Performing Glaswegian identity/identities?

Braber, Natalie

Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom


Coupland (2001) comments that sociolinguistics has over-invested in ‘authentic speech’ and that stylized language should also be used to examine linguistic features. Schilling-Estes (1998) states that performance speech can be used for display purposes and that such language use shows patterning in variation which is similar to ‘normal’ language usage. This paper explores language usage in a series of comic sketches which ‘perform’ Glaswegian identities.

The concept of a 'Scottish' identity has been shown to be very important to Scottish people, more so than the equivalent identities in other areas of the United Kingdom (Kiely et al. 2001, 2005; McCrone 2002; Rosie et al. 2005). Furthermore, an investigation carried out by the author extended these investigations of Scottish identity and considered the existence of a sense of local identity in one specific locale: Glasgow. Results from this investigation suggest that a strong sense of Glaswegian identity often co-occurs with an equally strong sense of Scottish identity (xxx and xxx, under review), with many inhabitants of Glasgow keen to mark out their distinctiveness as ‘Glaswegians’.

The existence of this sense of community in Glasgow is not altogether surprising. Although heavily stigmatised as a city by outsiders, the inhabitants have retained a strong sense of belonging. This stigmatization has led to Glaswegian being branded as ‘slovenly’ and ‘degenerate’ (Andersson and Trudgill 1990), and previous research (xxx and xxx, under review) has shown that Glaswegian is seen as unattractive, even by many of its speakers. Research in recent years (e.g. Stuart-Smith et al. 2007), shows that this variety is undergoing a process of change, with some ‘typical’ language features moving away from varieties traditionally used in Glasgow. This research suggests that working-class adolescents in particular are using the greatest amount of non-local features (loss of rhoticity, th-fronting) to distinguish themselves from middle-class speakers. However, this variety is still treated by these speakers as being typical of Glasgow.

By examining comedy sketches about Glasgow, this paper observes how different Glaswegian identities are portrayed through the use of language, and investigates whether this usage reflects the changes currently found in ‘normal’ language use.

Session: Paper session
Variation 3
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 09