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The Northern English Project

The Northern English Project examines speakers’ perceptions and evaluations of the English speech used within the north of England.

The Northern English Project, led by Dr. Robert McKenzie and Dr. Phillip Wallage, examines speakers’ perceptions and evaluations of the English speech used within the north of England (and extending to Scotland and Northern Ireland) and, relatedly, investigates patterns of linguistic variation and change within northern English, as a supra-local variety. There are a number of funded PhD students at Northumbria University attached to the project.

The Northern Englishes Project is particularly concerned with the following questions:

i) To what extent is it possible to talk about ‘northern English’ or ‘northern Englishes’ as distinct forms of speech?

  • Do the language users themselves perceive ‘Northern English’ to be a supra-local variety?
  • If this is the case, what (combination of) linguistic features are indexical of Northern English speech?
  • Is the concept of northern English salient for different speech communities within the UK?

ii) In what ways do listeners’ identify speakers of Northern English?

  • What are the perceptual geographic boundaries of Northern English speech?
  • To what extent, if it all, are categorisations of northern English speech based upon the frequency of use of particular linguistic features?
  • How do non-linguistic factors (for example age, gender and regional provenance) influence perceptions of northern English varieties?

How are (speakers of) northern English evaluated?

  • What are ingroup and outgroup attitudes towards (speakers of) Northern English?
  • To what extent do attitudes towards northern English speech rest upon:

i) enregistered linguistic features and ii) regional stereotypes?

Is the perception of northern English changing over time?

  • Is there any evidence of change in progress in i) the identification and/or ii) the evaluation of northern English speech?
  • Are there any changes in the identification or evaluation of forms of northern English?
  • To what extent do changes in perceptions reflect the increasing supralocalisation of specific linguistic features spoken in the north of England?

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