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York exhibition explores regional accents and identities

A multimedia exhibition at the University of York will explore the relationship between regional accents and identities in four Border communities.

The free exhibition showcases the research of Dr Dominic Watt and Dr Carmen Llamas, from York’s Department of Language and Linguistic Science. Under the Accent and Identity on the Scottish-English Border project (AISEB), funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, they investigated the relationship between regional accents and identities in four Border communities - Carlisle, Gretna, Eyemouth and Berwick upon Tweed.

Dr Watt, who was the Principal Investigator on the project, said: “It has been claimed that the greatest concentration of distinctive linguistic features in the entire English-speaking world is to be found along the length of the Scottish/English border. In spite of this, the spoken vernaculars of this region had remained surprisingly under-researched until the AISEB project began.

Crossed flags in Berwick bakery window (c) Paul Watt Photography

Crossed flags in Berwick bakery window (c) Paul Watt Photography

“The AISEB project addressed this gap and represented the first empirical sociolinguistic study to investigate linguistic variation along a national border viewed as a whole.”

Hosted by the Creative Technology Centre in the superb Ron Cooke Hub, the exhibition, which is open to all, includes a multimedia installation in the 3Sixty immersive space alongside physical exhibits. A series of images and recordings help chronicle the people and places the researchers focused on during their research.

People use speech to signal who they are and who they're not, and this can have an effect on how language change progresses

Dr Carmen Llamas

Dr Llamas said: “Local people have been able to cross the English/Scottish border freely for hundreds of years, but despite this, national and regional identities can act as a brake on language change in the region. People use speech to signal who they are and who they're not, and this can have an effect on how language change progresses.”

The exhibition is the fourth in the Research in Focus series designed to showcase the variety and excellence of research at the University of York.

Professor John Robinson, the University of York’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Information, said: “The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into how sociolinguistic studies are conducted, and how national and regional identities can affect language change.”

The exhibition, ‘Identity on the Borderline’, can be viewed from 2 to 17 November, in the Exhibition Space, the Ron Cooke Hub, Heslington East. The multimedia installation in the 3Sixty immersive space will run from 12 noon to 2.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Further information