New research project has accent on voices

A SELECTION of Saddleworth voices has been recorded for posterity as part of a new academic study into accents and how we speak.

A number of locals, including the Independent’s Trevor Baxter, were interviewed by researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University during their fact-finding accent tour of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs.

It comes more than 30 years after a similar study was undertaken in this area; the results of which are now housed in Manchester Central Library and the British Library.

Back then, as now, there are plenty in these parts who consider themselves Yorkshire folk. It’s Saddleworth, not Oldham and how many Oldhamers consider themselves citizens of Greater Manchester?

Rob Drummond, Reader in Linguistics at MMU with research associate Sadie Ryan from MMU and Manchester Voices

Are ‘ey up’ and ‘ee ba gum’ still used? Do Boltonians still say ‘reet gradely’? And why Wiggin when you come from Wigan?

Do Mancunians and Salfordians have any vocal resonance with counterparts in Stockport or Trafford?

These are some of the questions Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Sadie Ryan are hoping to answer with their Manchester Voices research project.

For several hours they parked their Accent Van – kitted out with audio and visual recording equipment – in St Chad’s Gardens, Uppermill to capture voices and thoughts of locals going about their daily business.

“We are listening to accents and dialects from across Greater Manchester,” explained Dr Drummond.

“Participants have been asked questions such as where are they from, where their accent comes from, do they like the way you speak or do they want to change it.

“Then there are people’s views on Greater Manchester because the whole project is looking at that relationship between how we speak and who we are.

“We will then use the audio recordings to see how different people speak. At the end some of the video clips and audio recordings will end up in Manchester Central Library as part of a permanent interactive installation in their archives area.

“As part of this, we have had access to recordings made in the 1980s in this actual area. Hopefully in 50 – or 100 – years time these new findings will be looked back on by future linguists.”

Former journalist and broadcaster Alex Greenhalgh was responsible for the late 80s study, talking to mostly older working-class people born between the 1890s and the 1920s.

Questions concentrated on childhood experiences, including school, housing, family and village life and were particularly strong on local traditions like Whit walks and brass band contests.

Some of these recordings can be accessed online via https://northwestsoundheritage.org/2020/12/18/uap001-alec-greenhalgh-interviews/

For the 2021 survey, researchers have visited, among others, the Museum of Transport, a mosque in Rusholme and Mosley Common Scarecrow Festival.

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