Linguistics and English Language

Edinburgh Speaks

Looking at variation in speech and language use in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is very diverse when it comes to its speech and language use. While some say they can recognise and even imitate an accent that they call 'Edinburgh English', the truth is that there are many people born, raised, and living in Edinburgh who don't necessarily speak in that way. Some might would say that they speak 'Scottish' or 'Scots', not 'English'. Some would say that they speak 'Scottish English'. Others might describe their speech as 'British English'.

Regardless of what we call the way we talk, the people of Edinburgh come from a wide array of different backgrounds and experiences, and these have shaped the way they use language. It's that very diversity that we aim to document, describe, and analyse in this project.

In this project we are asking the following questions, among others:

  • When a child is raised in Edinburgh, what factors predict what accent or dialect that child will grow up with? Do dialects (differences in words and grammar) vary the same way accents do?
  • What features distinguish Edinburgh from Glasgow? From Fife? from Musselburgh? How have those features changed over time?
  • Do different Edinburgh neighbourhoods have distinct ways of speaking?
  • How do people in Edinburgh describe the way they speak? How many different definitions are there, and why?

We are currently analysing those speakers in the Edinburgh Speech Production Facility Corpus who are from the Edinburgh area.

Edinburgh Speech Production Facility Corpus


The team behind Edinburgh Speaks are all members of the language variation and change research group.

Language variation and change research group


  • Hall-Lew, Lauren, Inês Paiva Couceiro, and Amie Fairs. 2020. Credibility Without Intelligibility: Implications for Hearing Vernacular Speakers. In Renée Blake and Isabelle Buchstaller (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Work of John R. Rickford, pp. 220-230. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Elliott, Zuzana. 2018. Sociolinguistic variation among Slovak immigrants in Edinburgh, Scotland. PhD thesis, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
  • Dickson, Victoria and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2017. Class, Gender and Rhoticity: The Social Stratification of Non-prevocalic /r/ in Edinburgh Speech. Journal of English Linguistics. 45(3): 229-259.
  • Elliott, Zuzana and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2015. Production of FACE and GOAT by Slovak and Czech immigrants in Edinburgh. In The Scottish Consortium for ICPhS 2015 (Ed.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Glasgow, UK: the University of Glasgow. ISBN 978-0-85261-941-4. Paper number 808.
  • Hall-Lew, Lauren, Amie Fairs, and Alan A. Lew. 2015. Tourists Attitudes towards Linguistic Variation in Scotland. In Eivind Torgersen, Stian Hårstad, Britt Mæhlum and Unn Røyneland (eds.), Language variation - European Perspectives V, Studies in Language Variation (SILV) series, pp99-110. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Lew, Alan A., Lauren Hall-Lew, and Amie Fairs. 2014. Language and Tourism in Sabah, Malaysia and Edinburgh, Scotland. In O'Rourke, Bernadette, Nicola Bermingham and Sara Brennen, Eds. Opening New Lines of Communication in Applied Linguistics: Proceedings of the 46th BAAL Annual Meeting, pp253-259. London: Scitsiugnil Press.
  • Rosseel, Laura. 2013. Language attitudes towards Scots words in Edinburgh. MSc by Research thesis, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Presentations (on different topics than the papers above)

  • Papineau, Brandon and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2019. Hooked on Celebri[R]y: Intervocalic /t/ in the Speech and Song of Nina Nesbitt. New Ways of Analyzing Variation 48 (NWAV48). 10–12 October, Eugene, OR, USA.
  • Hall-Lew, Lauren, Brandon Papineau, Nina Markl, and Matthew Sung. 2019. Regional and Social Variation in Scottish T-glottaling. The 12th UK Language Variation and Change (UKLVC). 3–5 September. London, UK.
  • Fruehwald, Josef, Lauren Hall-Lew, Claire Cowie, Zac Boyd, Mirjam Eiswirth, and Zuzana Elliott. 2019 A Phonetic Analysis of the which witch merger in Edinburgh, Scotland. The 12th UK Language Variation and Change (UKLVC). 3–5 September. London, UK.
  • Fruehwald, Josef, Lauren Hall-Lew, Claire Cowie, Zac Boyd, Mirjam Eiswirth, and Zuzana Elliott. 2019. A Phonetic Analysis of the which witch merger in Edinburgh, Scotland. The 10th International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE). 26–28 June, Leeuwarden/Ljouwert, The Netherlands.
  • Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2016. Packaged Place: Tour guides, tourists, and the commodified negotiation of nativeness. Part of the colloquium: ‘Place and Mobility in Sedentaristic Europe’. Sociolinguistics Symposium 21, 15–18 June, Universidad de Murcia, Spain.
  • Kirby, James and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2015. Studying socially stratified linguistic variation in the Edinburgh Phonetics Recording Archive. Modeling variability in speech. 1–2 October, Stuttgart, Germany.

Related projects

This project is based in Linguistics and English Language, in the School of Psychology, Philosophy, and Language Sciences (College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences).

Related projects include:

The Voicebank Project: personalised voices for communication aids

Sound Comparisons: accents of English from around the world

Sounds of the City: a project on speech sounds in Glasgow

SCOTS: Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech

CMSW: Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing