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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 11:03 GMT
Final curtain for dodgy accents
Braveheart battle scene
Mel Gibson "obviously tried" in Braveheart
Two experts are lifting the lid on the mystery of the Scottish accent in an effort to help struggling actors.

A book and CD has been produced to help those at home and abroad to get their tongue round the country's different dialects.

The aim is to assist them in creating more believable Scottish accents rather than merely mimicking the likes of Rab C Nesbitt or Billy Connolly - or Scotty from Star Trek.

And one of the co-authors of Scotspeak even had a kind word for Mel Gibson's much-maligned attempt at the Scottish accent in the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart.

A lot of English actors also seem to think everyone in Scotland speaks like Rab C Nesbitt or Billy Connolly

Dr Chris Robinson
"We are a bit hard on Mel Gibson. It wasn't perfect, but he obviously tried," said Edinburgh University language expert Dr Chris Robinson.

"Actors are professional people. They are trying to get it right and this is a resource to help them."

She produced Scotspeak, which offers tutoring in four regional Scots accents, with voice coach and actress Carol Ann Crawford.

Dr Robinson explained that the project had been commissioned by the Scots Language Resource Centre in Perth, which promotes the language in all its forms.

"They had been approached by actors from home and abroad who wanted to know more about Scots accents," she said.

Distinct accents

"This is a convenient resource for any actor who wants to improve his accent skills."

Dr Robinson said there was a special accent used in Hollywood which tended to take Scotty from Star Trek as typical of all Scots.

"A lot of English actors also seem to think everyone in Scotland speaks like Rab C Nesbitt or Billy Connolly, and as much as we respect Glaswegians, the cities of Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh all have quite distinct accents and we think they should be respected as well," she said.

Rab C Nesbitt
Some actors take their cue from Rab C Nesbitt
She gave the examples of television drama Jute City, where "Dundee appeared to be entirely populated by Glaswegians", and an edition of Taggart where police visited colleagues in Aberdeen who "appeared to have been recruited from the central belt".

However, Dr Robinson approved of Glasgow-born actor Robert Carlyle's portrayal of Edinburgh hardman Begbie in the film Trainspotting.

"Trainspotting got it right, because when it comes to accents Robert Carlyle is pretty good, regardless of what particular region in Scotland or England he is supposed to be coming from," she said.

Ms Crawford and Dr Robinson recorded people with a range of Scottish dialects speaking about themselves and their community.

'Interesting speakers'

"The fact that it has ended up absolutely packed with oral history is really a matter of serendipity," said Dr Robinson.

"We were looking for particular types of speakers. The fact that they turned out to be particularly interesting speakers was just a bonus."

The recordings are available on the CD, while the book explains the physical changes to the mouth and tongue which are needed to give a particular Scottish city accent.

She added that the project could also help speech therapists to give Scots the correct treatment in recovering speech and act as an aid to language students.

Dr Chris Robinson
"We are a bit hard on Mel Gibson"
See also:

31 Oct 01 | Showbiz
Star Trek 'drove Nimoy to drink'
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Braveheart sword raises 116,000
20 Jul 99 | UK
Hero's Hollywood make-over
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