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.
ActivityNote down any words, phrases, and structures used by Cormack and Bernadette which you are unfamiliar with.
FeedbackDepending on your own familiarity with Scottish English and Scottish culture, you may have identified any or all of the following elements in Cormack’s usage:
● likesae: 'for example'
● Hun: 'a nickname for a Protestant [Christian] (especially when applied to fans of Glasgow Rangers football team)'
● Tim: 'a protestant nickname for a Roman Catholic [Christian] (especially when applied to fans of Celtic football team)'
● do you know: the use of do in this phrase is not usual in 'Standard English', even if it may be no less grammatical according to 'Standard English' rules
● wee: 'little'
Again, depending on your familiarity with the Englishes of northern England and informal native-speaker phrases more broadly, you may have identified some or all of the following elements in Bernadette’s usage:
● it were: this construction (where 'Standard English' would use was) is common to many parts of the UK
● if I were sat: the use the passive participles like sat (where 'Standard English' would use present participles like sitting) is very common in this kind of construction
● off my head: an informal phrase meaning 'intoxicated by alcohol or drugs', and used by many native-speaker groups
● somewhat: 'something'
ActivityNow 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?
FeedbackIf Cormack and Bernadette met, they would, despite their use of different varieties of English, be able to understand each other. This is because their communicative resources consist of much more than just the words, structures and accents they use to convey their meaning, create a relationship, project a particular identity, and all the other tasks we use language to achieve. Their communicative resources also include the ability to accommodate (converge and diverge) and negotiate meaning. It is these processes, in addition to their task-related words and structures, that help them achieve mutual understanding.
Of course, this is to assume that they actually want to understand each other! Their first meeting might go disastrously wrong; perhaps because Bernadette hates Cormack's clothes or perhaps because he had a previous girlfriend from Burnley who left him and now automatically dislikes all women with a North West England accent. If either of these scenarios are the case, they might be less disposed to understand each other, but again that would not be because of their (only) partially overlapping linguistic resources.
If Bernadette is not a football fan, she may not understand Cormack's use of the words 'hun' and 'tim', but she could ask and Cormack could try his story again, without the specialist vocabulary. Intelligibility is about much more than just the interlocutors' own linguistic resources (as a later part of this unit shows): it's about joint work, work that Cormack and Bernadette would probably get done with very little awareness that they were even doing it.