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Accent study appeals to Bristolians to answer question of how many Bristol accents there are

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An academic at the University of Bristol is seeking the help of the people of Bristol to answer one of the city’s enduring questions – are there different Bristolian accents?

The School of Modern Languages at the university has set up a fascinating experiment to see if people can identify whereabouts in Bristol a speaker is from – and if there is a marked difference between the Bristolian accent of someone from Lawrence Weston, for example, compared to Hartcliffe, then an ear attuned to the difference would be able to work it out.

The Bristolian dialect and accent has long fascinated experts in linguistics and dialects – it is unique in Britain for being an urban dialect with a ‘rhotic R’, as well as having the famous, but now ‘terminal L’ at the end of many words, although this is declining among younger generations.

READ MORE:Why does hearing a Bristolian voice on TV shock people?

But it’s long been maintained among many speakers of the Bristolian tongue that there’s at least two, maybe three or four, different kinds of Bristol accent, depending on whether you’re south of the river, east of Troopers Hill, in Southmead or down the hill in Avonmouth.

Now Katiuska Ferrer Portillo, from the School of Modern Languages, has set up an online study, and is looking for participants. To take part is very simple – you have to have been living in Bristol, or within ten miles of it, for most of your life, and be able to get online and hear the voices.

The study involves different people with different Bristol voices reading the same line from a story, and people have to pick where in Bristol they think the speaker is from, from a list of options. It’s a continuation of years of study by Katiuska, who four years ago began to gather examples of the Bristol accent, with where they are from mapped out.

That research led to the widespread belief that there were four different kinds of Bristol accent – two in the north and two in the south. Katiuska’s new research is looking at whether that’s true – and testing to see if they can be identified. The study on language perception is pioneering, and Katiuska said the study will help ‘fill in the gaps’ in research of Bristolian.

“In this project, I am using the linguistic knowledge of Bristol English speakers about their dialect divisions, to investigate the interface between folks’ perception and speech recognition, and to find out the key phonetic features that make Bristolians perceive different varieties of Bristolian English,” she said.

“It only takes approximately seven minutes to complete – participants will listen to brief recordings, between five and eight seconds each, of speakers from different areas of Bristol, and will choose one Bristol area from a list of five where participants think the speaker is most likely to be from,” she added.

To take part in the survey, click here.

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