Phonological Variation, Local Identity and Linguistic Ideologies in Sheffield, England

Katie Siobhan Finnegan

University of Sheffield, United Kingdom


Phonological Variation, Local Identity and Linguistic Ideologies in Sheffield, England

My research is an investigation of patterns of phonological variation in a northern urban variety of British English, Sheffield English. In keeping with other recent variationist studies (Llamas 2001; Dyer 2002; Milroy 2004), this research takes a language ideology approach towards linguistic variation. This involves instantiations of second-order indexicality (Silverstein 1992), such as attitudinal and perceptual data about language and place, being analysed alongside the linguistic data. This enables researchers to gain access to the social and linguistic ideologies which may influence speakers’ selection of phonological variants, and may help to explain the social meanings attached to particular variants.

A major aim of my research is to investigate whether a speaker’s locality within Sheffield is reflected in linguistic usage, with particular variants being favoured and disfavoured in different areas of the city. In order to study this, Sheffield has been divided into four sectors (north-west, south-west, north-east and south-east) along electoral ward boundaries, with an equal number of speakers being sampled in each area. Another aim is to investigate the extent to which geographical mobility may affect speakers’ usage of phonological variants. A further area of interest is to investigate whether local identity and linguistic ideologies play a prominent role in sociolinguistic variation.

Fieldwork has been carried out using the Survey of Regional English (SuRE) method of data elicitation (Llamas 2001) which enables the elicitation of both linguistic data and data relating to local identity and linguistic ideologies. In this poster presentation, preliminary phonological results will be presented from a subset of sixteen speakers, focusing on the /e:/ and /o:/ vocalic variables. Attitudinal and perceptual data on language and place will also be presented.


Dyer, J. (2002). ‘We all speak the same round here’: Dialect levelling in a Scottish-English community.’ Journal of Sociolinguistics 6(1): 99-116.

Llamas, M. (2001). Language Variation and Innovation in Teeside English. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

Milroy, L. (2004). ‘Language Ideologies and Linguistic Change.’ In Fought, C. (ed.) Sociolinguistic Variation: Critical Reflections. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Silverstein, M. (1992). ‘The Uses and Utility of Ideology: Some Reflections.’ Pragmatics 2(3): 311-323.

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