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Manchester Voices research project sets out to find out how do define a "Mancunian accent"

  • The new research project from MMU is looking to understand the ways in which our use of language makes us who we are
  • We caught up with leading researchers, Dr. Erin Carrie and Dr. Rob Drummond, to find out more about the project

Manchester Metropolitan University has launched a new series of research projects investigating and celebrating the accents and dialects of Greater Manchester. The research is looking to help understand the ways in which use of language makes us who we are.

Another aim is to uncover the underlying perceptions of the various accents through the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester.

The research team visited the 10 boroughs in a specially-equipped 'Accent Van' to gather these voices and stories, inviting passers-by to come on board and be interviewed by 

To gather these voices and stories, the research team visited all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester in their specially-equipped 'Accent Van' last summer. Passers-by were invited to climb aboard the van and be interviewed by Chester, the talking laptop, who asked them questions about the way they speak, their local area, and what it means to be part of Greater Manchester. 

We caught up with lead researchers, Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Erin Carrie, two sociolinguists at MMU, to find out more about the project.

Talking about what the project's research has found so far, Dr. Erin Carrie told us, "So far, we have found that northern boroughs of Greater Manchester identify strongly with the traditional county of Lancashire, north-eastern boroughs express an affinity with Yorkshire, and southern boroughs associate with the county of Cheshire."

Another interesting trend the researchers found is that there seems to be mixed feelings about the term 'Greater Manchester'. 

Erin told us, "Many participants feel that it represents their sense of belonging to a larger collective, but some are resistant to its use, seeing it as a purely administrative term. These people tend to identify more with ‘Lancashire’ or simply ‘Manchester’. 

"Linguistically speaking, we have found some differences from region to region: e.g., ' barm ' in the central boroughs, 'lickle' in Bolton, ' skriking ' in Oldham, ' cruckled ' in Rochdale and ' areet ' in Wigan. There are also many linguistic features which are shared across regions, including the pronunciation of 'bus' and 'bath', and terms such as ' angin '', 'ginnel' and 'our kid'.

"Overall, there is a strong identification with the working-class, industrial north and with being ordinary, straightforward and down-to-earth northerners."

This identification with a Northern heritage may explain why researchers did not find any evidence of loss in Northern accents, "There is no evidence to suggest that regional accents and dialects across Greater Manchester have weakened in recent years," Erin explained.

Age, however, may play a role in the difference between accents, "Some of our participants highlighted differences between the speech of older and younger generations but this is more likely a sign of local accents and dialects changing and evolving, rather than being lost."

Erin described to us the 'traditional Mancunian accent': 

"The most traditional 'Mancunian' accent is perceived to be the one spoken in the central boroughs of Manchester and Salford. Speakers from those areas are said to have a 'Manc twang', embodied by the region's musical icons, such as the Gallagher brothers, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses.

"This accent is often perceived by local people to sound stereotypical  - and, in some cases, put-on and false - but it is not perceived to be quite as broad as the accents spoken in outlying boroughs such as Bolton and Rochdale. Our dialect maps show that Wigan, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Salford, Manchester and Stockport are some of the areas thought to have distinct regional dialects."

Manchester Voices is an ongoing project. To follow future developments and to find out how you can add your own voice, visit www.manchestervoices.org. The exhibition at Manchester's Central Library will be running from 22nd June to 31st August 2017. Visitors can experience an interactive display of our findings so far, and can explore our collection of video clips, dialect maps and books relating to local accents and dialects.

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