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Watching TV Can Change Your Accent

Update Date: Sep 10, 2013 04:48 PM EDT

Watching too much television can change the way we talk, a new study suggests.

A new study reveals that active and engaged television viewing can change a person's accent.

Linguists at the University of Glasgow found evidence that the television soap "EastEnders" is altering certain features of the Scottish accent. Researchers said that two particular features of pronunciation typically associated with London English are becoming increasingly popular in the Glaswegian dialect among people who regularly watched the television show.

"Our study shows that the programs that we watch on television can help to accelerate changes in aspects of language which are also well below the level of conscious awareness," lead researcher Jane Stuart-Smith, Professor of Phonetics at the University of Glasgow, said in a statement.

"In particular, this study was investigating why certain linguistic factors that are normally found within the Cockney dialect in London were gradually entering into Glaswegian. Although this trend was apparent in people who had contact with friends or family living in London, there was a stronger effect for people who had strong psychological engagement with characters in EastEnders," she said.

The particular features mentioned in the study are replacing the "th" sound with the "f" sound in words like think and tooth, as well as using a vowel like that in "good" in place of "l" sounds in words like milk and people.

Researchers said that the study found significant correlation between using these features with strong emotional and psychological engagement by people who watch "EastEnders".

Researchers noted that simply being exposed to television is not enough to cause accent change. To experience accent change, people need to regularly watch the show and become emotionally engaged with the characters.

Watching television isn't the only thing that can influence language change. Previous research revealed that social interaction could also change the way a person talks.

"We don't properly understand the mechanisms behind these changes, but we do see that the impact of the media is weaker than that of actual social interaction. We need many more studies of this kind in order to appreciate properly the influence of television and other popular media on language change," Stuart-Smith said in a news release.

"The research provided some evidence that this mediated influence on speech had occurred, most especially for children who were most closely attached to the program and also after controlling for possible effects of meeting people from London. We now need to extend this work to include other media examples of speech, other speech forms and bigger samples of people. We also need to study more closely the psychological and linguistic mechanisms that underpin these speech change effects," Professor Barrie Gunter, Department of Media and Communication at Leicester University said in a statement.

The findings are published in the journal Language

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