SCOTTISH teenagers are losing their natural accent - because of EastEnders. A new study of the accents of Glasgow teenagers has found that the BBC TV show has influenced key sounds in the voices of young people aged 10 to 15.

Words like "think" and "brother" are being pronounced "fink" and "bruver", as drawling Cockney sounds are taken on subconsciously by adolescents. Researchers at Glasgow University found the link after studying the voices of teenagers in 2003 and 2004.

Previously, the link between TV and changing accents has been dismissed, with academics insisting that face-toface contact with people who had different accents had to be the reason for changing pronunciation.

But after establishing that the group of teenagers in the study had no immediate or regular contact with friends or relatives who would have a Cockney accent, Dr Jane Stuart-Smith concluded that TV, and in particular the popular and regular instalments of EastEnders, is responsible for the changing consonant sounds in teenagers voices.

Stuart-Smith, of the department of English Language at Glasgow University, said the research had moved the debate about changing accents forward.

"Linguists have always been sceptical about TV and accents, so the significance is that for the first time we have shown what the possibilities are. We can't push TV aside any more when examining influences on accent."

Stuart-Smith and research fellow Claire Timmins used a game-show format as part of their research to measure the changes in the teenagers voices.

In one session children were played clips of programmes that all featured "media-Cockney" - EastEnders, The Bill, Grange Hill and Only Fools And Horses - then comparable programmes that featured Glasgow accents - River City, Taggart and Chewin' The Fat.

Consonants such as "th" being replaced with an "f" sound were found to have changed, even after watching a very short clip, though vowels remained "Glasgwegian" within the group.

Stuart-Smith added that Glasgow teenagers had a "high exposure" to programmes that featured southern English accents, but were particularly engaged with EastEnders.

"At the time we did the research - 2003 - EastEnders was immensely popular in the ratings. Our group watched it and liked it. Of course, they were exposed to other voices in music and in other programmes, but it was the particular take-up of the Cockney sounds that struck us."

Dr Dominic Watt, an expert in linguistics at the University of Aberdeen, said that to gather evidence of a link between TV and accent is "groundbreaking stuff".

"The attitude until now has been to assume that TV doesn't have an influence on accent - linguists would say that after decades of watching Coronation Street that we would all have a Mancunian accent if that was the case.

"But this piece of systematic research absolutely questions that norm, and raises a lot of interesting points about media influence. Critics wanted very compelling evidence of the influence TV could have on accent and we will have to take media influence into account in future research."

Stuart-Smith will now spend the next year analysing the data to look for more patterns of change.

"There is still a lot to investigate on this issue, and I'm sure we will go on to look at other accents in the future."

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.