Posts Tagged ‘hard man’

Dae ye hink yer hard pal?

October 6, 2012 1 comment

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