Below are a series of clips from series 1 of Accentricity. Each clip is accompanied by some suggested questions and activities, suitable for use with secondary school pupils and adult learners. Play the clips to the learners before presenting them with the activities. You may want to adapt the questions and activities to suit the needs of your class.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, or if you’ve used these resources and would like to let me know how they went: it’s email@example.com.
So far I’ve created activities for episodes 1-3. I’m planning to add activities for episodes 4-6 at some point in the future: if this is something you’d really like to see, then send me a message and this will encourage me to get a move on!
Activities for Episode 1
The following clips come from Episode 1: Making Assumptions. It’s an episode about linguistic prejudice and why it’s stupid. I’ve designed this episode’s activities for speakers who live in Scotland and / or have some familiarity with Scottish speech, but they could be adapted for speakers of other varieties. You might also like to adapt e.g. the word lists to reflect the vocabulary of your local variety of Scots.
This clip comes from an interview between me and my friend Jenny. Jenny is from a working-class background but thinks that her accent sounds deceptively posh. What’s it like to have an accent that doesn’t match with your identity?
Does your accent match with your identity? If not, why not?
A possible solution to Jenny’s problem is to change the way she talks. Can you just change the way you talk? If not, why not? What gets in the way?
Words have surface meanings, but also implied, hidden meanings beneath the surface. What do you think the man was implying when he told Jenny she was ‘eloquent’?
This clip comes from an interview between me and linguist Ewa Wanat. Here we discuss glottal replacement, and the social meaning of this linguistic feature.
You might like to follow this clip with a Youtube video of the vocal chords / folds in action - although beware, some squeamish viewers might find the visuals upsetting!
Having heard this description, do you think that you use glottal replacement? Have you ever been told off for using glottal replacement?
Which of these words do you use glottal replacement in?:
For those words that you can use glottal replacement in, do you always use glottal replacement, or just sometimes?
This clip is about accents and dialects which are often thought of as being stigmatised, but which nevertheless hold their own power. We don’t all want to speak the Queen’s English all the time: why not?
What does your way of speaking mean to you? Make a mind map with ‘the way I speak’ in the centre.
Sort the following words into groups of synonyms (words that have the same or nearly the same meaning). Some groupings might be open to debate…
Look at the groupings you’ve made. These groupings have similar semantic meanings - they might have similar dictionary definitions. But do they have different social meanings? What sort of people would stereotypically be expected to use each? What sort of situations would you expect them to be used in?
Do you know any alternative words for the following concepts? What sort of people would stereotypically be expected to use each? What sort of situations would you expect them to be used in?
Who decides which of the above versions is ‘better’ or ‘correct’? Where do these value judgements come from?
Activities for Episode 2
The following clips are from Episode 2: More Than One Voice. It’s an episode about the fact that we all have multiple ways of speaking, whether or not we think of ourselves as multilingual. Some of us alter our speech in very subtle ways across different contexts: for some of us, these alterations are more dramatic. I’ve designed this episode’s activities for speakers who live in Scotland and / or have some familiarity with Scottish speech, but they could be adapted for speakers of other varieties. You might also like to adapt e.g. the lists of words and phrases to reflect the vocabulary of your local variety of Scots.
This clip is about style-shifting: the fact that we all have more than one style of speaking, which we can move between in response to social cues. It features an interview with Jennifer Smith, Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of Glasgow.
What different speech styles do you have? Give each style a name and count them up.
The man in the clip says that in Coatbridge, people switch between ‘half’ and ‘hauf’, and between ‘breed’ and ‘bread’. What different pronunciations can you choose between in your linguistic repertoire?
For each of the following words, say whether you would use it, and if so, in which contexts? Is it only for formal situations, or only for informal situations, or both? Would you use it with friends, with strangers, with family, or in the classroom?
In this clip Jennifer Smith describes the sociolinguistic continuum: a way of conceptualising style-shifting.
Go through the following phrases. Which ones would you be likely to use, which would you be unlikely to use, and which would you never use?:
my father and I
me and my dad
me and my da
I’ve already been there
I’ve already went there
I’m pure starving
I’m really hungry
I did it last week
I done it last week
Draw a line across a page, and write ‘formal’ at one end and ‘informal’ at the other. This represents the sociolinguistic continuum. For the above phrases which you would use, see if you can place them on this continuum: Are they very formal? Very informal? Or somewhere in between?
