Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Bidialectalism or dialect death? Explaining generational change in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Smith, Jennifer and Durham, Mercedes ORCID: 2012. Bidialectalism or dialect death? Explaining generational change in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. American Speech 87 (1) , pp. 57-88. 10.1215/00031283-1599959

[thumbnail of SmithDurhamAmericanSpeech.pdf]
Download (1MB) | Preview


This article investigates the use of traditional dialect forms in a community in Shetland, northern Scotland. Specifically, we seek to establish whether the younger generations' patterns of language use signal rapid dialect obsolescence or bidialectalism. It compares recordings in which audience design is manipulated—the addressee is either an insider or an outsider—across a range of lexical, phonological, and morphosyntactic variables. Results show that only some of the younger speakers are bidialectal: the remaining speakers use virtually no dialect forms. These findings may signal dialect shift and a move from local to standard in the coming generations. The article further explores the linguistic details of the bidialectal speakers' language use through a qualitative and quantitative comparison of forms across the different recordings. It finds that the use of the two varieties operates on a continuum, where rates of use differ but constraints remain the same across the two speech styles. It discusses these findings against the backdrop of bidialectalism and the process of dialect obsolescence in the British Isles and elsewhere.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Publisher: Duke University Press
ISSN: 0003-1283
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 12:35

Citation Data

Cited 26 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics