A Perceptual Study of Bristol English

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review


This case study approaches, from a quantitative perspective, perceptual dialectological analysis of Bristol English, a variety lacking in diatopic production and perception studies (Coates, 2017; Montgomery, 2007; Wakelin, 1986), and perceived as significantly dissimilar from north to south Bristol by its speakers (Purvis, 2016; Ashcroft, 2016; Hardingham, 2013). Therefore, acoustic analysis with PRAAT software, alongside conventional methods for Perceptual Dialectology (PD), namely, the draw-a-map task (Preston, 1982) and the ‘ranking and voice placement’ method (Preston, 1999a), are used to obtain evidence for viability of different Bristol English categories. Although an exhaustive progression of the aforementioned three-way methodology cannot be unfolded in a 20-minute talk, in this presentation, evidence is presented of how using GIS (Geographical Information System) software to analyse the information from ‘draw-a-map’ tasks (Preston, 1982), helped to aggregate, process and display PD data in a graphic and well-defined way (Montgomery & Stoeckle, 2013). Thus, this paper discusses the use of five GIS tools to analyse results of the draw-a-map sub-study (Montgomery & Stoeckle, 2013): The Georeferencing tool, used to assign geographical coordinates to 109 hand-drawn maps, containing informants’ depiction of the dialect areas they believe exist in Bristol (draw-a-map task); the Editor tool, which allowed digitization and aggregation to one single GIS file of the 415 dialect areas contained in the aforementioned maps; the Union and Frequency tools, which show the overlapping rate of the perceptual dialect areas and their scope; and the Conversion Tool which enabled a nuanced, multi-coloured and smooth depiction of both the superimposed and non-convergent areas. The results show that the use of these tools for the draw-a-map task analysis, facilitated the elaboration of a composite map, confirming a north-south perceptual division of Bristol English, although, subdivided into four sub-areas (northwest, central-north, and two central south).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event4th Conference on Experimental Approaches to Perception and Production of Language Variation - University of Munster, Munster, Germany
Duration: 26 Sept 201928 Sept 2019
Conference number: 4


Conference4th Conference on Experimental Approaches to Perception and Production of Language Variation
Abbreviated titleExAPP 2019
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Academic References:

Coates, R. (2018). Steps towards characterizing Bristolian. In Laura Wright, ed., Southern English varieties then and now [provisional title]. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. 188-226.

Montgomery, C. (2007). Northern English dialects: A perceptual approach. (PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, Sheffield). 352-3.

Montgomery, C. & Stoeckle, P. (2013). Geographic Information Systems and Perceptual Dialectology: A Method for processing draw-a-map data. Journal of Linguistics Geography 1 (01). 52-85.

Wakelin, M. (1986). The southwest of England. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 197-203.

Preston, D. R. (1982). Perceptual dialectology: Mental maps of United States dialects from a Hawaiian perspective. Hawaii Working Papers in Linguistics 14: 5-49.

Preston, D. R. (ed.) (1999a). Handbook of perceptual dialectology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. xxxiv.

Newspaper articles:

Ashcroft, E. (January 23, 2016) Is Bristol losing its regional accent? The Bristol Post. Retrieved from http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/8203-bristol-losing-regional-accents/story-28590783detail/story.html

Hardingham, B. (July 30, 2013) Immerse yourselves in some more city dialect. The Bristol Post. Retrieved from http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/immerse-city-dialect/story-19585623 detail/story.html

Radio and TV programs:
Purvis, R. (Producer). (January 22, 2016). Claire Cavanagh [Radio series]. Bristol: BBC.


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