The University of Canterbury believes it is appropriate to spend $530,000 on some research into why Southlanders roller their Rs.
I’m not kidding.
Ask a Southlander where they’re from, preferably one from Gore or Mossburn, and you get the same heavy burr in response.
Southlanders roll their Rs. Everyone knows that. But why?
A researcher at the University of Canterbury now has half a million dollars to find out.
Linguistics senior lecturer Dr Lynn Clark will head the three-year project looking into the Southland accent along with two collaborators from the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour.
Some $65.2 million was allocated to 117 proposals nationally, including Clark’s, in the largest ever round of Marsden Fund grants.
More than 300 voice recordings, taken from Southlanders between 1868 and the early 1990s will be analysed as part of the project, which is aimed at finding out what makes the accent so different to the rest of New Zealand.
The recordings were mostly of residents speaking about life in Southland and what life was like growing up, she said.
They were mostly from people in Invercargill, but also Gore.
“We don’t know what people hear, what makes it distinctive,” Clark said.
It wasn’t just the rolling ‘R’s, that made it unique, there were also differences in vowel pronunciation, she said.
She believed the accent had changed since the early settlers’ presence in Southland.
The 1871 national census showed more than 60 per cent of all British immigrants to Southland were Scottish.
Clark said anecdotal evidence suggested the accent almost disappeared, before coming back, possibly in the 1990s.
There was evidence to suggest “young urban females” brought it back again, but it was unclear why.
“There’s still so many questions we have about this.”
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he “often wondered” whether the city should use the accent more to promote the deep south.
It might be unique but the answer is bloody obvious. What a complete waste of money.
This sort of waste disgusts me.