Gary Ives Bradford Study

Social factors such as age, gender, class, ethnicity, occupation and region can influence a person's language use. Linguists have carried out studies for each social factor to look at the language differences associated with social differences.

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Gary Ives Bradford Study


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Social factors such as age, gender, class, ethnicity, occupation and region can influence a person's language use. Linguists have carried out studies for each social factor to look at the language differences associated with social differences.

One of these linguistic studies is Gary Ives’ 2014 Bradford study on language and ethnicity. This article will give an overview of Ives’ study and then look at:

  • The reasoning for the study

  • The participants

  • The study results

  • Code-switching

  • Accent and dialect use of the participants

  • Language and age

  • Criticisms of the study.

Gary Ives 2014 Study

Gary Ives is well known for his work in sociolinguistics and has released works on Language and Power1 and language and code-switching2.

Code-switching is when a speaker swaps between two or more languages, dialects or registers within a single conversation.

In 2014, Ives carried out two studies, one in Bradford (West Yorkshire) and one in London. These two studies explore the relationship between language and ethnicity in teens with emphasis on the use of code-switching.

Today we're going to look at the Bradford study.

Gary Ives Bradford Study, Bradford, StudySmarterThe Bradford Study took place in, you guessed it, Bradford!

If you want to read up on Ives's London study, you can find an explanation on StudySmarter.

Gary Ives' West Yorkshire Study

Ives’ carried out a study in Bradford, West Yorkshire to look at the occurrence of code-switching between two languages: English and Punjabi. Punjabi is a South Asian language predominantly spoken in India and Pakistan. This differed from his London study where the participants were of a wider range of ethnicities and spoke a wider range of languages.

The aim of the study was to ascertain the level of conscious decision making and the reasoning behind the participants’ conscious code-switching.

Conscious code-switching: when someone chooses to speak in a different language, dialect, or register. Conscious code-switching is usually influenced by who the speaker is talking to and who the audience is.

Let’s have a look at the data collection process and the participants in the study before looking at the findings.

Data Collection

Qualitative data was collected through interviews and discussions.

Qualitative data is descriptive data that focuses on the whys and hows of human behaviour; it is usually collected through interviews, open-ended questionnaires, and observations. Qualitative data is richer, less easy to quantify and more subjective (open to interpretation) than quantitative data.

The interviews and discussions were informal and conversational and were used to ask the participants about how they speak.

The Participants

The main participants in this study comprised eight teenage boys. Most of them identified as Pakistani (specifically Mirupi, from Mirpur) although they were all born in the UK.

Ives also spoke to other teenage groups in Bradford, including groups of girls. However, the interviews with these other groups were not the main focus of the study.

Results From Ives' Bradford Study Interviews

When Ives asked the boys why they speak how they do, they gave answers such as:

  • 'it's the way we were born'

  • 'it's where we live'

  • 'it's natural'

  • 'everyone speaks like this'

When questioned further, more detailed answers were given such as:

  • 'We mix Punjabi and English'

  • 'It's all about our area'

  • 'You might say something to someone from the same country but they won't understand'

  • 'We might speak English to mum and dad but with our friends add in Punjabi'

  • 'Other people don't understand what you're saying... we use a different language so they don't know what you're saying... that isn't between a white person and a Pakistani person but from Pakistani to Pakistani... there are different types from different areas'2

The boys stated that they also had particular slang terms that they felt contributed to their group identity. Some of these were:

  • Sick

  • Heavy munch

  • Shotta

  • Swag

  • Bare Blown

  • Killed it

What do you think these answers show about the boys’ identity and views of language?

Here are some conclusions you could draw:

  • The boys strongly identify with their ethnicity.
  • They show their ethnicity and identity through language.
  • They use language as a tool to create a group identity.

So, what did Ives conclude about the boys’ use of code-switching?

Code-Switching in Gary Ives' Bradford study

Ives collated the data and concluded:

  • Code-switching was a conscious choice made by the participants.

  • Code-switching was used to show group identity among Punjabi speakers.

  • Code-switching was used to exclude those who didn’t speak Punjabi or who were of different ethnicities.

When did the boys use code-switching?

The boys in the study code-switched when they were:

  • Swearing - for example, using the Punjabi terms for the words 'wh*re,' 'b*stard' and 'b*tch.'

  • Wanting to exclude particular listeners

Gary Ives Bradford Study, Pakistani flag, StudySmarterThe Pakistani boys that Ives interviewed used code-switching for various reasons.

Code-switching in the other participants

Ives’ Bradford study also showed the approach to code-switching in another group of teens. This was in a group of girls, where only one was of an ethnic minority. Only this girl had the option to code-switch as she spoke a second language (Gujurati) while the others didn’t.

This participant did not tend to code-switch, especially not while conversing with her group of friends. The reasons for this were:

  • If she did code-switch, no one in her group of friends would be able to understand her.

  • Code-switching would potentially cause her to be excluded from her group of friends.

