Levels of Linguistic Accommodation across a National Border

Dominic Watt, Carmen Llamas, Daniel Ezra Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The political border between England and Scotland has been claimed to coincide with the most tightly packed bundle of isoglosses in the English-speaking world. The borderland, therefore, may be seen as the site of discontinuities in linguistic features carrying socioindexical value as markers of "Scottishness" or "Englishness." However, in an ongoing study of four border towns, the connection between inhabitants' claimed national identities and their use of indexical features has been found to vary depending on whether the localities are at the border's eastern or western ends, and on the speaker's age. This article examines the accommodatory strategies of a female Scottish English-speaking field-worker in her interactions with younger and older male speakers from localities on either side of the border. The linguistic behavior of the field-worker is examined at the phonological, discoursal, and lexical levels, and variability in her speech is considered in light of (1) her interlocutors' actual usage of the variables in question, (2) the interviewees' perceived status as "older" versus "younger" and as "Scottish" versus "English," and (3) the broader picture of the stability of usage of linguistic forms and of national identities in the localities in question.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-289
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of english linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • linguistic accommodation
  • convergence
  • divergence
  • national identity
  • national border
  • Scotland
  • England
  • age-correlated variation

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