I'm grateful to my very good friend Sue (not a Scouser) for letting me know about an interview I missed on BBC Radio 4 a couple of days ago (you can listen here) where writer Beryl Bainbridge, herself a Liverpudlian, complained about the 'hideous' Liverpool accent and blamed soap operas such as Brookside for propagating an artificial Scouse accent, that people then copied.
I'm a Liverpudlian, although I haven't lived there for over 30 years. My accent is not unlike that of Beryl Bainbridge ie an educated Liverpool accent. I can tell that Dame Beryl is from Liverpool, although it might not be apparent to others. There are some sounds that we just cannot get rid of, no matter how long ago it is that we lived in Liverpool. One of them is the /r/, which we 'tap' (ie the tip of the tongue quickly taps against the alveolar ridge); in other English accents the sound /r/ is an approximant, ie the tongue makes no contact with any other part of the mouth when it is pronounced. Another is the sound 'o' as in 'no', and, perhaps the most stereotypical, is the 'fair hair' vowel sound (pronounced by people of my generation as 'fur hur').
People usually feel warmly towards a Scottish, Irish or Welsh accent - they often claim such accents sound trustworthy or warm and friendly. City accents such as those in Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast or Birmingham rarely evoke such warm feelings. One of the problems with academic studies of accents is that they typically use working class young men as their subjects, and such people tend to cling on to an accent as part of their identity - and Liverpudlians (I can't speak for others) certainly have a keen sense of identity.
Accents are constantly changing and developing, and soap operas probably aren't the only reason. There is a big difference between the Scouse spoken by today's teenagers and their parents. Cilla Black likes to make a thing about being from Liverpool, but her accent is completely artificial - she is drawing on sounds and expressions used in the 1960s, but not by anyone these days.Kevin Watson, a linguist from Lancaster University, who has researched Scouse, says that 'Scouse is getting Scouser' ie particular features are becoming more pronounced, particularly the lenition of the consonant phonemes /k/ and /t/ (which are pronounced as affricates or fricatives ie like [kh], [x], [ts] or [s]). Scousers clearly see this feature as being a marker of their identity.