Home > Research, Writing > Dae ye hink yer hard pal?

Dae ye hink yer hard pal?

I’m putting the finishing touches to an article I’ve been working on over the past few months on phonetic variation in Glasgow, focusing specifically on TH-fronting and its intersection with social identity (TH-fronting is where words like think are pronounced with [f] rather than [th]). Why this particular variable is interesting is because it’s not a traditional Scottish or Glaswegian variant and it seems to have arrived through various points (possibly television, possibly dialect contact, possibly a combination). Its use is being led mainly by working-class adolescent males rather than loosely tied middle-class speakers, again, something which is quite unusual.

Part of the argument I’m drawing on builds on work by Jane Stuart-Smith and Lynn Clark, both of whom argue that the variant [f] indexes something like ‘rough’, ‘tough’, ‘anti-establishment’ and so on. I’m interested in why and how this variant acquires this kind of meaning, since a variant usually acquires its meaning through who uses it (this has been covered in detail in Penny Eckert’s work). But [f] is only one choice for the variable (th) and it has to operate alongside the more established variant of [h]. So while I don’t doubt that [f] can index ‘tough’ and so on, I think that there’s something else going on with other variants as well.

Specifically, because [h] is closely associated with working-class Glaswegian culture (that is, a ‘hard man’ culture, as I’ve explored elsewhere), it makes more sense to me that [h] indexes ‘tough’ while [f] indexes something like ‘anti-establishment’ or ‘counter-culture’ (I’m still working on my thinking on this point here!). Part of motivating this is that one of my least ‘hard man’ and ‘tough’ groups still use [f], but not at the same rate as other groups in Banister Academy. I don’t think they’re trying to be ‘tough’, but they might be indexing something like ‘not following the mainstream’ or something along these lines. But I also hit upon a cracking example of [h] in the following tweet which might lend some credence to my claim:

If that’s not indexing ‘toughness’, I don’t know what it is doing!

The Social Linguist

  1. @adpaskhughes
    October 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    If you add music to the mix alongside television, you may get another reason for th-fronting. Music broadly classed as “grime” (e.g. Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, Wiley, Kano – and many other more ‘underground’ artists) must have some influence, particularly if you allow for TV having an influence. From memory, Jane Stuart-Smith makes the point that Eastenders (and TV) is the kind of origin of this variable in the speech of Glaswegian adolescents. But London-based music may make more sense, especially in terms of indexing ‘anti-establishment-ness’. If this is true of the people that use [f], then it may point towards a kind of British working-class ‘urban’ identity rather than the particularly Scottish identity that [h] indexes.

    (PS – there’s a new craft beer pub opening in Lancaster and a Brew Dog festival on at another pub, so there are upsides to being in the UK, if you ignore the weather…)

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