. Regional variation of pronunciation in the south-west of England

Regional variation of pronunciation in the south-west of England






Part I. The Specific Features of dialects

1. What is the dialect?4

2. Geographic dialects5

3. Dialectal change and diffusion...5

4. Unifying influences on dialects..8

5. Focal, relic, and transitional areas..9

6. Received Pronunciation.9

7. Who first called it PR?.10

8. Social Variation11

9. Dialects of England: Traditional and Modern..12

Part II. Background to the Cornish Language

1. Who are the Cornish?...15

2. What is a Celtic Language?.15

3. How is Cornish Related to other Celtic Languages?...15

4. The Decline of Cornish15

5. The Rebirth of Cornish16

6. Standard Cornish..16

7. Who uses Cornish Today?...16

8. Government Recognition for Cornish..16

Part III. Peculiarities of South-Western Dialects


1. Consonantism...23

2. Grammar..27

3.1 Nouns.27

3.2 Gender27

3.2.1 Gender making in Wessex-type English.27

3.3 Numerals29

3.4 Adjectives...29

.5 Pronouns.30

3.5.1 Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns

in a Devonshire


3.6 Verbs...39

3.7 Adverbs...42

3.8 Transitivity and intransivity in the dialects

of South-West England...44

4. Vocabulary..52





The modern English language is an international language nowadays. It

is also the first spoken language of such countries as Australia, New

Zealand, Canada, South Africa.

But in the very United Kingdom there are some varieties of it, called

dialects, and accents.

The purpose of the present research paper is to study the

characteristic features of the present day dialect of the South-Western

region in particular.

To achieve this purpose it is necessary to find answers to the

following questions:

- What is the dialect?

- Why and where is it spoken?

- How does it differ from the standard language?

Methods of this research paper included the analysis of works of the

famous linguists and phoneticians as Peter Trudgill and J.K. Chambers,

Paddock and Harris, J.A. Leuvensteijn and J.B. Berns, M.M. Makovsky and

D.A. Shakhbagova, and also the needed information from Britannica and the

encyclopedia by David Crystal and the speech of the native population of

Devonshire and Wiltshire.

Structurally the paper consists of three parts focused on the

information about the dialect in general and the ways it differs from the

standard language (its phonetic, grammar and other linguistic differences),

and the specific features of the South-West of England.

The status of the English language in the XXth century has undergone

certain changes. Modern English has become a domineering international

language of nowadays.

PART I. The Specific Features of dialects.

1. What is the dialect?

Dialect is a variety of a language. This very word comes from the

Ancient Greek dialectos discourse, language, dialect, which is derived

from dialegesthai to discourse, talk. A dialect may be distinguished from

other dialects of the same language by features of any part of the

linguistic structure - the phonology, morphology, or syntax.

The label dialect, or dialectal, is attached to substandard speech,

language usage that deviates from the accepted norm. On the other hand the

standard language can be regarded as one of the dialects of a given

language. In a special historical sense, the term dialect applies to a

language considered as one of a group deriving from a common ancestor, e.g.

English dialects. (9, p.389)

It is often considered difficult to decide whether two linguistic

varieties are dialects of the same language or two separate but closely

related languages; this is especially true of dialects of primitive


Normally, dialects of the same language are considered to be mutually

intelligible while different languages are not. Intelligibility between

dialects is, however, almost never absolutely complete; on the other hand,

speakers of closely related languages can still communicate to a certain

extent when each uses his own mother tongue. Thus, the criterion of

intelligibility is quite relative. In more developed societies, the

distinction between dialects and related languages is easier to make

because of the existence of standard languages and, in some cases, national


There is the term vernacular among the synonyms for dialect; it

refers to the common, everyday speech of the ordinary people of a region.

The word accent has numerous meanings; in addition to denoting the

pronunciation of a person or a group of people (a foreign accent, a

British accent, a Southern accent). In contrast to accent, the term

dialect is used to refer not only to the sounds of language but also to its

grammar and vocabulary.

