Do you speak “Manc”, “Lancashire”, “chic” or “Wigan”? This is the question that a group of sociolinguists from the Manchester Metropolitan University is trying to solve.
The Manchester Voices research project looked at how people speak in the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester and what people think and feel about our different accents.
The project identified four emerging accents within the population of Greater Manchester, finding that the ‘Manc’ accent is primarily located in the city center, while residents of South Manchester, Trafford and Stockport are more likely to ring ‘ chic â.
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Residents of Bury, Bolton, Rochdale, and Oldham tend to have a more ‘Lancashire’ accent, while residents of Wigan have their own distinctive dialect.
Comprised of academics Dr Rob Drummond, Dr Holly Dann, Dr Sadie Ryan and a group of student research assistants, the Manchester Voices research team hopes the project will celebrate the diversity of languages ââacross the city-region.
“The project was born in part because there hadn’t really been a big study that looked at the whole of Greater Manchester,” Dr Sadie Ryan told MEN.
âIf you talk to people in Greater Manchester, people will immediately start to tell you that the people of Wigan will sound completely different from the people of downtown or Oldham.
âNorthern languages ââare often stigmatized in the UK and people have told us that they can be held back from certain things in life because they have a very distinctive Salford accent, for example.
“We wanted to see if people were proud of their accent or if they wanted to change it.”
In the first stage of the research, the researchers asked more than 350 people from the area to draw and describe different accents and dialects on an online map.
The researchers analyzed the responses by creating heat maps, with the red areas indicating where respondents labeled the different regions.
The analysis suggested that the use of âsmudgesâ and âbewkâ might decrease over time, with young people – and especially young women – being more likely to say âbearâ and âbookâ.
âWe have found that people in the Manchester and Salford area seem to be doing something different from the northern boroughs,â says Dr Holly Dann.
âThere’s the pronunciation of that last vowel – the ‘uh’. Residents of Manchester and Salford are more likely to say ‘Manchesta’ and they don’t tend to do so in the northern or southern boroughs.
âThe people of Trafford and Stockport, who have been identified as posh in research, appear to have what is described as a general northern English accent.
“People were very positive about Bolton’s accent – they said it was lovely.”
When asked if these changes will only evolve over time, Dr Holly adds, âLanguage is constantly evolving and it’s a never-ending process.
âThe main fuel for the fire in terms of language switching is people from different places meeting each other.
âThere will always be new populations that settle in the region and have their own linguistic backgrounds.
“There will never be a stopping point.”
Dr Sadie adds that “the future of accents is going to be really interesting” because the way we are told to speak in a certain way molds to our sense of belonging.
âOur data clearly shows that this sense of local pride is still very strong,â she adds.
âObviously there is always a pressure to speak more like they do on the BBC in order to get ahead in life, but people like what makes them different.
“People love what makes their accent distinctive and how no one says similar things to them.”
The next stop on the project is the Accent Van, a refurbished motorhome that travels around the city-region to get people to comment on the research.
People are invited to get into the van – in the least frightening way possible – and be interviewed by a computer talking about accents, dialects and identity.
They’ve already visited the Mosley Common Scarecrow Festival, a mosque in Rusholme, and the Museum of Transport, and have more dates coming up with a website. where people can participate virtually.
âWe hope that everyone will be able to access and use the data in the years to come,â adds Dr Holly.
âWe want linguists in the future to be able to look at a certain vowel, for example, and see how the accents change over time and not just in Manchester.
“Greater Manchester is a great example of encapsulating what is happening across the country.”
So what do the people of Greater Manchester think about their accents and these distinguishing variables?
There was only one way to find out, and that was to take to the streets …
“It’s the accent of Coronation Street, everyone over there talks like us”
Friends Gail Byrne and Sharon Delaney, from Salford, gathered over coffee in Exchange Square before Gail risked offending her mate with their accents.
âPosh? It’s definitely us,â the 55-year-old joked, before adding: âSalford’s accent is awful. I think it’s awful, I think it’s common like the hell.
âWhen people record me talking and I listen to them again, I’m like ‘did I really talk like that?’ I think that’s crap, really.
“I think it’s the same as the Manchester accent. When you come here and talk to people here we tend to sound the same, they don’t sound better.”
Sharon, 54, replied: “I think it’s going well … we were friends, weren’t we?
“It’s the accent of Coronation Street, everyone over there talks like us.
“When you talk to people from places like Oldham, they have a little pang in their hearts.”
Vinnie Lydon, originally from Fallowfield and now living in Stretford, described his accent as “general Mancunian” – and felt others had the same accent in both areas.
The 51-year-old added: “This is about the city you are in and the place where you grew up. I have always lived in Manchester.”
There was some skepticism as to whether the accents of Bury, Oldham and Rochdale could be grouped together and described as “Lancashire”.
Amanda Rothwell is from Rossendale in Lancashire, just across the border from Bury.
The 55-year-old said: “I think there is a big difference between the accents, even 20 minutes from my house.
“I work at Burnley and they have a completely different accent than the people at Rossendale.”
Both 18-year-old Joseph Marsden and Alistair Rowan have recently started studying at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The pair are from Saddleworth – which is in Oldham, but is historically part of Yorkshire rather than Lancashire.
Joseph thinks their accents are different from the ‘Lancashire’ dialect that scholars have picked up in the rest of Oldham – and thinks other students from elsewhere in the country sometimes struggled with it.
He said: “It’s probably a mix between Oldham and Yorkshire. My family has always been there.
“[Other students] think I look a bit like an old man. “
Alistair added: “Everyone in the south looks so much more chic than us.”
There were also accents of disagreement in southern Manchester and Stockport described as ‘chic’.
Amanda Newton, from south Manchester, believes her accent is not as strong as that of others in the city.
But when told about researchers describing accents in this area as “chic,” the 47-year-old insisted she didn’t fit the description.
âI might not sound as Manc as the people who live in North Manchester,â Amanda said.
“But ask someone from London and they might say I’m more Manc than Liam Gallagher.
“I wouldn’t call myself fancy, absolutely not. It’s just not as Manc as the others. Definitely not fancy.”
Luna Lee, 26, once lived in the UK and agreed that the accent from South Manchester didn’t sound particularly chic, adding: “I’ve lived in London before so I wouldn’t say that sounds like it to me. chic.
“But you can tell the difference between different parts of Manchester. People have their own slang.”
An older couple from Didsbury, who asked not to be named, felt that the accent in southern Manchester was more ‘neutral’ – while other areas in northern and western Greater Manchester had stronger accents.
They said, “We’re on the south side, Didsbury, and it’s pretty neutral. If you want the Manchester accent you have to go to the surrounding suburbs.
âI think their accents are pretty neutral there because people come from other areas, they travel to work and they tend to lose their accents.
“If you go down the East Lancs road, down to the mining villages, you will find accents that are more difficult to understand.”
For more information on the Manchester Voices project, Click here.
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