T-glottaling in adolescents in Aberdeen

Thorsten Brato

University of Giessen


The glottal stop as a variant for /t/ in British English is well documented (cf. e.g. Foulkes and Docherty (eds.) 1999). It has long been a feature of Glaswegian (Stuart-Smith 1999) and is now also well-established in younger speakers in rural north-east Scotland (Marshall 2003). This poster presents some of the preliminary findings for the variable (t) from a study on accent variation in Aberdeen. The speech of 85 adolescents (aged 8-10 and 13-15) from three socially different backgrounds has been analysed in word list style (WLS) and reading style (RS).

In WLS the glottal stop occurs only very sporadically in all sets of younger speakers and the older middle class groups. Older speakers of the mixed area groups show considerable more glottaling, but it is only the older working class (WC) speakers who clearly favour a glottal stop, although much less so than their Glasgow counterparts (Stuart-Smith et al. 2007: 238). Pre-aspirated [ht] is found frequently in MC speakers. Pre-glottalised variants are found very regularly in younger WC speakers and can also be found in all other sets. In RS, glottaling increases in all groups at the expense of all other variables. Still, the standard variant is still prevalent in all groups apart from WC older speakers.

The underlying patterns of this variation are not yet completely clear. As we would expect the MC speakers tend towards a Scottish Standard English model in which the glottal stop is not favoured. WC speakers on the other hand have high frequencies of glottalised variants. Since t-glottaling is considered to be a general feature of Urban Scots we would assume to find it frequently in WC Aberdonian as well, but as Millar (2007: 63) points out it is more common in rural north-eastern speech than in Aberdeen City. On the other hand the high figures for pre-glottalised variants might indicate a change in progress that would most likely be due to the influence of the many incomers from the Central Belt and England who have settled in and around Aberdeen since the 1970s. This would in turn support Milroy et al. (1994) and Kerswill (2003).


Foulkes, Paul and Gerard Docherty (eds.) (1999) Urban Voices: Accent Studies in the British Isles, London: Edward Arnold.

Kerswill, Paul (2003) "Dialect Levelling and Geographical Diffusion in British English." in: Britain, David and Jenny Cheshire (eds.) Social Dialectology: In honour of Peter Trudgill. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 223-243.

Marshall, Jonathan (2003) "The changing sociolinguistic status of the glottal stop in northeast Scottish English." English World-Wide 24 (1), 89-108.

Millar, Robert McColl (2007) Northern and Insular Scots. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Milroy, James, Lesley Milroy and Sue Hartley (1994) "Local and supra-local change in British English: The case of glottalisation." English World-Wide 15 (1), 1-33.

Stuart-Smith, Jane (1999) "Glottals past and present: a study of T-Glottaling in Glaswegian." Leeds Studies in English 30, 181-204.

Stuart-Smith, Jane, Claire Timmins and Fiona Tweedie (2007) "'Talkin' Jockney'? Variation and change in Glaswegian accent." Journal of Sociolinguistics 11 (2), 221-260.

Session: POSTERS: Focus on variation, migration, minority languages
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 12:45-15:45
room: foyer