2. Geographic dialects.

The most widespread type of dialectal differentiation is geographic.

As a rule, the speech of one locality differs from that of any other place.

Differences between neighbouring local dialects are usually small, but, in

travelling farther in the same direction, differences accumulate.

Every dialectal feature has its own boundary line, called an isogloss

(or sometimes heterogloss). Isoglosses of various linguistic phenomena

rarely coincide completely, and by crossing and interweaving they

constitute intricate patterns on dialect maps. Frequently, however, several

isoglosses are grouped approximately together into a bundle of isoglosses.

This grouping is caused either by geographic obstacles that arrest the

diffusion of a number of innovations along the same line or by historical

circumstances, such as political borders of long standing, or by migrations

that have brought into contact two populations whose dialects were

developed in noncontiguous areas. (9, p.396)

Geographic dialects include local ones or regional ones. Regional

dialects do have some internal variation, but the differences within a

regional dialect are supposedly smaller than differences between two

regional dialects of the same rank.

In a number of areas (linguistic landscapes) where the dialectal

differentiation is essentially even, it is hardly justified to speak of

regional dialects. This uniformity has led many linguists to deny the

meaningfulness of such a notion altogether; very frequently, however,

bundles of isoglosses - or even a single isogloss of major importance -

permit the division, of a territory into regional dialects. The public is

often aware of such divisions, usually associating them with names of

geographic regions or provinces, or with some feature of pronunciation.

Especially clear-cut cases of division are those in which geographic

isolation has played the principal role. (9, p.397)

3. Dialectal change and diffusion.

The basic cause of dialectal differentiation is linguistic change.

Every living language constantly changes in its various elements. Because

languages are extremely complex systems of signs, it is almost

inconceivable that linguistic evolution could affect the same elements and

even transform them in the same way in all regions where one language is

spoken and for all speakers in the same region. At first glance,

differences caused by linguistic change seem to be slight, but they

inevitably accumulate with time (e.g. compare Chaucers English with modern

English). Related languages usually begin as dialects of the same language.

When a change (an innovation) appears among only one section of the

speakers of a language, this automatically creates a dialectal difference.

Sometimes an innovation in dialect A contrasts with the unchanged usage

(archaism) in dialect B. Sometimes a separate innovation occurs in each of

the two dialects. Of course, different innovations will appear in different

dialects, so that, in comparison with its contemporaries, no one dialect as

a whole can be considered archaic in any absolute sense. A dialect may be

characterized as relatively archaic, because it shows fewer innovations

than the others; or it may be archaic in one feature only. (9, p.415)

After the appearance of a dialectal feature, interaction between

speakers who have adopted this feature and those who have not leads to the

expansion of its area or even to its disappearance. In a single social

milieu (generally the inhabitants of the same locality, generation and

social class), the chance of the complete adoption or rejection of a new

dialectal feature is very great; the intense contact and consciousness of

membership within the social group fosters such uniformity. When several

age groups or social strata live within the same locality and especially

when people speaking the same language live in separate communities

dialectal differences are easily maintained.

The element of mutual contact plays a large role in the maintenance

of speech patterns; that is why differences between geographically distant

dialects are normally greater than those between dialects of neighbouring

settlements. This also explains why bundles of isoglosses so often form

along major natural barriers - impassable mountain ranges, deserts,

uninhabited marshes or forests, or wide rivers - or along political

borders. Similarly, racial or religious differences contribute to

linguistic differentiation because contact between members of one faith or

race and those of another within the same area is very often much more

superficial and less frequent than contact between members of the same

racial or religious group. An especially powerful influence is the

relatively infrequent occurrence of intemarriages, thus preventing

dialectal mixture at the point where it is most effective; namely, in the

mother tongue learned by the child at home. (9, p.417)

The fact that speech, in particular, can give such a clear answer to

the question Where are you from? exercises a peculiar fascination, and

the terms dialect and accent are a normal part of everyday vocabulary. We

can notice regional differences in the way people talk, laugh at dialect

jokes, enjoy dialect literature and folklore and appreciate the point of

dialect parodies.

