Summary: Modern English Language; diachronic and synchronic dialectology; sociolinguistics; history of English; phonetics and phonology; world English, pidgins and creoles.
My primary research interests are in regional and social English dialectal variation. Besides the facts of dialectal difference, and the means by which it is studied, relevant issues in the discipline include the relationship of standard to non-standard dialects, attitudes to variation, and the mechanisms of language change.
I have been closely involved with the Survey of English Dialects (SED) for over forty years, since I acted as research assistant to Professor Harold Orton. SED, the only systematic survey of the dialects of England yet to be carried out, was begun at Leeds by Harold Orton (d.1975) and Eugen Dieth in 1948, and was for many years continued at Sheffield by John Widdowson, with whom I enjoy close collaboration. I also have close links with David Parry's Swansea-based Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects (SAWD), having been one of its first fieldworkers (1968-70): this survey is now directed by Rob Penhallurick, another of my close colleagues. I co-authored Survey of English Dialects: The Dictionary and Grammar (Longman, 1994) with Parry and Widdowson.
The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC)
In 2005, with Dr Oliver Pickering, I completed work on The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) Project, which was funded by a major Resource Enhancement grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. As a result of this work, a detailed catalogue of the collections of the former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies of the University, which was dissolved in the early 1980s, has been made available electronically, with the material itself held for consultation in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library. The full potential of the Archive is thus available for linguists, historians, and others in the research community with interests in the speech, customs, beliefs and practices of traditional British communities.
The conference of the LAVC project was held in March 2005, attended by delegates from universities and academic and municipal libraries and archives nationwide. The final report on the Archive project was accepted as 'Outstanding' by the AHRC, and on completion the project was selected as one of five nationally for audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Research Council's report to Government.
Much of my most recent language-variation research has centred on output deriving from the British Broadcasting Corporation's 'Voices' project, a major data-collecting and broadcasting initiative of 2004-5 for which David Crystal and I acted as the BBC's first academic points of contact. This involvement resulted in my having access to a large body of professionally-gathered data on vernacular speech, and in my consequent involvement in two large-scale research projects. I led a team, first assembled with Sally Johnson, which in 2007 received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to analyse the materials contained on the project's BBC website: this undertaking, entitled 'Whose Voices?: Language ideological debates on the interactive website of the BBC Voices project', finished its analyses in 2011, and a related book, edited jointly with Bethan L. Davies, was published by Routledge in 2013. An associated Routledge-hosted website (www.routledge.com/cw/upton) contains data from the project, as well as providing access to other national and international dialect holdings.
'Whose Voices?' featured as one of ten research projects in the British Academy publication Past Present and Future: The Public Value of the Humanities and Social Sciences, submitted to Parliament in June 2010.
I was also pleased to be closely involved, with British Library colleagues, in the award of a major grant by The Leverhulme Trust for further analysis of 'Voices' output, this time concerning the 700+ hours of sound recordings collected by BBC journalists working on the project. This research, 'Voices of the UK', has been carried out in London under the direction of Jonnie Robinson (formerly of the LAVC team), and I (with Penhallurick and others) served on the project's Advisory Committee until its conclusion in February 2012. I was closely involved with British Library colleagues in 'Evolving English' 2010-11, the Library's most successful winter exhibition to date, which featured our shared dialect materials. As a result of BBC 'Voices' research, a large new recorded speech resource is now being made available alongside other British Library holdings, which already include substantial material from SED.
Dictionary Pronunciation of English
The accent of British English which is presented in dictionaries is usually known as Received Pronunciation, or simply RP. Like other accents, RP is subject to variation and change: I am responsible for the description of a modern RP model which has been adopted by the latest Oxford English Dictionaries of Oxford University Press, including the iconic Oxford English Dictionary (OED), for which I act as pronunciation consultant. Some of the dictionaries currently displaying this model, other than OED, are The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (editions from 1993 on),The Concise Oxford Dictionary (editions from 1995 on), and The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998, 2003)
In addition, I am the British author for a joint British and American pronouncing dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (2001), a paperback edition of which appeared in 2003. This book is the result of my collaboration with Professor William A. Kretzschmar and Rafal Konopka of the University of Georgia, USA. Also in the area of English sounds is my Oxford Rhyming Dictionary (2004), written with my son Eben.
I edit the Cambridge University Press journal English Today (www.journals.cambridge.org/eng).
I am Chair of the National Committee for England and Wales of the European linguistic atlas Atlas Linguarum Europae, and a Council Member of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, Britain's oldest dialect organization, for which I also co-edit Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society. In 2005 I completed a six-year term as member of the Steering Committee of the International Conferences on Methods in Dialectology (the 'Methods' series), and in August 2008 hosted at Leeds the thirteenth conference in the series, Methods XIII, when more than two hundred dialect scholars from twenty-five countries spent a week discussing the subject of linguistic variation.
