Study Into Scillonian Dialect Published In Academic Journal

emma mooreA detailed study into the islands’ dialect has been published in an academic journal. And it’s hoped there’ll be more research into the distinct way that islanders speak.

It’s the culmination of several years work by University of Sheffield-based linguist, Emma Moore, who’s written the article with her colleague, Paul Carter.

Emma says it analyses how older Scillonians pronounce the vowel in words like ‘grass, class, and bath.’

They found that there was a difference between islanders on the basis of how they were educated.

Those sent away to the mainland tend to say ‘grahss,’ ‘clahss’ and ‘baahth,’ which is closer to the ‘posher’ southern-English pronunciation.

But those who were solely educated on Scilly tended to have a more Cornish-sounding vowel, with a longer ‘a’ sound.

There were also a few islanders who could switch between the two, depending on what they were talking about.

Emma says one local, when he was talking about being a councillor, tended to use a more standard pronunciation, but when he was talking about his childhood on Scilly, he would use to a more local form.

She says the research shows that the Scilly dialect does have something in common with Cornish English, but it’s not easy to work out which is the ‘true’ Scillonian one.

They’re both valid, says Emma, but dependent on how people were brought up and educated.

And a survey she ran last year showed that Scillonians actually struggled to identify another Scillonian speaker when they didn’t know where he or she was from. They tended to classify them as Cornish or West Country instead.

Emma says this suggests that, despite what people on Scilly say, the Scillonian dialect is sometimes heard as Cornish, even by Scillonians themselves.

Next, the team hope to analyse how locals pronounce words like ‘right, isles, and five’ and ‘house, mouth, and out.’

It seems to differ according to gender and occupation, whether fishing, farming or tourism and Scillonians seem to be maintaining quite old-fashioned ways of pronouncing these words, says Emma.

You can read Emma and Paul’s work here.