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. Vocalisation.18

  2. Consonantism...23

  3. 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 dialect31

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 societies.

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 consciousness.

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.

  1. 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)

  1. 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 geographically.

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 London.

  1. 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.

  1. Focal, relic, and transitional areas.

Dialectologists often distinguish between focal areas - which provide sources of numerous important innovations and usually coincide with centres of lively economic or cultural activity - and relic areas - places toward which such innovations are spreading but have not usually arrived. (Relic areas also have their own innovations, which, however, usually extend over a smaller geographical area.)

Relic areas or relic phenomena are particularly common in out-of-the-way regional pockets or along the periphery of a particular languages geographical territory.

The borders of regional dialects often contain transitional areas that share some features with one neighbour and some with the other. Such mixtures result from unequal diffusion of innovations from both sides. Similar unequal diffusion in mixed dialects in any region also may be a consequence of population mixture created by migrations. (9, p.420)

6. Received Pronunciation.

The abbreviation RP (Received Pronunciation) denotes the speech of educated people living in London and the southeast of England and of other people elsewhere who speak in this way. If the qualifier educated be assumed, RP is then a regional (geographical) dialect, as contrasted with London Cockney, which is a class (social) dialect. RP is not intrinsically superior to other varieties of English; it is itself only one particular regional dialect that has, through the accidents of history, achieved more extensive use than others. Although acquiring its unique status without the aid of any established authority, it may have been fostered by the public schools (Winchester, Eton, Harrow and so on) and the ancient universities (Oxford and Cambridge). Other varieties of English are well preserved in spite of the levelling influences of film, television, and radio. (8, p.365)

The ancestral form of RP was well-established over 400 years ago as the accent of the court and the upper classes. The English courtier George Puttenham writing in 1589 thought that the English of nothern men, whether they be noblemen or gentlemen is not so courtly or so current as our Southern English is.

The present-day situation.

Today, with the breakdown of rigid divisions between social classes and the development of the mass media, RP is no longer the preserve of a social elite. It is most widely heard on the BBC; but there are also conservative and trend-setting forms.

Early BBC recordings show how much RP has altered over just a few decades, and they make the point that no accent is immune to change, not even the best. But the most important fact is that RP is no longer as widely used today as it was 50 years ago. Most educated people have developed an accent which is a mixture of RP and various regional characteristics - modified RP, some call it. In some cases, a former RP speaker has been influenced by regional norms; in other cases a former regional speaker has moved in the direction of RP.

  1. Who first called it RP?

The British phonetician Daniel Jones was the first to codify the properties of RP. It was not a label he much liked, as he explains in An Outline of English Phonetics (1980):

I do not consider it possible at the present time to regard any special type as standard or as intrinsically better than other types. Nevertheless, the type described in this book is certainly a useful one. It is based on my own (Southern) speech, and is, as far as I can ascertain, that generally used by those who have been educated at preparatory boarding schools and the Public Schools The term Received Pronunciation is often used to designate this type of pronunciation. This term is adopted here for want of a better. (1960, 9th edn, p.12)

The historical linguist H.C. Wyld also made much use of the term received in A Short History of English (1914):

It is proposed to use the term Received Standard for that form which all would probably agree in considering the best that form which has the widest currency and is heard with practically no variation among speakers of the better class all over the country. (1927, 3rd edn, p.149)

The previous usage to which Jones refers can be traced back to the dialectologist A.J. Ellis, in On Early English Pronunciation (1869):

In the present day we may, however, recognize a received pronunciation all over the country It may be especially considered as the educated pronunciation of the metropolis of the court, the pulpit, and the bar. (p.23)

Even then, there were signs of the future, for he goes on to say:

But in as much as all these localities and professions are recruited from the provinces, there will be a varied thread of provincial utterance running through the whole. (8, p.365)

  1. Social variation.

As for the accents, they refer to the varieties in pronunciation, which convey information about a persons geographical origin. These varieties are partly explained by social mobility and new patterns of settlement. Distinct groups or social formation within the whole may be set off from each other in a variety of ways: by gender, by age, by class, by ethnic identity. Particular groups will tend to have characteristic ways of using the language-characteristic ways of pronouncing it, - for example - and these will help to mark off the boundaries of one group from another. They belong to different social groups and perform different social roles. A person might be identified as a woman, a parent, a child, a doctor, or in many other ways. Many people speak with an accent, which shows the influence of their place of work. Any of these identities can have consequences for the kind of language they use. Age, sex, and socio-economic class have been repeatedly shown to be of importance when it comes to explaining the way sounds, constructions, and vocabulary vary.

I think the best example to show it is the famous play Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw touched upon social classes, speech and social status of people using different types of accents and dialects. One of the ideas was that it is possible to tell from a persons speech not only where he comes from but what class he belongs to. But no matter what class a person belongs to, he can easily change his pronunciation depending on what environment he finds himself in. The heroine Liza aired his views, saying: When a child is brought to a foreign country, it picks up the language in a few weeks, and forgets its own. Well, I am a child in your country. I have forgotten my own language, and can speak nothing but yours. (13, p.64).

So some conclusions about the kinds of social phenomena that influence change through contact with other dialects can be made:

  1. dialects differ from region through the isolation of groups of speakers;

  2. dialects change through contact with other dialects;

  3. the upper classes reinforce Standard English and RP through education.

  1. Dialects of England: Traditional and Modern.

After the retirement of the Romans from the island the invading immigrants were the Jutes, Saxons, Danes and Angles. The Jutes seized Kent, The Isle of Wight and a part of the mainland; the Saxons had all those parts that have now the suffix sex, as Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and Wessex; and the Angles took possession of that tract of the north that has the present terminations land, shire and folk, as Suffolk, Yorkshire, Northumberland. These last afterwards gave the name to the whole island.

Dialects are not to be considered corruption of a language, but as varieties less favoured than the principal tongue of the country. Of the various dialects, it must be borne in mind that the northern countries retain many words now obsolete in current English: these words are of the genuine Teutonic stock. The pronunciation may seem rough and harsh, but is the same as that used by the forefathers; consequently it must not be considered barbarous. The other countries of England differ from the vernacular by a depraved pronunciation.

Awareness of regional variation in England is evident from the fourteenth century, seen in the observation of such writers as Higden/Trevisa or William Caxton and in the literary presentation of the characters in Chaucers Reeves Tale or the Wakefield Second Shepherds Play. Many of the writers on spelling and grammar in the 16th and 17th centuries made comments about regional variation, and some (such as Alexander Gil) were highly systematic in their observants, though the material is often obscured by a fog of personal prejudices.

The picture which emerges from the kind of dialect information obtained by the Survey of English Dialects relates historically to the dialect divisions recognized in Old and Middle English.

The classification of modern dialects presents serious difficulties as their boundaries are rather vague and the language standard more and more invades the spread area of the dialectal speech. One of the most serious attempts at such classification was made by A. Ellis. His classification more or less exactly reflects the dialectal map of modern Great Britain and it was taken as the basis by many dialectologists.

The map below displays thirteen traditional dialect areas (it excludes the western tip of Cornwall and most of Wales, which were not English speaking until the 18th century). A major division is drawn between the North and everywhere else, broadly following the boundary between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia, and a Secondary division is found between much of the Midlands and areas further south. A hierarchal representation of the dialect relationship is shown below. (8, p.324).

Relatively few people in England now speak a dialect of the kind represented above. Although some forms will still be encountered in real life, they are more often found in literary representations of dialect speech and in dialect humour books. The disappearance of such pronunciations, and their associated lexicon and grammar, is sometimes described as English dialects dying out. The reality is that they are more than compensated for by the growth of a range of comparatively new dialect forms, chiefly associated with the urban areas of the country. If the distinguishing features of these dialects are used as the basis of classification, a very different-looking dialect map emerges with 16 major divisions.

Part II. Background of the Cornish language.

The southwestern areas of England include Devonshire, Somersetshire, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Dosertshire. But first of all Id like to draw your attention to the Cornish language as it doesnt exist now.

The History of Cornish.

1. Who are the Cornish?

The Cornish are a Celtic people, in ancient times the Westernmost kingdom of the Dumnonii, the people who inhabited all of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset.

The Cornish are probably the same people who have lived in Cornwall since the introduction of farming around 3000 B.C.. The start of farming in Cornwall may also indicate the start of what some scholars now term proto Indo-European, from whence the Celtic languages along with the Italic and other related groups of languages began evolving.

2. What is a Celtic Language?

Around 2000 B.C., the group of languages now called Celtic languages started to split away from the other members of the Indo-European group of languages. By 1200 B.C. Celtic civilisation, a heroic culture with its own laws and religion is first known. It is from this period that the first king lists and legends are believed to come.

3. How is Cornish Related to other Celtic Languages?

Between 1500 B.C. and the first encounters with the Romans (around 350 B.C.), the Celtic languages are believed to split into two distinct groups, the p and q Celtic branches. Cornish, Welsh and Breton (to which Cornish is most closely related) are the three remaining p Celtic languages. Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx being the q Celtic tongues.

4. The Decline of Cornish.

Cornish developed pretty much naturally into a modern European language until the 17th century, after which it came under pressure by the encroachment of English. Factors involved in its decline included the introduction of the English prayer book, the rapid introduction of English as a language of commerce and most particularly the negative stigma associated with what was considered by Cornish people themselves as the language of the poor.

5. The Rebirth of Cornish.

Cornish died out as a native language in the late 19th century, with the last Cornish speaker believed to have lived in Penwith. By this time however, Cornish was being revived by Henry Jenner, planting the seeds for the current state of the language and it is supposed that the last native speaker was the fishwoman Dolly Pentreath.

6. Standard Cornish.

Standard Cornish was developed from Jenners work by a team under the leadership of Morton Nance, culminating in the first full set of grammars, dictionaries and periodicals. Standard Cornish (Unified) is again being developed through UCR (Unified Cornish Revised), and incorporates most features of Cornish, including allowing for Eastern and Western forms of pronunciation and colloquial and literary forms of Cornish.

7. Who uses Cornish Today?

Today Cornish typically appeals to all age groups and to those either who have an empathy with Cornwall, who have Cornish roots or perhaps have moved to Cornwall from elsewhere. One of the great successes of Cornish today is ifs wide appeal. After a break in native speakers for nearly one hundred years, Cornwall now has many children who now have Cornish as a native language along side English, and many more who are fluent in the language.

8. Government Recognition for Cornish.

Cornish is the only modern Celtic language that receives no significant support from government, despite the growing numbers learning Cornish, and the immense good will towards it from ordinary Cornish people and from elsewhere.

This contrasts strongly with the favourable stand taken by the Manx government towards Manx for example, as evidenced by Manx primary school places being made generally available.

Recently, the UK government scrapped the Cornish GCSE. Lack of Cornish language facilities and support is no longer just a language issue, but is rapidly becoming a civil rights and political issue too. Despite the growing support of councillors in Cornwall, some key individuals in County Hall continue to make clear their hostility to the language.

e.g. of the Cornish language:

Pyw yw an Gernowyon?

Pobel Geltek yw an bobel a Gernow . Yn osow hendasek, an wtas Gorfewenna yn Wtas Dumnonii, neb a dregas yn Kernow, Dewnans ha Gwtas an Haf.

Y hyltyr bos del An Gernowyon a wrug trega yn Kernow hedro an dallath gonys tyr adro 3000 K.C.. An dallath gonys tyr yn Kernow a vo dallath an os proto Yndo-Europek, dres an tavajow Keltek ha tavajow Ytaiek dallath dhe dhysplegya.

Part III. Peculiarities of South-Western Dialects.

1. Vocalisation.




a after w

is realized as [a:]:

wasp [wa:sp]

watch [wa:t