Wednesday 13 February, 2pm, M46 (Main Building)

Dr Helen Faye West (University of Chester)

How ‘Scouse’ are Ormskirk and Southport?


Sociolinguistic studies that have focussed on identity have argued that speaker identity is accentuated in border regions due to speakers’ desire to project a strong sense of distinctiveness (Watt, Llamas, Docherty, Hall, & Nycz 2014, Llamas 2007; 2010, Britain 2010). Following the Local Government Act in 1972, the creation of the administrative county of Merseyside provides us with fertile ground for the study of the relationship between language variation and regional identity. Southport (Merseyside) and Ormskirk (Lancashire) are well connected to Liverpool via frequent transport links and, given the high levels of contact between people, it has been predicted that phonetic features of the Liverpool accent will diffuse to the towns in the surrounding region (Grey & Richardson 2007). However, Liverpool’s negative stereotype is a complicating factor (Montgomery 2007), which may act as a barrier to the spread of Liverpudlian accent forms. This paper analyses the diffusion of Liverpool accent forms – fricated /t/ and /k/ (Watson 2007), and fronted Liverpool NURSE (Wells 1982) – in speech from a corpus of 39 speakers stratified by age, gender and socio-economic status. This paper concludes that Ormskirk may be adopting Liverpool features more readily than Southport, despite Southport’s administrative links with Liverpool (West 2013). Possible explanations for this are explored with particular reference to speaker attitudes in relation to the negative perception of the Liverpool accent.


Britain, D. (2010) ‘Supralocal regional dialect levelling’, in C. Llamas and D. Watt (eds.), Language and Identities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 193-204.

Grey, C. and B. Richardson (2007) ‘Our friends in north: Relic dialects in the area between Southport and Preston’, in A. Grant and C. Grey (eds.), The Mersey

Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places, Ormskirk: Open House Press, pp. 73-105.

Llamas, C. (2007) ‘”A place between places”’: Language and identities in a border town’ Language in Society. 36(4): 579-604.

Llamas, C. (2010) ‘Convergence and divergence across a national border’, in C. Llamas and D. Watt (eds.) Language and Identities, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 227-236.

Montgomery, C. (2007) ‘Perceptions of Liverpool English’, in A. Grant and C. Grey (eds.), The Mersey Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places, Ormskirk: Open House Press, pp. 164-185.

Watson, K. (2007) The phonetics and phonology of plosive lenition in Merseyside English, Ph.D. Thesis: Edge-Hill University.

Watt, D., Llamas, C., Docherty, G.J., Hall, D. and J. Nycz, (2014) ‘Language and identity on the Scottish/English border’. In Watt, D. & Llamas, C. (eds.). Language, Borders and Identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 8-26.

Wells, J. C. (1982) Accents of English (3 vols.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

West, H. (2013) ‘A town between dialects: Accent levelling, psycho-social orientation and identity in Merseyside, UK’, in P. Auer, J. C. Reina and G. Kaufmann (eds.) [SILV 14] Language Variation – European Perspectives IV. Selected papers from the Sixth International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 6, Freiburg, June 2011). Benjamins, pp.247-265.

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