Accent and Dialect in Gary Ives' Bradford Study

Before we discuss accent and dialect in Gary Ives' study, we need to know the difference between the two terms.

Accent: the specific way people pronounce a language. Accents are usually specific to countries, regions, and social groups.

Dialect: the everyday language someone uses that differs from the standard form. Dialects are considered language varieties and can have their own accents, vocabulary, and grammar.

Both accent and dialect are notable factors in Ives’ Bradford study.

The group of boys interviewed in Bradford stated that they use accent to:

  • Distinguish themselves from others

  • To emphasise their group identity.

They stated they did this to distance themselves from people they called the 'freshies.'

'Freshies' was used by the boys to refer to people who were born in Pakistan and have moved to England. This differs from the participants who were born in England and identify as British Asian.

The group of boys made it clear that they didn't discriminate against 'freshies,' but that they just didn't feel connected to them or their accent.

The eight boys interviewed also gave their views of local Bradford accents. They defined local accents per postcode, stating that BD8 (the area postcode) was a 'street' accent and that BD22 was 'different and posh'.

We can better understand the distinction between these accents if we understand the area of each of these postcodes:

  • BD8 is a built-up area near the centre of Bradford where there is a high South-Asian population.

  • BD22 is an area further out from the centre of Bradford that is characterised by large expanses of countryside and small, more historic, villages with a larger white British population.

Language and Age in Gary Ives' Bradford Study

Ives also used this study to look at language and age. Alongside the interviews he conducted with the teenagers, he also carried out some interviews and discussions with adult participants. These participants were two teachers at the same school and also of Pakistani ethnicity.

The adults said they used Punjabi in their conversational chat through code-switching, much like the teens did.

This suggests that code-switching among these participants was not influenced by age. Instead, code-switching is dependent on ethnicity and the ethnicity of the audience.

Now that we’ve got to grips with the study, let’s have a look at some criticisms of it.

Criticism of Gary Ives' Bradford Study

Although Gary Ives' Bradford study gives clear findings regarding language, ethnicity and code-switching, there are criticisms that can be made of it.

Can you think of any potential criticisms for this study?

The two main criticisms of this study are:

  • The sample size is too small

  • There isn’t enough variation within the participants

Let’s look at these two criticisms in more detail.

Sample size

The main sample of participants in this study comprised eight teenage boys. Ives also focussed on one teenage girl and two adults. Altogether, this is just eleven participants. As linguistic studies go, this is a very small sample size. Most linguistic studies will aim to have a three-figure sample size to ensure representative data.

Gary Ives Bradford study Image of participants StudySmarterA larger sample size would have given more representative data.

Variation within the sample

All of the participants that were focused on in this study were from the same area, mostly male, mostly teenagers and most of the same ethnic background. This means the sample has little variation within the participants of the study, potentially causing skewed and unreliable results.

Skewed results: results that have been changed or altered by a factor not accounted for either in the data collection process or the data analysis.

Can you list some ways in which the sample’s variation of participants could be improved?

Ways of improving participant variation in the sample

If the sample size was increased, a greater amount of factors could be accounted for in the study. This would allow greater variation in the participants, giving a truer representation of the use of language and code-switching among speakers in Bradford.

The participants could be more varied by involving:

  • Speakers from different areas within Bradford – especially from the areas with the two postcodes referenced by the boys in the study (BD8 and BD22).

  • Greater comparison between male and female speakers – equal numbers of male and female participants would give clearer insights into code-switching and gender.

  • Speakers of different ethnic backgrounds – is code-switching used in the same way among other ethnicities?

  • Larger selection of speakers of different ages.

Gary Ives Bradford Study - Key Takeaways

  • Gary Ives carried out two studies in 2014, one in London and one in Bradford, to look at code-switching.
  • In Ives' Bradford study, the main participants were a group of eight teenage boys mostly of British Asian nationality.
  • The boys used code-switching to mix the languages of English and Punjabi.
  • The boys mainly code-switched to Punjabi when swearing or when they wanted to use 'secret' language and exclude listeners.
  • Ives also interviewed some adults of the same ethnic background as the boys and found code-switching was not dependent on age.


  1. G. Ives and R. Rana. Language and Power. 2018.
  2. M. Giovanelli, G. Ives, J. Keen, R. Rana and R. Rudman. English Language A/AS Level for AQA Student Book. pp. 54-55. 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gary Ives Bradford Study

Gary Ives is a linguist well known for his 2014 studies that looked at code-switching in Bradford and London.

Some linguistic studies have shown age to have an affect on language differences between different speakers. Gary Ives' 2014 study in Bradford, however, shows that the occurrence of code-switching in speakers' language is not age-dependent.

Ives' 2014 Bradford study showed that people's use of code-switching was strongly related to their ethnic identity.

Gary Ives carried out his studies in Bradford and London in 2014.

In linguistics, code-switching is when speakers alternate between two or more languages, dialects, or registers within a single interaction.

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