2.3 Englishes in the British Isles

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To get a feel for native-speaker variation, this section invites you to analyse some audio data from the British Library, which collects samples of spoken English from the British Isles, some of which are accessible on their website. You can find similar data on varieties of English used in other countries at the International Dialects of English Archive and the Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English.

Here are extracts from two speakers:

Cormack (born 1955) is from Glasgow in Scotland. He is talking here about his job as a compère in a holiday camp - someone who announces the artists and other performers in a show for vacationers. Andy Cameron is a comedian.

    "I always liked Andy Cameron, you know. Although it was likesae, he'd go up, you know, and I was Cormack O'Hara the compère, camp compère and gay and Andy would go up there, you know, and Andy being, sort of, the Hun and me being the Tim - it was good, do you know, and I think maybe that, sort of, brought things together a wee bit for me, you know, through the sort of, the, eh, the comedy aspect of what we have here."

Bernadette (born in 1975) is from Burnley in the north-west of England. Here she is talking about her attitude to government welfare officials when, as a single mother, she felt she was receiving inadequate financial benefits.

    "I felt like if I were face-to-face to them I could've throttled them. It was horrible, it were. And I thought it were all wrong. That's what really got me. I though, "Yeah, if I were sat here on drugs and things and I went down all, like, off my head sort of, like, thing, they'd give me somewhat just to get rid of me". I did, I thought it were really wrong, that.

Britain counties image
Figure 2.3: The counties of Great Britain

[Source: Wikishire]

Activity

Note down any words, phrases, and structures used by Cormack and Bernadette which you are unfamiliar with.

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Activity

Now listen to Cormack and Bernadette speaking in the interviews from which these extracts are taken, and consider how different their pronunciation is from the variety you teach and/or model. How well do you think they would understand each other if they met?

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