Case study

Researchers tell us the story behind their interdisciplinary collaboration on the relationship between accents and career aspirations.

This case study was conducted by a cross-institutional team, consisting of Human Geographer Dr Michael Donnelly from the University of Bath, sociolinguist Dr Alex Baratta from The University of Manchester, and sociologist and geographer Dr Sol Gamsu from Durham University.

Exploring accents and social mobility: A journey through Team Research

What was the focus of this project?

Our project focused on the ways in which British individuals feel the need, or are instructed, to modify their accents for the teaching profession to avoid broad realisations of their accents and the often negative stereotypes that accompany them. Our study also highlighted the broader theme of social mobility and how this is intertwined with changes in geography and class identity.

How were/are Team Research principles used in this project?

Our research journey was a true collaboration, blending human geography and sociolinguistics. By connecting these two disciplines, we gained fresh insights into the connections between region, accent and class. This approach allowed us to understand the associations between where someone is from, how they sound, and the social circles they navigate, and how this might change as part of social mobility.

How did Team Research principles benefit the project?

We learned from each other’s research in meaningful ways, such as considering how region and accent reflect each other, and how human geography provides an insight into the relationship between region and language. Likewise, linguistics can better appreciate the finer points about the ways in which class and region intersect, and how a combination of both, and not just singular factors, influence the accent of the speakers.

The opportunity to work with individuals from different academic/research backgrounds is exciting, and we learned a lot from each other about our research and knowledge base.

What is your top tip for working with Team Research principles?

Think outside the box and in doing so, link different disciplines together as part of the skill of application. For example, can bird calls used in mating rituals (biology) be applied to accents as part of the human dating ritual (sociolinguistics)?

How can interdisciplinary collaborations like yours be further supported?

Hold cross-disciplinary meetings with the express purpose of bringing together people across disciplines to brainstorm and identify ways to work together.

Further reading

  • Donnelly, M., Gamsu, S. and Baratta, A. (2022). Accent and the manifestation of spatialised class structure. The Sociological Review, 1-19.