I’ve just been made aware of reports of a project being carried out at Glasgow University which apparently demonstrates that exposure to and engagement with television soaps can affect the accent of the viewers. The particular feature that the press has picked up on is the ‘infiltration’ (my word) of /f/ for /θ/ into Glaswegian speech, supposedly as a result of too much watching “EastEnders” on BBC1. In fact, I knew at least one Glaswegian who pronounced in this way as long ago as the early 1980s, before “EastEnders” hit the screens. I cannot believe that he was alone. I’ve commented before on the increasing prevalence of /f/ for /θ/. Lucy Worsley could be to blame just as easily as any soap – she is very personable, and viewers will certainly “engage” with her.
Jane Stuart-Smith, the lead researcher, quite rightly makes it clear that the media are only one, and a small one at that, of the influences on language change, but of course, the print media are always keen to find any excuse to denigrate their broadcast rivals, and this exaggeration suits their prejudices.