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Lexical Variation and Attrition in the Scottish Fishing Communities

Robert McColl Millar, William Barras, Lisa Bonnici

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An account of the Fisher Speak project which documents the language of the Scottish East Coast

Over the last half century many scholars have recorded, analysed and theorised language death. At the same time, many sociolinguists have considered how rapid and dependable transport, mass education and increasingly globalised work patterns have affected how dialects in industrial and post-industrial societies are constructed and perceived; more often than not, these changes have been detrimental to the integrity of traditional dialects. The forces involved are most perceptible in loss of local lexis; this has been barely touched upon in the literature, primarily because the study of lexical variation and change has proved considerably more problematical in methodological terms than its phonological and morphosyntactic equivalents. This book considers these theoretical and methodological issues in relation to a representative sample of fishing communities along Scotland’s east coast, in most of which the trade is now moribund. Can the lexical variation and change found in these communities be perceived as primary evidence for dialect death?

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1. Language Attrition and Lexical Variation and Change
2. The history and culture of the Scottish fishing communities
3. Methodology
4. Analysis of the data
5. Conclusions

About the Author

Robert McColl Millar is Reader in Linguistics in the School of Language & Literature at the University of Aberdeen. His books include Northern and Insular Scots (2007), Authority and Identity. A Sociolinguistic History of Europe before the Modern Age (2010) and English Historical Sociolinguistics (2012).

William Barras is a Lecturer in Language and Linguistics at the University of Aberdeen. He has research interests in phonetics and phonology, sociolinguistics, dialectology, and the ways in which language is used to shape identity. He has conducted linguistic fieldwork on these topics in East Lancashire, on the Scottish-English border and in Edinburgh, as well as in the coastal fishing communities as part of the Fisher Speak project from which this book developed.

Lisa Marie Bonnici received her PhD in Linguistics from UC Davis in 2010. Following this, she carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Aberdeen for the FisherSpeak project. Her research focuses on sociolinguistic variation and change and language ideologies in emerging varieties of English. She currently directs an international program at a college preparatory school in Southern California, where she lives with her son, Oliver, and husband, Richard.