At the same time - and this is the paradox of dialect study - we can

easily make critical judgements about ways of speaking which we perceive as

alien. These attitudes are usually subconscious.

The study of regional linguistic variation is very important. The more

we know about regional variation and change in the use of English, the more

we will come to appreciate the individuality of each of the varieties which

we call dialects, and the less we are likely to adopt demeaning stereotypes

about people from other parts of the country.

As for the United Kingdom until 1700 the small population was sparsely

distributed and largely rural and agricultural, much as it had been in

medieval times. From the mid-18th century, scientific and technological

innovations created the first modern industrial state, while, at the same

time, agriculture was undergoing technical and tenurial changes and

revolutionary improvements in transport made easier the movement of

materials and people. As a result, by the first decade of the 19th century,

a previously mainly rural population had been largely replaced by a nation

made up of industrial workers and town dwellers.

The rural exodus was a long process. The breakdown of communal farming

started before the 14th century; and subsequently enclosures advanced

steadily, especially after 1740, until a century later open fields had

virtually disappeared from the landscape. Many of the landless agricultural

labourers so displaced were attracted to the better opportunities for

employment and the higher wage levels existing in the growing industries;

their movements, together with those of the surplus population produced by

the contemporary rapid rise in the birth rate, resulted in a high volume of

internal migration that took the form of a movement toward the towns.

Industry, as well as the urban centres that inevitably grew up around

it, was increasingly located near the coalfields, while the railway

network, which grew rapidly after 1830, enhanced the commercial importance

of many towns. The migration of people especially young people, from the

country to industrialized towns took place at an unprecedented rate in the

early railway age, and such movements were relatively confined


Soon after World War I, new interregional migrations flow commenced

when the formerly booming 19th-century industrial and mining districts lost

much of their economic momentum. Declining or stagnating heavy industry in

Clydeside, northeastern England, South Wales, and parts of Lancashire and

Yorkshire swelled the ranks of the unemployed, and the consequent outward

migration became the drift to the relatively more prosperous Midlands and

southern England. This movement of people continued until it was arrested

by the relatively full employment conditions that obtained soon after the

outbreak of World War II.

In the 1950-s, opportunities for employment in the United Kingdom

improved with government sponsored diversification of industry, and this

did much to reduce the magnitude of the prewar drift to the south. The

decline of certain northern industries - coal mining shipbuilding, and

cotton textiles in particular - had nevertheless reached a critical level

by the late 1960s, and the emergence of new growth points in the West

Midlands and southwestern England made the drift to the south a continuing

feature of British economic life. Subsequently, the area of most rapid

growth shifted to East Anglia, the South West, and the East Midlands. This

particular spatial emphasis resulted from the deliberately planned movement

of people to the New Towns in order to relieve the congestion around


4. Unifying influences on dialects.

Communication lines such as roads (if they are at least several

centuries old), river valleys, or seacoasts often have a unifying

influence. Also important urban centres often form the hub of a circular

region in which the same dialect is spoken. In such areas the prestige

dialect of the city has obviously expanded. As a general rule, those

dialects, or at least certain dialectal features, with greater social

prestige tend to replace those that are valued lower on the social scale.

In times of less frequent contact between populations, dialectal

differences increase, in periods, of greater contact, they diminish. Mass

literacy, schools, increased mobility of populations, and mass

communications all contribute to this tendency.

Mass migrations may also contribute to the formation of a more or less

uniform dialect over broad geographic areas. Either the resulting dialect

is that of the original homeland of a particular migrating population or it

is a dialect mixture formed by the levelling of differences among migrants

from more than one homeland. The degree of dialectal differentiation

depends to a great extent on the length of time a certain population has

remained in a certain place.

5. Focal, relic, and transitional areas.

Dialectologists often distinguish between focal areas - which provide

sources of numerous important innovations and usually coincide with centres

: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8