An Atlas of English Dialects

An Atlas of English Dialects

An Atlas of English Dialects

An Atlas of English Dialects

Synopsis

Written in a style that is accessible and to the non-specialist, this book presents the findings of the Survey of English Dialects at Sheffield University. An introductory essay sets the work in context, both historically and linguistically. The 90 maps are divided into 3 groups, lexical (the largest section), phonological, and grammatical. Detailed commentaries provide clear and accessible information on the linguistic, historical and cultural significance of words. Indexes aid the reader in identifying technical linguistic terms, and help locate information.

Excerpt

There can be no doubt that pure dialect speech is rapidly disappearing even in country districts, owing to the spread of education, and to modern facilities of intercommunication. The writing of this grammar was begun none too soon, for had it been delayed another twenty years I believe it would by then be quite impossible to get together sufficient pure dialect material to enable any one to give even a mere outline of the phonology [pronunciation] of our dialects as they existed at the close of the nineteenth century.

This was written by Joseph Wright in the Preface to The English Dialect Grammar, which was part of the six-volume English Dialect Dictionary that he published between 1898 and 1905. Although it should not be inferred from this comment that he believed the dialects which were changing in his day had until that point remained unchanged from those which had existed in former times, Wright is making an important point. Improved communications and increasing social mobility were causing an acceleration in the pace of dialectal change at the time in which he was writing, with the result that many ancient speech forms were disappearing from even the most conservative, isolated rural areas. Consequently the collecting and analysis upon which Wright was engaged has proved invaluable to students of English linguistic history, and it could not be replicated today.

But there is also in Wright's comment a suggestion that English dialect study beyond the 1920s would be a less rewarding occupation than it had been for Wright himself. That this has not proved to be so is demonstrated by the many studies of language variety which have been and are being carried out by individuals and institutions. The subject which Wright did so much to make popular and academically 'respectable' now has followers studying, for example, 'traditional' regional dialects such as those which are the subject of this book, the dialects of the cities, the dialects of ethnic minorities, occupational dialects, and the relationships between dialect and social class or gender.

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