Today is a strange day. It’s the second of May that I’m writing this, and I’ve just handed my dissertation in. All 9716 words of it, finished! Completed. When you go to university the pinnacle moment is seen as the dissertation. The time when all the knowledge you’ve gained goes into one, long, stressful piece of work. That at the time of writing, you hate, despise, and want gone. But once it’s written you feel this odd sense of love and pride for. Handing it over today to a lady I’ve never met, who just took it away as a piece of paper, felt so insignificant and unmonumental that the last year at university leading up to it felt like the hard work had almost been for nothing, whilst I dreamt of the day I handed it in after late nights of stress and dreams of figure tables.
But it wasn’t for nothing, of course. I spent most of my Christmas holidays stressing over it, and bothering all my friends and relatives to ask if I could take 30 minutes out of their time to interview them to listen to their lovely accents. At the time of interviewing I wasn’t able to tell them the full ins and outs of why I was interviewing them and what the point was. But after I interviewed them I could say. I was interviewing them to gather ‘natural’ data of their accents, to determine whether the dialects (accents) of Devon and Cornwall – of my home counties are being kept alive, and to see whether I could say for definite whether which one was stronger.
I can conclusively say that our local dialects (in Devon and Cornwall) are being kept alive by our integration into social networks, so if you want to keep the accent alive in the future (all you lovely South Western people reading this), stay involved in your community! Yes, the accents may be stronger in the older generation and in Devon, sorry Kernow! (my data proves this) but it is still well and truly alive – even in the younger people I interviewed!
When you have to decide on a dissertation subject, they tell you to pick something you love because you’ll be doing it for a long time! It’s SO true! My mum and I were shopping in Bodmin one day when we couldn’t decide if the lady serving us was Devonian or Cornish, and voila, my dissertation idea was born! Studying language, I decided to see if there was a difference in dialects between Devon (my home county) and Cornwall (I spend A LOT of time there) and whether these accents are being maintained. And because it was a topic related to me personally it didn’t always feel like hard work as I wanted to really know the answer!
Of course, it was hard work! I wrote nearly 10,000 words on it for goodness sake! But I was so passionate about it that it didn’t matter! Yes, there were tears when my laptop crashed and lost a whole days work on it, or when I kept dreaming I failed it or was scrolling though figure tables in my sleep. But looking at it printed and bound, it felt like a baby! So handing it over to a stranger to take away felt odd.
So my advice to anyone in their second year of university, and trying to choose a topic to write about, no matter your subject, is to find something you love, or want to find out! It makes the ordeal so much easier, as it is a whole year of your life studying one topic! A labour of love. Yes, you will want to throw in the towel, chuck it in the bin, bury your head in the sand and just drop out. Eat a tonne of chocolate (no I’m not exaggerating). But when it’s done, there is no better feeling! And knowing you did it on something you really care about makes it all the more satisfying. So my dissertation is done, completed, finito! I can honestly say without the support of my friends at uni and my wonderful family I wouldn’t have been able to get this done. And of course to the lovely people who gave me their time to interview, I thank you all so much, some of whom I hope are reading this! You and your wonderful Devonian/Cornish accents, I have loved listening to and analysing! I couldn’t have done it without you, honestly!