My most recent invitations to speak on language variation at conferences or to research groups have included those from the Finnish-British Society and Department of English (Helsinki), the Royal Geographical Society, and the Universities of Innsbruck and Mainz. Recent keynote addresses have been to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, the National Association for the Teaching of English and the National Association for the Teaching of English and Other Community Languages (NATECLA), and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I frequently broadcast on English Language issues: a recent broadcast was on BBC Televisions Breakfast programme on 16 November 2013, discussing the use of non-standard English in schools.
Forthcoming 2014. British English, in Marnie Reed and John Levis, eds, The Handbook of English Pronunciation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
Forthcoming 2014. Dialect Dictionaries, in Philip Durkin, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography. Oxford: Oxford University Press
2013. Analysing 21st-century British English: Conceptual and methodological aspects of the BBC 'Voices' project. London: Routledge [ed., with Bethan L. Davies]
2013. Blurred Boundaries: the dialect word from the BBC, in Clive Upton and Bethan L. Davies, eds, Analysing 21st-century British English: Conceptual and methodological aspects of the BBC 'Voices' project. London: Routledge
2013. Sociolinguistics on BBC Radio, in Christine Mallinson, Becky Childs, and Gerard Van Herk, eds, Data Collection in Sociolinguistics. New York and London: Routledge, 308-313
2013. Review of Richard Coates, 2010, The Traditional Dialect of Sussex: A Historical Guide, Description, Selected Texts, Bibliography and Discography. English World-Wide 34.1, 119-121
2013. Analyzing the BBC Voices data: Contemporary English dialect areas and their characteristic lexical variants. Literary and Linguistic Computing 2013 [with Martijn Wieling]
2012. An Evolving Standard British English Pronunciation Model, in Raymond Hickey, ed. Standards of English: Codified Varieties around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
2012. Modern Regional English in the British Isles, in Lynda Mugglestone, ed., The Oxford History of the English Language. 2nd edition. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 379-414 [1st edition 2006]
2012. The importance of being Janus: Midland speakers and the "North-South Divide", in Manfred Markus, Yoko Iyeiri, Reinhard Heuberger, and Emil Chamson, eds. Middle and Modern English Corpus Linguistics: A Multi-dimensional Approach. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 257-268
2012. Geographical Analysis of the Vernacular. Journal of Information Science 39(1), 26-35 [with John Holliday, Ann Thompson, Jonathan Robinson, and Paul Norman]
2010. Joseph Wright's English Dialect Dictionary and Beyond. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang [ed., with Manfred Markus and Reinhard Heuberger]
2010. Proceedings of Methods XIII: Papers from the Thirteenth International Conference on Methods in Dialectology, 2008. Bamberger Beiträge zur Englischen Sprachwissenschaft 54. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang [ed., with Barry Heselwood]
2010. Designing maps for non-Linguists, in Alfred Lameli, Roland Kehrein, and Stefan Rabanus (eds), An International Handbook of Linguistic Variation, Volume 2: Language Mapping. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 142-157
2010. Language ideological debates on the BBC 'Voices' website: hypermodality in theory and practice, in Sally Johnson and Tommaso Milani, eds, Language Ideologies and Media Discourse: Texts, Practices, Politics. London : Continuum, 223-251 [with Sally Johnson and Tommaso Milani]
2009. 'Mind the Quality, Feel the Width: tolerance(s) in Standard English. Language Issues 20, 2, 26-32
2008. Varieties of English 1: The British Isles. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [ed., with Bernd Kortmann]
2008. Received Pronunciation, in Bernd Kortmann and Clive Upton (eds), Varieties of English 1: The British Isles. Berlin : Mouton de Gruyter, 269-282
2008. Whose Voices?: A hypermodal approach to language ideological debates on the BBC 'Voices' website. Centre for Language and Social Life, Lancaster University: Working Paper 127 [with Sally Johnson and Tomasso Milani]
2007. Introduction to Alan S.C. Ross (1954) Linguistic Class-indicators in Present-Day English, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 1a CVIII, 109-111
2006. An Atlas of English Dialects. 2nd edn. London : Routledge [with J.D.A.Widdowson].
2005. Modelling RP: a variationist case, in Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kolaczky and Joanna Przedlacka (eds), English Pronunciation Models: A Changing Scene. Linguistic Insights Series. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 409-420 [with Lawrence M. Davis and Charles L.Houck]
2004. Leeds 1966: Some early evidence of "new RP"?,
Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 10, 32-39 [with
Lawrence M. Davis and Charles L. Houck]