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What’s occurin’: Dialects in Barry, Caerphilly and Pontypridd subject of academic study

15 November 2022

Barry Island stock image
Barry Island

Welsh English accents and dialects from three communities in South East Wales will form the basis of new research from Cardiff University.

The first-of-its-kind study will examine the linguistic patterns found in Barry, Pontypridd and Caerphilly - three communities as yet unstudied - to gain greater insight into both language change and these regionally significant dialects.

Traditionally, linguists have recognised that the Cardiff dialect does not have many of the Welsh English features found in nearby areas, with migration from England in the 19th and early 20th centuries considered the significant factor at play.

However, recent research has found while this is generally true for older Cardiffians, younger speakers are now adopting features found far closer to home in southeast Wales.

Sociolinguistic Variation in South East Wales: Change and Contact - led by Professor of Sociolinguistics Mercedes Durham -is investigating which locations are leading to this change and how.

Interviews are being conducted with 36 people from each community - stratified by age and by sex – with academics then using quantitative analyses to study their features.

Professor Durham, based at the University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy, who specialises in language variation and change, said: “Up to now there has been very little academic research carried out into local dialects in Wales, especially in terms of comparing different communities.

“We are concentrating on communities in South East Wales and as yet we do not know which linguistic features they share and which ones are restricted to single communities. We also don’t know who within the communities uses these features – are they disappearing in younger speakers or is the dialect being maintained?

“This research will not only broaden our understanding of Welsh English, but also help elucidate how the new-to-Cardiff features are coming into the city, as the findings of the three locations will be compared to existing findings.”

Creating the largest collection of Welsh English material to date, the three-year project will determine:

  1. Shared and distinctive features across the southeast region of Wales by establishing which linguistic features are used the same way and which are used differently in Barry, Caerphilly and Pontypridd. As well as features of pronunciation and vocabulary, grammatical structures often associated with Welsh English such as I like it I do (right dislocation) and Impressive that is (fronting) will be included. The project will also analyse how social factors like age and sex affect feature rate and pattern.
  2. How Cardiff English compares to the varieties spoken nearby, specifically, which features are spreading to the capital from the Valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan and conversely how these dialects are influenced by the city?

Sociolinguistic Variation in South East Wales: Change and Contact is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Questions can be directed to the project via email.

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