Manchester Voices – the most detailed and comprehensive study of Greater Manchester accents and dialects – is back and bigger than ever before.

Linguists at Manchester Metropolitan University are going back on the road in their Accent Van, interviewing people across the region about the way they speak.

The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will culminate with a permanent Manchester Central Library installation and archive celebrating the area’s rich tapestry of voices, and a public resource which will be stored in the new Manchester Poetry Library, opening at Manchester Metropolitan in 2020.

The installation and resource will feature audio and video interviews with people from each of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs, an interactive dialect map and an archive of regional poetry that features many of the area’s diverse dialects.

Researchers hope that the project will celebrate the region’s “rich linguistic and cultural heritage” in order to “promote linguistic equality and diversity, and to nurture a sense of social and regional pride”.

Dr Erin Carrie, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University, and researcher on Manchester Voices, said: “The way we speak is an important aspect of who we are and where we’re from – it links us to people and to places. Through our research, we want to represent all voices from Manchester and to celebrate the similarities which give us a sense of belonging and the differences which make us unique.”

Dr Carrie and Dr Rob Drummond ran a pilot Manchester Voices project in 2017, which led to a temporary exhibition on their findings.

They revealed the huge linguistic diversity in Greater Manchester. For instance, whether someone would order a ‘barm’, ‘barmcake’, ‘teacake’ or ‘muffin’ can vary over just a few miles.

Other words distinct to particular areas in Greater Manchester – such as ‘lickle’ in Bolton, ‘skriking’ in Oldham and ‘cruckled’ in Rochdale were also unearthed.

That has inspired them to investigate the region’s language use in much greater depth.

Dr Drummond, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, said: “A central part of the project will involve a comprehensive tour of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester in the Accent Van – a specially kitted-out vehicle which will serve as a mobile interview booth and recording studio.

“Taking this approach will give us access to a far greater range of people, stories and insights than we might otherwise get, and allows us to uncover and explore the accents, dialects and identities that make up Greater Manchester.

“The results will provide the most detailed linguistic and attitudinal description the region has ever seen, while simultaneously celebrating diversity through language in a variety of artistic forms.”

Participants will now be quizzed on how they interpret the way they and their neighbours speak, revealing the deeply embedded beliefs regarding the status and value of different regional accents and dialects.

A series of poetry performances and events will held across the region, exploring the role of accent and dialect in the creation of literary works, and workshops held in schools and with youth groups to get young people’s input.

In collaboration with the Archives+ team at Manchester Central Library, a permanent ‘Voices’ resource area will host outputs from the project, alongside historical recordings of Greater Manchester voices, digitised as part of the British Library and Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Unlocking the UK’s Sound Heritage’ project.

Dr Carrie said: “By making our Manchester Voices resources available and accessible to the public, running regular accent and dialect events, and hosting exhibitions and workshops in local communities, we hope that regional accents and dialects will come to be understood and appreciated in new ways.”

Manchester Voices is a £700,000 project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Ian Stanton, Strategic Lead for Languages, Literature, and Area Studies at the Arts and Humanities Research Council said: “This research project will explore how the way we speak offers a remarkable insight into our regional histories, culture and personal connections to place. We’re pleased to be supporting this ground-breaking project at Manchester Metropolitan University, and look forward to seeing the fascinating results of the project in the near future.”   


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