The speech of Glaswegians, popularly known as the Glasgow patter or Glaswegian, varies from Scottish English at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with the local dialect of West Central Scots at the other. Therefore the speech of many Glaswegians can draw on a "continuum between fully localised and fully standardised". Additionally the Glasgow dialect has Highland English and Hiberno-English influences, owing to the speech of Highlanders and Irish people, who migrated in large numbers to the Glasgow area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Glasgow vernacular also exerts considerable influence on the vernacular of the surrounding towns.
As with other dialects, the Patter is subject to dialect levelling where particularly Scots vocabulary is replaced by Standard English words and, in particular, words largely from colloquial English. However, Glaswegians do continue to create new euphemisms as well as nicknames for well-known local figures and buildings.
The Glasgow vernacular has also established itself in Scottish literature. Many authors spell some of the Scots elements phonetically, often coinciding with common spelling errors, rather than using the prestigious Modern Scots conventions. The general effect of that, particularly its comic forms, is to exaggerate the unintelligibility of Glasgow speech to outsiders. The resulting orthographic representation of the vernacular gives the overall impression of an anti-standard rather than a local standard.
Michael Munro wrote a guide to Glasgow Patter entitled The Patter, first published in 1985. With illustrations by David Neilson, and later by the Paisley-born artist and playwright John Byrne, the book became very popular in Glasgow. It was followed by The Patter - Another Blast in 1988, with The Complete Patter, an updated compendium of the first and second books, being published in 1996.
James Kelman's 1994 novel How Late It Was, How Late is written largely in Glaswegian dialect from the point of view of Sammy Samuels, a 38-year-old ex-convict who wakes up blind after a drinking binge and a fight with police. The novel won the 1994 Booker Prize.
Jamie Stuart, a Church of Scotland elder from the High Carntyne Church, produced "A Glasgow Bible" in 1997, relating some biblical tales in the Glaswegian vernacular. More recently, in 2014 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was translated into Glaswegian Scots by Thomas Clark as Alice's Adventirs in Wunnerlaun.
In the media
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In the 1970s, the Glasgow-born comedian Stanley Baxter parodied the patter on his television sketch show. "Parliamo Glasgow" was a spoof programme in which Baxter played a language coach and various scenarios using Glaswegian dialogue were played out for laughs.
The 1998 film My Name is Joe is one of the few films recorded [almost] entirely in Glasgow dialect. As a result, the film had to be given subtitles when released in the US.
Popular Scottish television comedies such as Rab C. Nesbitt, Chewin' the Fat, Still Game and Limmy's Show also provide reference material, and have themselves contributed popular new expressions to the Patter.
Alleged influence from Cockney
Studies have indicated that working-class adolescents in areas such as Glasgow have begun to use certain aspects of Cockney and other Anglicisms in their speech, infiltrating the traditional Glasgow patter. For example, th-fronting is commonly found, and typical Scottish features such as the post-vocalic /r/ are reduced, although this last feature is more likely to be a development of Central Belt Scots origin, unrelated to Anglo-English nonrhoticity. Researches suggest the use of English speech characteristics is likely to be consequential on the influence of London and south east England accents which feature prominently on television.
The linguist John C. Wells, a critic of the media reporting on Estuary English, has questioned whether Glasgow is being influenced by Cockney speech. He claimed that journalists had misrepresented the prevalence of th-fronting in Glasgow and that there is no evidence that th-fronting originated in London. He also wrote that all dialects change over time and that change does not mean that the Glasgow patter will disappear.
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- Is TV a contributory factor in accent change in adolescents? - ESRC Society Today
- Cockney creep puts paid to the patter - Evening Times
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- "Soaps may be washing out accent". Bbc.co.uk.
- 'We fink, so we are from Glasgow' - Times Online
- Scots kids rabbitin' like Cockneys - Sunday Herald
- - Faculty of Arts, University of Glasgow Archived 30 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "Glasgow and Estuary English". Phon.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 March 2019.