From ‘friendly’ accents to quirky dialects, new map wants to hear what you have to say

Do you say ‘barmcake’ or ‘muffin’? How do you pronounce words like ‘book’, ‘nurse’, ‘boat’ and even ‘Bury’? And how likely you are to describe yourself as ‘skriking’ or having ‘cruckled’?

These are just some of the questions being tackled by the Manchester Voices Map: part of a regional language study, developed by sociolinguists from MMU, that’s the most ambitious of its kind.  

Designed to reveal where certain accents and dialects are spoken, the interactive map also explores users’ perceptions of how they and others speak - from whether some accents are friendlier or even ‘more Manc’ - and how this contributes to identity and belonging. 

2019 09 11 Manchester Voices Map
Greater Manchester residents can plot the geographic boundaries of their own accents and dialects

Researchers Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Erin Carrie tested dialectical perceptions on a small scale back in 2015, revealing some telling regional contrasts (main image). For the Manchester Voices Map, they’ll travel Greater Manchester in their ‘accent van’ - both a mobile interview booth and recording studio – asking people in person about the way they speak. The aims? To challenge stereotypes, nurture regional pride and celebrate our rich tapestry of voices. 

It is hoped at least 500 people will take part in the Manchester Voices Map, from as many backgrounds and ages as possible. Young people will be also encouraged to get involved with a series of outreach and poetry events over the next two years, including in schools and youth groups. 

2019 09 11 Manchester Voices Map Van
The accent van will be on a mission in 2020

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the result will be a permanent exhibit in Central Library in partnership with its Archives+ team. Alongside footage from Manchester Voices, this will also feature historical recordings of Greater Manchester residents - digitised as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. Manchester Poetry Library, opening at MMU in 2020 as part of Manchester UNESCO City of Literature, will also get involved with an archive of regional poetry.

Fancy taking part? Visit the Manchester Voices website and head over to the Maps tab.  

Other projects celebrating diversity

Manchester Voices isn’t the only project to celebrate diversity of late; a host of initiatives are encouraging new voices across music, radio and podcasts.

Building on its vast musical heritage, Manchester was recently welcomed as the newest member of the Music Cities Network - a global exchange programme whose other members span Aarhaus to Reykjavik, Nantes to Sydney - while local music charity Brighter Sound has been awarded a £450,000 Arts Council grant to develop female leaders in music and tackle the industry’s gender inequality.

Elsewhere, the BBC is searching for new voices across its radio stations while Spotify’s Sound Up programme is supporting ten women of colour to develop their own podcasts.

Main image: Data provided with the support of the ESRC and JISC and uses boundary material which is copyright or the Crown, the Post Office and the ED-LINE consortium. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012