Manchester Voices

Rob DrummondConference Room

Manchester Voices is an ongoing, unique research project exploring the rich tapestry of accents, dialects and identities that help make Greater Manchester (GM) what it is. The project has diversity and community at its core, with the central aim of investigating and celebrating the role of language in shaping the multiple identities that exist in our region, while at the same time challenging linguistic inequality. We draw on innovative methods from a range of disciplines including Linguistics, English, Youth Studies and History, to help us capture the linguistic and cultural essence of GM in the 2020s. This panel will describe the research processes and reflect on challenges and opportunities that have emerged so far, both in the current project and in the successful 2016-2017 pilot study.

There are four main strands to the research:
1. Online mapping of people’s perceptions.
Regional accents and dialects are heavily bound to notions of place and belonging; here, we seek to explore the geographical landscape of GM from a sociolinguistic perspective. Using a specially-designed online tool, people are invited to draw a digital map of where they feel people speak differently from one another within GM, before naming and describing the dialects. The composite data will be analysed using GIS (Geographic Information System) techniques, enabling us to create heat maps showing areas where certain dialects are thought to be spoken and where perceptions of dialects are shared.

2. The Accent Van.
Moving away from traditional sociolinguistic techniques, we will undertake a comprehensive tour of the ten boroughs of GM in our Accent Van – a specially kitted-out vehicle which serves as a mobile interview booth and recording studio. Participants will be asked to share their thoughts on how they speak, reflecting on deeply embedded beliefs regarding the status and value of their own, and other people’s, accents and dialects and how they relate spoken language to a sense of local identity.

3. Poetry and history workshops.
We will be organising oral history and poetry workshops in collaboration with the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies, the Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage and Manchester Met’s English Department, which will serve to engage members of the public in discussion and creative collaboration around issues of accent, dialect and identity.

4. Attitude surveys.
A series of attitude surveys will track people’s thoughts and feelings about the speech of the region. Investigating people’s attitudes towards accents and dialects is crucial to explaining their use, loss, and maintenance at a community level. Attitudes also enable us to explore the ways in which individuals and groups identify and associate with one another within our local communities – for example, the feelings people from different boroughs, from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and of different age groups may have about their own and others’ speech (and about the speakers themselves). This aspect of the project seeks to uncover deeply embedded and widely held beliefs about regional accents and dialects, and to use this data to challenge any negative perceptions, to promote linguistic equality and diversity, and to nurture a sense of social and regional pride.

This panel is made up of the core research team of the project, representing individuals at different stages of their careers and from a variety of backgrounds. All team members work across the four strands of the research, yet each is responsible for the delivery of a particular aspect.

We will invite panel attendees to take part in the mapping part of the project, and will be able to offer exclusive tours of the Accent Van itself. We will also have a performance of local dialect poetry.

Manchester Voices is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ref: AH/S006125/1.

Sat 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm