An Introduction to Regional Englishes: Dialect Variation in England

An Introduction to Regional Englishes: Dialect Variation in England

An Introduction to Regional Englishes: Dialect Variation in England

An Introduction to Regional Englishes: Dialect Variation in England

Synopsis

Are the dialects of England disappearing in the wake of globalisation and 'Estuary English', or are geographical differences as strong as ever? Joan Beal looks at recent research into regional variation in England, discusses the evidence for 'dialect levelling' and argues that, despite this, features of dialect are still clear markers of regional and local identity. Chapters outlining the main regional differences in accent, dialect grammar and dialect vocabulary are followed by discussions of research into geographical diffusion, levelling, issues of identity and stereotypes. Each chapter is accompanied by either an exercise based on data provided, a data-gathering exercise using methodological tools provided, or an extract from a media article provided to provoke discussion. The book also includes a guide to resources available for the study of regional dialects in England. Features:
• An up-to-date account of research into regional variation in England
• A practical, 'hands on' approach, providing the reader with the methods and resources to carry out research projects
• Includes exercises for use in class.

Excerpt

The first decade of the twenty-first century is an interesting time to be writing a book about local and regional language variation in England. On the one hand, we are constantly hearing that regional dialects are dying out, to be replaced by what has come to be known as ‘Estuary English’, but on the other hand, public interest in regional dialects is keener than ever. From 2005, the BBC Voices project invited listeners and readers of their website (www.bbc.co.uk/voices) to contribute their words for certain concepts, and to take part in activities such as an accent recognition test. By the end of October 2006, 79,302 users of the website had submitted a total of 40,751 words to the Word Map and 90,175 users had started the Accent Recognition test up (BBC Voices team: email communication, 3 November 2006).

In some ways, this apparent contradiction is not surprising: the upsurge of interest in dialects at the very point at which they are perceived to be disappearing could be seen as a rearguard action, similar to the reaction against globalisation and ‘McDonaldisation’ by those who advocate using local shops rather than out-of-town supermarkets. Indeed, the charitable organisation Common Ground, which campaigns for the preservation of ‘local distinctiveness’, explicitly makes this connection. Noting that ‘we all know too many high streets which look the same, housing estates which could be anywhere, fields which have lost both history and birdsong or festivals which have no authenticity’, they include in their definition of elements of ‘local distinctiveness’ those which are ‘ephemeral and invisible’, notably ‘customs, dialects, celebrations, names, recipes, spoken history, myths, legends and symbols’ (www.commonground.org.uk/distinctiveness/d-index.html; see also Clifford and King 2006). Likewise, UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage includes in its definition of the latter ‘oral traditions and expressions, including . . .

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