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Tuesday, June 1, 1999 Published at 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK


Scouse sound going strong

Liverpool's Liver building - standing firm like the city's accent

Liverpool's Scouse accent is going strong and far from at risk from extinction, according to leading language experts.

Fritz Speigl and Phil Young, who have both written extensively on the city's sound, have defended it in response to the gloomy predictions from Andrew Hamer, an accent and English language specialist at Liverpool University.

Mr Hamer said that Liverpool's distinctive dialect is at risk of degenerating into "estuary English" - a watered-down version of London's Cockney accent.

He blamed the decline on the southern sounds dominating British broadcasting.

Both Mr Spiegl and Mr Young, on the other hand, have said that the Liverpool sound, although it has undergone some changes, is still thriving.

"I can assure the lecturer Scouse is alive and kicking although some words have died out and other new ones have come," said Mr Spiegl.

Media influence

Mr Hamer blamed estuary English's march northwards on soap operas, pop stars, and radio presenters.

[ image: EastEnders: Soaps are blamed for the Scouse sound's decline]
EastEnders: Soaps are blamed for the Scouse sound's decline
He said Scouse - which evolved from a mix of Irish, Scots, Welsh and Lancashire accents in the late 19th century - now varies greatly between different generations.

"Today, young people's accents sound quite different to their grandparents," he said.

"Where before the tendency was for words like 'thick' and 'Smith' to be pronounced 'tick' and 'Smit' - showing the Irish influence - young Scouse speakers are influenced by London, so you get the Cockney 'fick' and 'Smiff'.

But Mr Young said that far from dying out, the Scouse accent, has, if anything, become more pronounced.

"I think the accent has become more cutting and harsh over the last 15 years, with the fortress Scouse attitude," he said.

March of technology

If any watering down of the accent was to be found, he added, it was among young professionals who have modified the way they speak for the work place.

When it came to changes in vocabularly, Mr Spiegl said the march of technology had more to do with it than programmes like Eastenders.

[ image: The decline in smoking has weakened the throaty Scouser sound]
The decline in smoking has weakened the throaty Scouser sound
"The 'lecky' used to be the electric tram but as the trams died that just became electricity," he said.

He also said that improved knowledge and attitude to health and the environment was responsible for the changes to Liverpool's traditional throaty sound.

"It has also become less gutteral because people are healthier, the air is cleaner, there is less catarrh about and people smoke less.

"But there's no sign of it becoming estuary Scouse," he said.

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