Plymouth accent: Nicola talks about her attitude towards education and money



This recording is an example of a Plymouth accent.

Usage of 'like'

Nicola’s repeated use of the word like is typical of many younger speakers throughout the UK, although it seems to arouse widespread disapproval among older speakers. In fact one of the ways in which she uses like has a long-established presence in a number of English dialects. In the statements the freedom’s, like, grown since I’ve got older and they just want to, like, do nothing and, just smoke drugs and that it is used as a filler – a word which contributes no meaning to an utterance, but is nonetheless a perfectly normal aspect of conversation, allowing the speaker time to gather their thoughts and giving the listener the opportunity to digest information.

The position of like in these utterances is certainly a recent development, but older speakers in many areas of the UK are extremely likely to place the word at the end of a statement, as in the freedom’s grown since I’ve got older, like where it fulfils a similar role to other redundant phrases such as ‘you know’ or ‘you see’ and older dialect discourse markers, such as ‘sithee’ and ‘look you’.

In the statement I’m like, “No, I’m not going to do that” Nicola uses the word as a quotative marker – an indication to a listener that she is quoting her own thoughts or words from a previous occasion. It is this usage that appears to draw most criticism, probably because it is a recent development and such an instantly recognisable age-specific marker that it has become a linguistic emblem of young speakers. In fact we have a number of non-standard ways of introducing a quotation into speech: many older speakers, for instance, when telling a story or relating a series of connected events in the past, use the so-called historic present – says, “No, I’m not doing that” – where the additional <s> on the first person verb indicates quite clearly that this is not a ‘normal’ present tense.

Rising intonation

Nicola’s speech is also characterised by a process known as high rising terminals, sometimes referred to as upspeak. Listen closely to the statements I work part-time in a Travel Inn; I do chamber-maiding and I work occasionally in the restaurant across the road as a waitress; I got twenty-five pounds a month and five had to go in a savings account and the twenty pound I’d live off and I think that some of the people, time, they think that they can take advantage of me, to order me around and do stuff.

Nicola pronounces the highlighted phrases at the end of each statement with a noticeable rise in intonation – a technique usually employed to indicate a question. However, Nicola uses this intonation pattern here on a normal declarative statement, something that studies have shown is increasingly common among young females across the UK. The origins of this trend are disputed: some commentators claim it stems from imitating the speech we hear on Australian soap operas, but this is extremely unlikely. In fact, high rising terminals have been present in a number of English dialects for some time, notably in Bristol and Belfast.

The recent widespread use among young females – mainly, but not exclusively in southern England – is, however, more likely to be an extension of other typical female speech traits. This intonation pattern actively seeks the involvement of the listener – encouraging a supportive comment or some other non-linguistic signal to indicate they understand or agree with the speaker – something research suggests is far more common among females than among males.

About the speaker

Nicola Blackwell (b.1982/03/12; female, sixth-form student)

Nicola Blackwell (b.1982/03/12; female, sixth-form student)



Nicola: Well, I think education’s really important to me and I think, I just like knowing stuff. And I have to do it, to get, like, where I want to go, for my career and that. To do my journalism. But I enjoy, I enjoy learning about history and, like, everything. I think it helps me a lot to learn about life and that. And…

Esella: Where do you see yourself in the future?

Nicola: Uhm, hopefully in a really good career doing music journalism, uhm, getting quite well paid [laughs] with, with a family, uhm, you know, nice things, like a house and car. And with brilliant holidays to Jamaica [laughs] that sort of thing.

Esella: How, do you get pocket money?

Nicola: No, cause I got a job, so, pocket money stopped when I got my job. So I work part-time in a Travel Inn.[1] I do chamber-maiding and I work occasionally in the restaurant across the road, as a waitress. So, it’s not too bad, but I don’t really like working [laughs].

Esella: When you got your pocket money, how much did you used to get?

