Continuity and change in the dialect of Sheffield

University of Sheffield - School of English, University of Sheffield

We are seeking a PhD candidate to undertake research addressing the following research questions:

  1. How have changes in the demographic structure of the Northern English city of Sheffield affected the local dialect?
  2. To what extent is the local dialect of Sheffield conditioned by social, geographical, and/or economic factors?

The project will utilise sound recordings held by the University of Sheffield Library’s Special Collections: one corpus recorded in the early 1980s, and another in the late 1990s. These corpora, gathered for the purposes of linguistic research, provide optimal material for the analysis of speech (i.e. they are of sufficient quality to permit fine-grained analysis of speech sounds, and data were collected in order to capture vernacular speech). The recordings afford the project a substantial time depth, given the age of some of the speakers included in the collection from the early 1980s, and provide a window on the language used in Sheffield from over a century ago.

The successful candidate will add to existing corpora by collecting a further 24 recordings, stratified by age and sex. This follows the number and age/sex profile of the speakers in the 1990s archive and, alongside earlier recordings from the 1980s archive, will produce comparable data that can be used to track the development of Sheffield speech from the early 1900s to the early 2000s. The additional recordings will update the archive, and allow the project to gather targeted data focussing on locations in the city which have experienced rapid gentrification. These locations will be compared with those that have changed less over time, with the wider aim of assessing how demographic change impacts on the language people use.

Data from the collections will be analysed according to contemporary sociolinguistic methods, including acoustic and auditory analysis, as well as qualitative analysis where appropriate (e.g. in order to explain individual variation).

At the end of the project, it is anticipated that the successful candidate will exhibit their findings locally. They should also develop and maintain an online presence over the course of the project. This will ensure that Special Collections holdings gain further exposure, and that the project has the appropriate public impact.

The project will be supervised by Dr Chris Montgomery and Dr Emma Moore.

In order to undertake this project, the successful candidate will need skills in the following areas:

  • Linguistic analysis, including (at least) phonetic analysis
  • Sociolinguistic interviewing
  • Project management

The student will be selected based on an assessment of candidates in relation to these skills.

Applicants should submit a CV, a covering letter in which they demonstrate their suitability for the project, and a sample of recent work in the area of sociolinguistics/dialectology.

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Northern England