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Fitting in: why Polish immigrant children say ‘aye’ to the Glasgow vibe

8 February 2019 (The Conversation)

All of us have a range of speech styles, altering how we talk to fit different situations. The adjustments we make can be barely noticeable: you might tell a work colleague that you’re going “swimming” after work, and then later tell your friends that you’ve just been “swimmin’”. But even tiny, subconscious adjustments have a real social effect, playing a part in building social relationships and constructing identity.

This is something that linguists study and describe and gather evidence about, but it’s not something that only academics understand – it’s something we all notice, experience and talk about. I explore this particular skill in episode two of my podcast, Accentricity, which brings together what academics know about style-shifting with how we all experience it in everyday life.

Sociolinguistic research has built up a picture of how people alter their speech, or “style-shift”. However, most of the research we have is on people using their first language; we know less about style-shifting in a new language. Do learners pick up style-shifting behaviour even as they are picking up the sounds and structures of their new language?

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