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Dialect Words

H. W. Fowler defines a dialect as "a variety of a language which prevails in a district, with local peculiarities of vocabulary, pronunciation and phrase". [19] England is a small country, yet it has many dialects which have their own distinctive features (e. g. the Lancashire, Dorsetshire, Norfolk dialects).

So dialects are regional forms of English. Standard English is defined by the Random House Dictionary as the English language as it is written and spoken by literate people in both formal and informal usage and that is universally current while incorporating regional differences. [54]

Dialectal peculiarities, especially those of vocabulary, are constantly being incorporated into everyday colloquial speech or slang. From these levels they can be transferred into the common stock, i. e. words which are not stylistically marked (see "The Basic Vocabulary", Ch. 2) and a few of them even into formal speech

and into the literary language. Car, trolley, tram began as dialect words.

A snobbish attitude to dialect on the part of certain educationalists and scholars has been deplored by a number of prominent linguists. E. Partridge writes:

"The writers would be better employed in rejuvenating the literary (and indeed the normal cultured) language by substituting dialectal freshness, force, pithiness, for standard exhaustion, feebleness, long-windedness than in attempting to rejuvenate it with Gallicisms, Germanicisms, Grecisms and Latinisms." [38]

In the following extract from The Good Companions by J. B. Priestley, the outstanding English writer ingeniously and humorously reproduces his native Yorkshire dialect. The speakers are discussing a football match they have just watched. The author makes use of a number of dialect words and grammatical structures and, also, uses spelling to convey certain phonetic features of "broad Yorkshire".

"'Na Jess!' said the acquaintance, taking an imitation calabash pipe out of his mouth and then winking mysteriously.

'Na Jim!' returned Mr. Oakroyd. This 'Na' which must once have been 'Now', is the recognised salutation in Bruddersford,1 and the fact that it sounds more like a word of caution than a word of greeting is by no means surprising. You have to be careful in Bruddersford.

'Well,' said Jim, falling into step, 'what did you think on 'em?'

'Think on 'em!' Mr. Oakroyd made a number of noises with his tongue to show what he thought of them.

1 Bruddersford, the scene of the extract, is easily recognizable as Bradford, Priestley's birthplace.


... 'Ah '11 tell tha7 what it is, Jess,' said his companion, pointing the stem of his pipe and becoming broader in his Yorkshire as he grew more philosophical. 'If t' United1 had less brass2 to lake3 wi', they'd lake better football.'His eyes searched the past for a moment, looking for the team that had less money and had played better football. 'Tha can remember when t' club had niwer4 set eyes on two thousand pahnds, when t' job lot wor not worth two thahsand pahnds, pavilion and all, and what sort of football did they lake then? We know, don't we? They could gi' thee1 summat5 worth watching then. Nah, it's all nowt,6 like t' ale an' baccy7 they ask so mich8 for — money fair thrawn away, ah calls it. Well, we mun9 'a' wer teas and get ower it. Behave thi-sen/10 Jess!' And he turned away, for that final word of caution was only one of Bruddersford's familiar good-byes.

'Ay,11 replied Mr. Oakroyd dispiritedly. 'So long, Jim!'"

1 tha (thee) — the objective case of thou; 2 brass — money; 3 to lake — to play; 4 nivver — never; 5 summat — something; 6 nowt — nothing; 7 baccy — tobacco; 8 mich — much; 9 тип — must; 10 thi-sen (= thy-self) — yourself; 11 ay(e) — yes.


I. Consider your answers to the following.

1.What determines the choice of stylistically
marked words in each particular situation?

2. In what situations are informal words used?

3. What are the main kinds of informal words? Give
a brief description of each group.

1 United — the name of a football team.

ther approached a farmer who was standing nearby and asked: "Can we take this road to Sheffield?" The farmer eyed the car and its contents sourly, then: "Aye, you mun as well, you've takken nigh everything else around here."

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