Tam's Tall Tales

- Scots' Burr

Rolling Off Into the Sunset?
Scots are losing one of the most distinctive elements of their accent, the rolling "R", according to experts.

Some have suggested that the change could be attributed to softer accents on television among Scottish actors and broadcasters, but experts at the University of Glasgow and Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh have found that it is a more natural occurrence.

Younger Scots are not pronouncing their "R"s as forcefully as older generations, softening them in words such as "car", "bar" and "fur".

Experts investigated the changes using ultrasound to see how the tongue moved inside the mouths of young Scots. Eleanor Lawson and Jim Scobbie, from QMU, led the research with Jane Stuart-Smith from Glasgow. Dr Lawson, a sociolinguist, said: "What we found is that some Scottish speakers are delaying the 'R' gesture, so it's happening in silence afterwards.

"They're not losing it completely - they're still producing it. You just can't hear it the same. "We found that one group of Scottish speakers are doing one thing with their tongue, and another group are doing something completely different.

"Speakers with a more vernacular Scottish accent seem to delay their 'R' gesture, making it hard to hear, and others with a less vernacular accent don't [delay it] but also use a completely different tongue shape.

"It's not media or TV, it's more boring than that - it's just a natural sound change. It seems to happen in languages all over the world over time, particularly at the end of words. Now, of you go and say "Round the ragged rocks the ragged rascal ran" and see how you get on!

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
July 2015

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