Pecuralarities of using dialectisms in modern British poetry

Definition of Dialect and Standard English. Reasons of using dialect in text and speech. Peculiarities of using English dialects in the different regions of England. Utilization Dialecticisms in ancient Poetry and Dialect in modern English poetry.

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Pecuralarities of using dialectisms in modern British poetry



1. Representation of Dialect in Language and in Text

1.1 Definition of Dialect and Standard English

1.2 Peculiarities of using English dialects in the different regions of England

1.3 Reasons of using dialect in text and speech

2. Dialect in English Poetry

2.1 Utilization Dialecticisms in ancient Poetry

2.2 Dialect in Classical poetry

3. Dialect in modern English poetry

dialect england poetry


Modern English language is one of Germanic Languages (it belongs to West Germanic group). This language is native for 410 million people and more than 1 billion people speak this language. It is official language of the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and it is the official language for 15 African countries (the Republic of South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania). In addition, this language is one of the official languages of the UN.

English language originated from the ancient German language. German tribes resettled from the continent to Britain in V-VI century. This interaction of the tribes' dialects resulted in formation of the territorial dialects.

It is rather difficult to draw a line between the nation language variant and the notion dialect, because both these notions can be described as a variant of the pronunciation, which is specific for a particular group of people. However, the main distinction is that some variants of the language have become separate languages, which happens very rarely.

There is a point of view that dialect is a vulgar speech, which is used by uneducated people. However, it is not true, because literature norm consists of dialectical words.

According to the title of this graduation paper it will be considered several aspects of using dialectical words in modern English poetry.

It is well known that Literature language can not develop in an isolation from spoken language and dialect. Dialectical words penetrate in literature language and supply it with new words and meanings. Dialectical words have added new items to English language and, in some cases, have replaced literature words. This aspects show a close connection of literature language and dialect and at the same time such connection of literature language and dialect gives new opportunities for English language. Dialectical words have more stylistically colored meaning, than standard words. This makes literature and especially poetry more colorful and vivid.

Striving of dialect for equality with literature language highlights the fact that dialect should exist in written form. Such transmission of dialect from verbal form to written is not typical for all dialects in the word and it emphasizes the fact that English dialects are unique. Thus, poetry with different dialectical words reflects relations between dialect and literature language. Hence, the aims of this graduation paper are connected with peculiarities of using English dialects in connection with spoken and literature language.

So, the aims of the research of this graduation paper are to study peculiarities of using dialectical words in English poetry. For achievement these aims we should answer such questions as:

The object of research is specified language phenomena and their un\importance. Thus we can formulate the object of the work which is the vocabularies of the English language varieties in English poetry. In this graduation paper, the following methods were used: conceptual and interpretational analysis, the method of linguistic description, as well as elements of the contrastive method. Theoretical value of the graduation paper consists that the subject, despite its study gives a priceless and inexhaustible material not only for penetration into the deep layers of the language, but it gives an opportunity to evaluate and understand peculiarities of formation and development of language, its literary norm and its dialect. So, study of dialects gives an opportunity to understand not only deviation from the grammatical and phonetic norm, but also it gives an opportunity to understand why the author used a non-standard word. Practical significance of this graduation paper is in fact that acquaintance with dialects is one of the most important item in teaching foreign language. Because we constantly face with usage of dialect structures in oral and written speech, so, we should not simply understand them, but also be able to explain distinctions to pupils and British poetry can help in this question.

1. Representation of Dialect in Language and in Text

1.1 Definition of Dialect and Standard English

English belongs to a West Germanic language originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects that were brought by Germanic settlers from Northern Germany and Northern Netherlands. In addition, English language is on of the languages from Indo- European group. Nowadays this language is described as the global lingua franka or international language. Therefore, value of this language cannot be overestimated.

Lexica of Modern English language is divided into two main groups: Standard English and different dialects. Standard English consists of words which belong to different areas of modern society, like words from political, economic, cultural areas. Different scientists and linguists have various points of view on definition of Standard English and Dialect. Some of them consider that Standard English is a set of grammatical and lexical forms which is typically used in speech and writing by educated native speakers [7]. While the other distinct Standard English as a simple one dialect that has acquired more importance than the other dialects [2]. Using of such words has not limits. Hence Standard English is a formal variety of language which is used as the official language of The United Kingdom.

According to the research of Russian scientist Makovskij dialect is a territorial, temporal or social variety of language and it is used by a relatively small group of people and has a system, which differs from Standard English by its grammar, vocabulary, phonetics and other features. Each dialect realizes oneself in a group of people. In addition, this word -dialect came from the Ancient Greek “dialektos” which means “discourse, language, dialect”. In addition, this word is derived from “dialegesthai” which means “discourse, talk”.

In addition, “The Encyclopedia Britannica” defines Dialect as a variety of language where person comes from or as the smallest variety of language. Dialect has many variations. They are social dialects, specific technical words or terms, colloquial or slang words. For example, there is a definition for social dialect in “The Encyclopedia Britannica”. Social dialect is a variety of language, which is associated with a social group (for example with social class), and it can contain several groups as specific technical words (occupational dialects) and colloquial or slang words.

In addition, according to The Great Soviet Encyclopedia dialectal words can be devided into several groups: phonetic dialectisms, word-formation dialectisms, and lexical dialectisms. Besides, lexical dialectisms may be of several types:

1. Actually lexical. Words which coincide with common-literary on value but differ the sound complex. They are called as actually lexical dialecticisms,. Such dialectisms have the same concepts, as words of the literary language.They are identical to them and they can be synonyms to words of the literary language.

