Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Braber on the concept of identity in the East Midlands

Braber, Natalie (2014). "The concept of identity in the East Midlands of England", English Today 30(2), 3-10.

When considering language variation in the UK, linguists have frequently considered the North/South divide and the linguistic markers separating the two regions, for example by investigating the vowel speakers use in words like ‘grass’ and whether the words ‘put’ and ‘putt’ sound the same or not. But it has been noted that this is not a straightforward division and that this situation is more complex. There are clear stereotypes for the North and South – but how do areas like the East Midlands fit into the picture? The boundaries between North and South are defined in different ways and in linguistic studies the East Midlands have been described as belonging to the North and to the South. Linguistically, the question has been raised whether there is a clear North/South boundary or whether there is a transition zone in the Midlands. Natalie Braber's paper revisits this question from the point of view of young people living in the East Midlands, to examine their sense of identity and whether this cultural divide is salient to them.
The East Midlands is a problematic area in its definition geographically as there is no overall agreement in which regions belong to the East Midlands, and people may have difficulty in relating this to their own sense of identity. It seems that for many the North/South divide is a natural one but what do non-linguists, and specifically young people, think? Although the East Midlands may be the geographical centre of England, it is not in any sense the perceived centre of England. It is an area which can be hard to locate perceptually and has been referred as ‘neither here nor there’ and as a ‘no-man’s land’. It seems that a definition of where the East Midlands is and what to call it is problematic, and this paper will deal with these issues to attempt to resolve them.
For the entire article, click here