It is said that traditional dialects are disappearing, being replaced by a more standard variety where everyone sounds the same. At the same time, there is evidence of increasing bidialectalism, where speakers have two ways of speaking: a local dialect and a more formal, standard way, as the example below shows:

Shona: I na ken far the quines is.
Jennifer: Sorry?
Shona: I said I don’t know where the girls are.


But what exactly does it mean to be bidialectal? Can speakers really have control over two dialects, just as, for example, a bilingual speaker has over two languages? And what are the implications of bidialectalism for the future of local dialects? To answer these questions, the project will investigate the speech of 10 to 80 year olds in a small Scottish community. The speakers will be recorded once with someone from the local community (an ‘insider’) and once with someone from southern England (an ‘outsider’). This will allow us to test the limits of bidialectalism by investigating who switches where and when. The results will provide a snapshot of bidialectalism in the 21st century and how this might affect the future dialect landscape of the British Isles.


Start date
02 May 2013
End date
01 May 2016
Grant holder
Dr Jennifer Smith
Grant amount
Grant reference
Language Variation & Change
Grant type