Glasgow & West Scotland

EastEnders turning Glaswegians Cockney says TV study

Media captionThe study found language changes among regular viewers of TV soap Eastenders

Researchers looking at how television viewing can lead to accent changes have claimed Glaswegian fans of EastEnders are picking up Cockney dialect.

Linguists at Glasgow University said the study proved that actively watching TV could speed up language change.

They said pronunciation, typically associated with London English, was being increasingly used by Glaswegians who regularly watched the soap.

Their findings have been published in the American journal, Language.

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, looked at how watching EastEnders was altering certain features of the Scottish accent.

The researchers found two particular features of pronunciation, typically associated with the Cockney dialect, were becoming increasingly apparent in the Glaswegian dialect among regular viewers of the BBC programme.

The features were using "f" for "th" in words like "think" and "tooth", and using a vowel sound like that in "good" in place of "l" in words like milk and people.

Emotionally engaged

Jane Stuart-Smith, professor of phonetics and lead researcher on the project, said: "Our study shows that the programmes that we watch on television can help to accelerate changes in aspects of language which are also well below the level of conscious awareness.

"In particular, this study was investigating why certain linguistic factors that are normally found within the Cockney dialect in London were gradually entering into Glaswegian.

"Although this trend was apparent in people who had contact with friends or family living in London, there was a stronger effect for people who had strong psychological engagement with characters in EastEnders."

The study, however, concluded that simply being exposed to television was not sufficient to cause accent change.

It was suggested that for someone's speech to alter, they needed to regularly watch the programme and become emotionally engaged with the characters.

The researchers also highlighted that television and other forms of popular media constituted only one of many factors that help accelerate language change.

Other, more powerful factors, such as social interaction between peers had a much stronger effect on language change in this study.

Prof Stuart-Smith added: "We don't properly understand the mechanisms behind these changes, but we do see that the impact of the media is weaker than that of actual social interaction.

"We need many more studies of this kind in order to appreciate properly the influence of television and other popular media on language change."

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