£120k on research to challenge the dummy Brummie label?

The Birmingham and Black Country accents might be distinctive and colourful but readers of the Express & Star are concerned that Aston University are spending rather too much investigating what impact of these beloved local dialects.


Dunce The research in question - which will involve recording live performances and interviewing four audience members at each, then analysing the way the performers and spectators speak - will be costing £120,000, an amount that some have stated is just too much.


Dr Esther Asprey who completed a PhD in Black Country English and Black Country Identity said:


“We would like our research to contribute to a current debate in regional dialect research which is looking at how factors such as social class, gender, race and ethnicity may be resources that speakers actively draw upon to create unique voices, rather than determinants of how they speak and write.”


She is backed by local historian Dr Carl Chinn who added: “It is about who we are. The Irish in the west of Ireland who speak Gaelic have a saying ‘a people who lose their language lose their soul’. If we lose our language we become clones of everybody else with no distinction, no colour and no variety.”


But even if we agree with Dr Chinn’s sentiments, will this project actually serve to preserve the accents, or prevent their dilution? Unlikely. An assessment of the impact is just that.


Interesting as the subject may be, £120,000 is several thousand pounds too much in the view of some local Brummies and Yam Yams who commented on the website:


1. stjoe
January 27, 2010 at 11:46 am
Fantastic..Once again money wasted on stupid research in our universities that will be of no benefit to man kind what so ever!!
Perhaps the money could be better spent of medical research????


2. Riaz Khan
January 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm
I agree with stjoe. This may be interesting but money should be spend on research that increases our knowledge about diseases for example, or that can create more jobs (such as research into renewable energy, rechargeable batteries for electric cars etc etc. ie research that would benefit the region and the UK.)


3. Rob H
January 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm
What a waste of money by the Universities!!!!


4. Derek Turner
January 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm
What a complete waste of time and money.


Dr Urszula Clark, deputy director for the Aston Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Language and Diversity also commented, claiming that within the British psyche deeply ingrained negative perceptions of the Birmingham and Black Country accents meant that speakers are likely to be discriminated against. But will this money prevent that happening? Just how does this research propose to reverse this entrenched attitude. And couldn’t it be conducted at less cost to the taxpayer if it has to go ahead?


So £120,000 to tell native West Midlanders that their accents are undesirable? It doesn’t sound like the most constructive use of cash, especially as there's little locals can to do change their accents nor much these researchers can do to deflect criticism. There are practical, useful and pioneering things that universities can use our money to achieve, and once again reinforcing stereotypes under the misguided notion that some pretty limited research will reverse them seems somewhat naive, not to mention wasteful.


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