£15,000 laboratory launched to study Dundee dialect

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AN ONLINE laboratory has been launched looking to explore how dialect and laguage get stored in the brain, with a focus on Dundee brogue.

Dr Neil Kirk, from Abertay University’s Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences, has created MIND Your Languages; an online research hub dedicated to the further study of underrepresented varieties of dialect and language.

The online format is designed to encourage participation in spite of the coronavirus, and allows eligible visitors to participate in a range of interesting studies.

Dr Neil Kirk, from Abertay University - Research News Scotland
Dr Neil Kirk, from Abertay University’s Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences

The project was made possible through a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive grant of almost £15,000.

The project will continue to run once the pandemic is over to allow for further expansive research – particularly into forms of dialect that might be forgotten about in traditional language studies.

Dr Kirk said: “Coronavirus has made research much more challenging for academics, and we’ve all had to find new ways to adapt to the circumstances we face.

“MIND Your Languages is something I’d been looking to create before the pandemic even broke out, but the situation has certainly shone a light on just how useful an online lab can be in both the short and long term.

“The project will take an in depth look at Dundonian and we also plan to look at other regional varieties in a wider sense. This is another reason why the online setting is important.

“Running a lab in this way makes it far easier for people across the country and indeed the world to participate in our research.

“It will also allow people to find out about our work, and I think this in itself is quite crucial. It will help people learn why this line of research is important, and why our dialect itself is not only important, but something we should all be proud of.”

Work currently being carried out by the lab includes a study looking into how the brain stores and switches between Dundonian and English.

It follows a previous  study involving Dr Kirk which found that the brain treats dialect in the same way as it does a language.

Another study being run by MIND Your Languages is looking to find out whether our personal qualities can be detected from our speech patterns.

Dr Kirk said: “The funding from the Carnegie Trust has not only allowed us to create this lab, it’s allowing us to run a range of exciting projects in the coming months.

“None of this research would be possible without local speakers participating in our studies, so we are delighted to offer a new platform for people to participate from the comfort of their own home”