“Aye, I watch it but”: Individuals,
television and language change
Jane Stuart-Smith and Claire Timmins
University of Glasgow; Queen Margaret University Edinburgh
UKLVC 6, Lancaster University,11-13 September 2007
“Aye, I watch it but”: Individuals, television and
language change
Paper overview
This paper represents a shift in position. After summarizing the key
correlational results, we consider the possible interpretations for TV in
terms of causality based on the regression models. The fact that the
TV factors may be entered alongside those from social practices (and
others) demonstrates a degree of independence. It is not possible to
assume that the TV links are indirectly related via social practices
(though there may be factors involved, such as covert attitudes,
Kristiansen pc). Whilst it is awkward, we must seriously entertain the
possibility that TV is a direct causal factor in these changes.
However, this does not mean that we must assume blanket
transmission of features to passive viewers.
Analysis of individual speakers, as opposed to just group measures,
emphasises: (1) the different possible profiles, and so the individuality
of each speaker (2) the role of personality (here dealt with in terms of
‘innovativeness’) in modelling these changes.
We conclude by presenting the bones of our model of linguistic
appropriation from the media, which requires several key
components, and in particular reference to speech perception,
appopriation, stylistic variation, and time.
JSS/CT 22/12/07
Two Glaswegian adolescent boys talking
about EastEnders …
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
L
R
have you been watchin’ EastEnders?
Phhhh, uuh.
Do you watch it?
Aye ah watch it but.
Brilliant man
No’ saw it (inaudible)
They two nearly got caught aff ay,
Aye
Sam was it?
Sam, an,
(laughs)
She hid behind the couch.
Aye. (laughs)
That’s the last one ah saw ah think.
Ah know she wants tae break it up now an’ he doesnae.
(laughs)
Pure shockin’ innit?
Aye, ‘cause he’s
Mad Barry’s left in his cell man, pure makes, things for him an’ aw that. So he does, ‘s
quite shockin’
Context
• Debate concerning influence of broadcast
media, especially TV, on speech
– e.g. Trudgill (1986); Chambers (1998); Stuart-Smith
(2006)
• Specifically with reference to consonant changes
in UK accents
– e.g. TH-fronting, DH-fronting, L-vocalization
(e.g. Foulkes and Docherty 1999)
The Glasgow media project
Is TV a contributory factor in accent change in
adolescents? (2002-5)
ESRC R000239757
• Gwilym Pryce (statistics)
• Barrie Gunter (media studies)
Methodology
• sample
– 36 adolescents; 12 adults (working-class)
• data
– speech: wordlist and spontaneous
– questionnaire; informal interviews
• design
– experiment; correlational study
• analysis
– auditory transcription
– all tokens of wordlist
– first 30 tokens of spontaneous speech
Linguistic variables
• TH-fronting: [f] for [] in e.g. think, both
• DH-fronting: [v] for [] in e.g. brother
• L-vocalization: /l/ vocalized to high back (un)rounded
vowel e.g. people, milk, well
• all unexpected in Glasgow English
• reported informally since 1950s; formally since 1980s;
Macafee 1983
• confirmed as changes in 1997, and argued to be part of
sociolinguistic construction of identity distinguishing WC
adolescents from MC speakers in the city
Stuart-Smith et al 2007
Change in progress: TH-fronting
100%
% new variant
80%
60%
40%
fraction variant
1997 conversation
1997 wordlist
20%
conversations
wordlists
0%
progress of change
Change in progress: L-vocalization
100%
% new variant
80%
60%
fraction variant
40%
1997 conversation
1997 wordlist
20%
conversations
wordlists
0%
progress of change
Change in progress: DH-fronting
100%
% new variant
80%
60%
40%
fraction variant
1997 wordlist
20%
wordlist
conversation
0%
progress of change
Why? – the group
Correlational study (logistic regression)
– (th):[f], (dh):[v], l:[V]
with
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
dialect contact (beyond and within Glasgow)
attitudes to accents
social practices
TV
music
Computers/internet
Film/video/DVD
sport
Results of correlational study
for all linguistic variables
• satisfactory model only achieved when a range
of social factors entered together
• A number of social factors are significant
together including
– dialect contact
– social practices
– engagement with TV (EastEnders)
Interpreting the correlations
Factors not
measured
TV
engagement
Direct causal link
Language
Social
practices
Attitudes
Dialect
contact
Why? – the individual
• Individuals have always been important in
discussions of language variation and
change
– e.g. L.Milroy (1987), J.Milroy (1992)
– e.g. Labov (2001)
– e.g. Eckert (2000)
Diffusion of innovations and individuals
adopter categories
Innovator
Early adopter
Early majority
Late majority
Laggard
Rogers (1995: 262)
Adopter categories and the media
‘Mass media channels are relatively more important than interpersonal
channels for earlier adopters than for later adopters’
Rogers (1995: 197)
Our sample - basic social relationships
1F1
1M2
1M4
3M3
1M5
3M5
1M6
1F4
3M1
3M6
1M1
1F2
1F3
3M2
1M3
3M4
1F6
1F5
2M1
2M7
2M5
2M6
2M3
2M4
2F1
2F3
2F5
2F2
2F6
2F4
3F1
3F6
3F4
3F5
3F2
Friends
Best friends
3F3
Related
Going out with
Our sample – adopter categories
1F1
1M2
1M4
3M3
1M5
3M5
1M6
1F4
3M1
3M6
1M1
1F2
1F3
3M2
1M3
3M4
1F6
1F5
2M1
2M7
2M5
2M6
2M3
2M4
2F1
2F3
2F5
2F2
2F6
2F4
3F1
3F6
3F4
3F5
3F2
Innovator
Early Adopter
3F3
Early Majority
Late Majority
Laggard
• Does adopter category relate to change in
progress?
• And/or to social factors such as dialect
contact or engagement with TV?
– DH-fronting
– TH-fronting
60
% [v]
DH-fronting and adopter category
100
90
80
70
50
40
30
20
10
1M4
1F6
2M1
2F5
3M3
3F1
2F4
1M1
3M4
2F1
1M6
3M5
3F5
3F6
1M2
3F3
2F2
3M2
speaker
3F2
2M4
1M3
3M6
3M1
3F4
2M3
2F3
1F2
1F4
2M6
1F3
2M5
1F1
2M7
2F6
1M5
1F5
0
DH-fronting - Innovator
1M4 - highest [v]
• no dialect contact
• Goth (skateboarder)
• TV engagement:
‘mmm … Buffy.
Simpsons, EastEnders, sometimes Coronation Street’
‘Walford … he’s fae England.
Walford or … is it Walford?
Yeah, it’s Walford. I’m from Glasgow.’
[Walford = fictional location of EastEnders]
DH-fronting: adopter category/peer network
most [v]
3M2
3M1
contact N/S England
3M6
high [v]
3M5
neglible
contact
high
engagement
with TV
3M3
3M4
3F1
3F6
engagement with TV
3F5
3F2
no [v]
high contact N/S
England
engagement with TV
70
60
% [f]
TH-fronting: spontaneous speech
100
90
[h]ink, [h]ing, [h]inking
80
50
40
30
20
10
0
1F6
2M1
1M4
3M4
2F5
1M6
3F5
1M1
2F4
3M3
3M5
1F2
3F1
1M3
1M2
3F3
2M3
3M2
2F3
3M6
3F6
3F4
2F1
3M1
3F2
2M4
2F2
2M5
1F3
2M6
1F4
1F1
2M7
1F5
2F6
1M5
speaker
0
speaker
2M1
1M4
1F6
3M4
2F5
3M3
2F4
1M1
1M6
3M5
3F5
3F1
1F2
3M2
2F1
1M3
1M2
3F3
3F6
3M6
2F3
3F2
2F2
3F4
2M4
2M3
3M1
1F3
2M5
2M6
1F4
1F1
2M7
2F6
1M5
1F5
% [f]
TH-fronting: wordlists
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
TH-fronting - Innovators
1F6 – most [f]
• neglible dialect contact
• very engaged with EastEnders
2M1 – second most [f]
• Some contact with N England
• engages with TV, e.g. Extreme Sport; cartoons
(not EastEnders)
TH-fronting – Early Adopters
2F4 – high [f]
• Contact with S England
‘Em, I like the way the English people talk. … I
like that. … Don’t know, just like the ways that my
dad’s girlfriend talks, and I just sort of listen to her
talking.’
• Some engagement with EastEnders
TH-fronting - Laggards
2F6 – low [f]
‘I like to talk nice’
• no dialect contact
• very engaged with EastEnders
‘Oh my God!’
What?
‘Mark tries to kill hisel’!’
• Talks to 2F5 (low [f]) – does this help reduce her
own usage?
TH-fronting - Laggards
1F5 – high [f]
• no dialect contact
• high engagement with EastEnders, and other
soaps
‘So what did you watch last night?’
‘Aw, did you watch Easte… did you watch
Coronation Street last night?’
Talks to 1F6 (highest [f]) - pulls usage up?
Summary
• Adopter category seems to pattern for DHfronting
• Adopter category/peer networks may
facilitate spread (but not necessarily)
• There seem to be different causal
pathways, and combinations of pathways,
for different speakers
Causal pathways for change
Language
Factors not
measured
TV
engagement
Social
practices
Dialect
contact
How?
These results highlight:
– stylistic variation in these changes
– the differing sociolinguistic profiles of
individual speaker/viewers
Modelling the mechanism for TV ‘influence’:
– perception/production (episodic model)
– appropriation, i.e. what each speaker/viewer
takes for him/herself whilst engaging with the
media, given their own particular experience
of the world (Holly et al 2001)
Linguistic appropriation from TV
– a working model
• The bones
– Perception (exemplars)
– Appropriation
– Sociolinguistic system
– Production
– Style
– time
appropriating
at media
exploiting
in context
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