in other sociolinguistic studies carried out in the North-East (cf. Llamas (2001), Burbano-Elizondo (2008) and Pichler (2008)). By comparing the language ideologies expressed through the identities questionnaire and patterns of phonological variability, it was possible to evaluate the extent to which affiliation or disaffiliation to Darlington and/or to other areas in the North-East is reflected within the use of the particular variants which were tracked. Overall, the results highlight that whilst Darlington English appears to be moving toward a pan northern koine in respect of both vocalic variables (e) and (o), there are also significant disparities between its phonetic inventory (absence of ‘extended frication’ and glottal reinforcement of /t/) and that of the varieties encountered in surrounding North-Eastern areas. In addition, the use of [h] in word initial position is not used as frequently as in other areas in what Trudgill terms the ‘far north’. Indeed, far from being [h]-ful, Darlington English shows variable use of [h] and its use is highly influenced by social ‘class’. Social ‘class’ was statistically significant for each of the five linguistic variables surveyed. The independent variable of age was significant for the use of (t) in Darlington English, highlighted by the frequent use of [] in the younger speaker groups in contrast to that of [t] by the older speakers. ‘Sex’ showed significance for word-initial (h), but was not significant in any of the other four linguistic variables. The linguistic results are discussed principally in terms of their social effects (i.e. sex, age and ‘class’) and concluding with how the linguistic results fit in with the results seen not only in the North-East of England, but within the UK as a whole.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available