A study of the way different social groups in Glasgow interact has identified a common pattern of speech among working class adolescent males – often referred to in a derogatory manner as “neds”.
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Scottish-born academic Dr Robert Lawson found a group of pupils identified as “neds” by themselves, and others in their school, pronounced words in a unique way.
They lowered certain tones in words such as “man”, “bar” and “cat” and accentuated vowel sounds.
Dr Lawson, an English language lecturer at Birmingham City University, who grew up in Glasgow, said: “Although there exists a stereotypical idea of the ned voice in shows like Chewin’ the Fat, in reality we know very little about how they actually sound.
“This study is one of the first to try and provide a quantitative analysis of adolescent male speech and the results show young men do make adjustments to their speech which generally demonstrates alignment with membership of a particular group.”
Dr Lawson, who carried out the research in a high school in the south side of Glasgow, said common speech patterns were part of the identity of a group as well as clothes or social activities.
“What we are seeing is a way of speaking that originates in the way working- class people in Glasgow speak and that is then accentuated within the group to form a distinct way of speaking,” he said.
The study indicates that neds are not the only adolescents in Glasgow to have a characteristic way of speaking.
Other groups within the school which had adopted similar patterns of speech were identified as “goths”, “sports” and “schoolies”.
The other strand of Dr Lawson’s research was to examine the relationships between language, identity and violence.
He found physical violence was a central issue for all of the adolescent males in the study, regardless of background. Even though the neds group talked about violence in a more knowledgeable way, they were no less concerned about it than others.
“We are usually presented with an image of working-class, adolescent males terrorising local areas, but it’s often the case such activities are carried out by a small minority,” said Dr Lawson.