Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes in Manchester English

Posted on March 20, 2022 by

“Ah, how Manchester’s changed” is a sentiment you hear a lot, usually in the context of skyscrapers springing up like mushrooms all over the place. But there are also other changes enveloping the city, and you’ll only know if you keep an ear, and other instruments, to a rich corpus of sociolinguistic data. It’s just as well we have one of those. LEL sociolinguists (Maciej and his academic progeny) have been putting the corpus to good use, documenting the development of new sound variants in Manchester.

In a recent paper published in Linguistics Vanguard, alumna Danielle Turton and colleague Maciej Baranowski document the variation in Manchester /l/-sound. It turns out that the Manchester /l/ is becoming darker- an unmistakable sign of Manc exceptionalism, as the Manchester /l/ was already darker than in other British English dialects to begin with. We say our /l/s differently here.

Meanwhile, the [s] sound has also gone the way of light /l/, that is out of fashion. If you still say [str]eet, you probably don’t have a TikTok. George Bailey, Stephen Nichols, Danielle Turton and Maciej Baranowski (What ๐Ÿ‘ A ๐Ÿ‘ Line-up ๐Ÿ‘) have come together to investigate how and why exactly this change has swept Manchester. In doing so, they’ve asked the crucial question: what’s happening with words like student and mischief? The [s] (SPOILER ALERT) is gone from these too. That’s how we know that the sad demise of [s] was because of the preceding /t/ and *not* because of the following /r/, which (controversy!) another research team had previously claimed. Ha! The paper is available Open Access in Glossa.