Note: There are no right and wrong answers - this will be personal to you and your way of speaking!
Add some of your own phrases to the diagram. You could also try adding words and pronunciations.
In this clip Jennifer Smith describes and demonstrates how her speech changes when she’s working at the University in Glasgow and when she goes back to her home town, Buckie, in the North East. When she’s in Buckie she speaks a variety of Scots called Doric.
Make a list of the Scots words, pronunciations and phrases that Jennifer uses in this clip.
What are the Scottish Standard English equivalents of the words, pronunciations and phrases you’ve listed? If you’re not familiar with Doric, you might like to use the Dictionary of the Scots Language to help you.
Activities for Episode 3
The following clips are from Episode 3: Singing Voice, Speaking Voice. It’s an episode the role of accents in song, with a particular focus on the Scottish indie scene.
In this clip, sing Justin Currie discusses why he doesn’t sing in a Scottish accent.
In this clip you hear some of Justin Currie’s song Nothing Ever Happens. Can you pick out five words which he sings in what sounds like a Southern British English accent? For each word, what is it about the pronunciation that makes it sound Southern British English? How would a Scots pronunciation differ?
Are there any words which he sings in what sounds more like an American accent?
Can you name three other Scottish bands who sing / sung in what you might call a transatlantic accent? You might like to use the internet to help you investigate.
In your own words, why do you think Justin Currie chose to avoid singing in a Scottish accent when he started performing with Del Amitri?
In this clip, singer Aidan Moffat discusses why he does sing in a Scottish accent.
In this clip you hear some of Aidan Moffat’s song The First Big Weekend. Can you pick out five words in the clip which sound particularly Scottish? For each word, what is it about the pronunciation that makes it sound Scottish?
Can you name three other Scottish bands who sing / sung in a recognisably Scottish accent? You might like to use the internet to help you investigate.
In your own words, why do you think Aidan Moffat chose to sing in a Scottish accent?
How do Justin Currie and Aidan Moffat differ in their attitudes and opinions? List three ways.
In this clip, rapper Dave Hook discusses his move from rapping in an American accent to rapping in a Scottish accent.
In your own words, why do you think Dave Hook chose to rap in a Scottish accent?
Why do you think some of his friends objected to him rapping in a Scottish accent? Do you find that Scottish hip hop sounds odd to you? If so, why do you think that is?
‘What rhymes in one accent doesn’t rhyme in another accent.’ See if you can come up with three word pairs that rhyme in your accent, but that wouldn’t rhyme in a Southern British English accent. Do the same for an American accent.
This clip is about audience design theory - the idea that we model our speech for our listeners. In it, I ask Aidan Moffat and Justin Currie whether they think they model their singing accents for their listeners.
Think about how audience design theory relates to your own speech - do you ever notice yourself altering the way you speak to suit your audience?
‘When it comes to performing music, the idea of who we’re talking to - who our imagined audience is - is complicated by a lot of extra factors.’ What do you think some of these factors are?
Aidan Moffat and Justin Currie differ in their answers to this question - but what do they agree on? List three things.
In this clip, I ask Aidan Moffat, Justin Currie and Dave Hook about whether they think of their singing voice as an instrument separate from their speaking voice.
The three musicians in this clip give very different answers. In your own words, how do their perspectives differ?
Who do you agree with the most and why?
In this clip, Aidan Moffat and Justin Currie discuss the fact that nowadays, far more indie bands use Scots in their music.
‘There was just a wave of bands in…maybe the early zeros.’ Which bands do you think Justin is talking about? You might like to use the internet to help you investigate.
‘It became a bit of a trend, which worries me slightly.’ Why do you think this worried him? Do you agree with his worries?
Is it ‘natural’ to sing in an accent that matches your speaking accent? If that isn’t always what comes naturally, then why not?
Justin suggests that he’s OK with singers ‘putting on’ a transatlantic accent but not ‘putting on’ a Scottish accent. Why do you think this is?
Why do you think that lots of Scottish indie bands now use Scots in their music, when in the 80s and 90s that wasn’t really the case. What has changed?