Nicola: I used to get about two pound fifty a week, but then it went up to about, I got twenty-five pounds a month and five had to go in a savings account and the twenty pound I’d live off. So, it’s, like, five pound a week, sort of thing. But that’s stopped [laughs].

Esella: And how does that compare with your friends? Did they, do they get pocket money?

Nicola: When I used to get about two pound fifty a week, one of my friends used to get it, but Kate, my friends, my other friends used to get loads more than me and … I didn’t, I wasn’t worried, but then mine went up to, like, the same sort of thing as they had. But a lot of my friends get quite a bit of money off their parents, because they don’t work at all, so…

Esella: What do you spend your money on?

Nicola: Sort of spend it on CD's, clothes. I’m saving up for driving lessons and for university, so, on, just normal things, really. CD's, clothes, make-up. All of that lot.

Esella: And can you remember when you first got paid from your job, what you spent your pay packet on?

Nicola: I’m not quite sure. I think I probably had to pay my mum back [laughs] for something [laughs]. And then it, sort of, oh, there’s a CD I like – oh I might go and buy that. And concert tickets. I’ve bought a lot of them since I’ve had a job, it’s a lot easier. Mmm.

Esella: How much freedom do you have to go out and do what you want to do?

Nicola: Oh, I get quite a lot of freedom, but, and it, the freedom’s, like, grown since I’ve got older. Mum’s starting to realise I need to go out now. But I go away to gigs quite a bit, so, mum doesn’t mind that. But, she doesn’t like me going down town and staying out really late, though, so I don’t get loads of freedom, so. And I, sort of, oh, I don’t go very far anyway, so, mum doesn’t mind.

Esella: And how, how has that changed? I mean, you’re s, you’re … just tell us how old you are now and tell us when that changed, you know, from, you know, having to stay in and all the rest of it.

Nicola: Well, I’m sixteen now, almost seventeen, and mum’s sort of let me out, I don't know, when, sort of when I got to sixteen, but, really when I started getting into the band, which was about after March sort of time. And it was, “Oh yeah, you can go and do this. Yeah, I don’t mind you doing that,” and, uhm, it’s sort of grown all the time since then. And you just, sort of, like, time I want to go out, it’s sort of, “Oh yeah, I don’t mind if you come back that time. As long as I know where you are or if you’re OK,” sort of thing.

Esella: What do you think the most difficult thing is about, sort of, growing up, for somebody your age?

Nicola: Uhm. I’m not sure.

Esella: Is there anything that’s, that’s, you know, difficult for you?

Nicola: Uhm. Find it difficult at work sometimes, cause, l, people are a lot older than me and, uhm, I think that some of the people, time, they think that they can take advantage of me, to order me around and do stuff and, I'm like, “No, I’m not going to do that." And I find that quite difficult sometimes. But it’s mainly people’s opinions, cause of your age, that I find it more difficult. They think that cause you’re this age, you’re, stereotype you with the rest of the people, but …

Esella: What’s the stereotype, then, of somebody your age?

Nicola: Well, some of the, like, people from our school aren’t too great. And they’re, like, sort of druggies and just go round and hang round on corners and don’t do any work and people just want to go on the dole straight after school. And, well, I’m not like that at all, so, I don’t, you know, it annoys me when people say things like that. And young people are so bad, but they’re not. Like, not all of them are. There’s quite a bit, a few who are, but it’s not the majority.

Esella: So, how do you differ from those people that you’ve just described, then – the people that are hanging around on a street corner?

Nicola: Well, they don’t seem to have a direction to go in. They just don’t want to do anything, they just want to, like, do nothing and, just smoke drugs and that. But I don’t want to do that. I've really want to go for my career and get out of Plymouth and go somewhere, sort of thing. And then I don’t really find hanging around on a corner that interesting [laughs]. I’d rather be doing something [laughs].


[1] Travel Inn refers to the what was UK's biggest chain of hotels, the chain is currently know was Premier Inn.

Plymouth accent: Nicola talks about her attitude towards education and money
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