Southlanders may get answers about their accent

8:55 pm on 4 November 2016

Southlanders could be getting some answers into why they roll their 'R's with new research looking into the region's distinctive accent being given the green light.

Anthony Hopkins, The World's Fastest Indian.

Anthony Hopkins gave Southlander Burt Munro's accent the good college try in the film The World's Fastest Indian. Photo: AFP

The government has awarded $530,000 to the University of Canterbury project in the latest round of Marsden Fund grants.

Lynn Clark, a senior lecturer in linguistics at the university, will head the three-year project along with two other colleagues from the university's New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour.

Dr Clark said it would be looking at the history and development of the region's accent.

Lynn Clark, a senior lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Canterbury.

Lynn Clark, a senior lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Canterbury. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

She said voice recordings, taken mainly in Invercargill and Gore between the late 1800s and the 1990s would be analysed as part of the project.

"We want to look at the whole accent, right? So what is it that makes Southland English distinctive from general New Zealand English, it can't surely just be 'R' right? There must be a whole range of things that go on in this accent, that makes it distinctive."

Dr Clark said it was expecting to find that Scottish immigrants who moved to Southland would have partly influenced how locals talked today.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said, generally, people in the region were proud of their accents and the research project was exciting news.

"We're the only region in the whole of New Zealand that does have a different dialect, and I have always thought it is something that we should try and expand upon and find out more about, and I think it's great."

Dr Clark said a start date for the project has not been set down yet, but work was not likely to get under way until late next year.