2. Lexico-semantic. The words coinciding in writing and a pronunciation with literary, but different from them by the value, are called as lexico-semantic dialecticisms.

3. Ethnographic. Words , which are also widespread only in a certain dialect, are called as ethnographic dialecticisms and reflect local features of labor activity, of life and so on.

In the bulk, dialectal words are not a component of common-literary lexicon. Though, through informal conversation (especially through popular speech) dialecticisms get into the literary language.

In this table, it can be seen a gradation from Literary Standard to the lowest layer of Substandard Speech:





Low colloquial



Jargon, cant, vulgar

In addition, we can see a place, which Low colloquial words possess. It is very important because in this graduation paper I will consider English poetry with low colloquial words.

Therefore, Standard English takes the first place in English language. However, people of other countries cannot have the complete concept of English culture and its system of language without knowledge of its dialects. Consequently, it would be impossible for such people to read modern or ancient English literature in the original and especially English poetry, where author puts a special meaning practically in every word.

1.2 Peculiarities of using English dialects in the different regions of England

There are several regional dialects in Modern England. They are Northern (Yorkshire, Lancashire dialects and other), Southern, Midland, Western, Eastern, East Midlands dialects (Coallville) and others.

Classification of modern English regional dialects presents serious difficulties, since their boundaries are characterized by a large fluctuation, and locales are increasingly invading the area of distribution of dialectal speech. This classification is not without drawbacks, it is generally quite accurately reflects the dialect map of modern Britain and adopted as the basis of many dialects. Modern English dialects can be classified as follows:

All these dialects have peculiarities in their phonetic, grammar, lexical and vocabulary system and some of them have written form, which does not available for some languages. For example in Russia language using dialect words in written form is very infrequent, when in England. There can be found whole poems, which are written only on dialects in England.

There are several examples which display distinctions of dialects from Standard English in four `levels'[9]:

Sounds: the pronunciation of, e.g., fish, sing, think, shall in the south-west of England with initial v, z, dh, zh ; the northern and midland use of an oo sound ( as a Standard English put) in words like mother , but

Vocabulary: Gawp `stare', nesh `soft', bonny `pretty', beck `stream' in parts of the north , and midlands: soak `make'(the tea) and bladder `blister' in the south-west; tundish ` funnel', pool `pond', grains `dregs' in the west.

Grammar: the widespread use of the old pronouns thou, thee, thy, etc,, and of hisn, hern, ourrn, yourn, theirn `his, hers, ours, yours, theirs'; the western forms of the verb to be-I be, I bain`t ( I'm not), etc.

Intonation: intonation patterns ( the different ways in which the voice rises and falls) in dialect have not yet been sufficiently studied, but we may draw attention to the very distinctive varieties of these to be found in the north (Tyne and Wear, etc), in East England and in Cornwall.

As it was shown such conversion of common English words and creation of new have diversified English language.

Thus dialecticisms have enriched British English during a long period of time. It became as a stream which has given colors and expressiveness to English language and filled it with different dialecticisms. Subsequently some of dialect words became literary words. For example: boggart (ghost), cadger(borrower), caitiff ( infirm, coward), causey (pavement) [3] abide(to accept, agree), abear (to endure), fardel ( a burden),duck(to bow), hale ( to haul ,to drag),wad(handful of hay) and many others [18].

1.3 Reasons of using dialect in text and speech

Different researches define dialect as a very complex phenomenon which is connected with sex, social group or education. Though none of these researches can give an only answer why people use dialect instead of Standard English in their spoken or written language. Especially, if it is a territorial dialect.

However, there are several points of view on this problem and different scientists give different answers on this question.

According to the book `The English Dialect' by Professor G.L. Brook, an interesting point of view is given on the problem . Professor associates it with person's psychological reasons. He writes:

“Dialect is a subject on which many people have strong views. We have all met dialect enthusiasts who repeat a few dialect words which seem to them to be wonderfully expressive and who seem disappointed or incredulous when their friends do not share their enthusiasm. At the other extreme there is the man who hates dialect and who thinks that anyone who advocates its deliberate use is amiable or mischievous eccentric whose energies should be redirected into more profitable channels. Between these extremes there is the man who announces in a rich regional accent that he used to speak a dialect himself before he abandoned it for Standard English.

Some of this diversity of opinion arises from lack of clear knowledge about the nature of dialect. The dialect enthusiast very often loves dialects in general or one particular dialect not for any linguistic reason but because of the accident of early associations; he loves to hear dialect words or pronunciations because they remind him of his childhood and of friends and relatives who were in the habit of using such expressions. On the other hand hatred of dialect often springs from the mistaken idea that dialect is simply Standard English badly pronounced. At the outset, therefore it is necessary to arrive at definition of the word.”

Consequently there are different reasons for using dialectical words in speech. Therefore, nowadays the importance of dialect is still very high as for linguists as for common people. Though utilization of any dialect in speech can bring difficulties in communication and more over it can divide society into layers and bring confusion in understanding of different forms of text.

However dialect has great influence on language, education and literature. Linguist David Britain , the author of the book `Language in the British Isles' emphasizes that using of dialects in modern British society becomes more and more frequent, because of existence of local native dialects and immigrants who are attracted by the economic development of the country [3].

In addition Professor Labov W. proved that majority of people belongs to lower socioeconomic classes, which means that they use predominantly nonstandard regional features. Professor Labov W. represented this relationship between a social and regional variation by a triangle (Figure 1).

In this triangle we can see that speakers from the upper socioeconomic classes using predominantly standard English features and speakers from the lower socioeconomic classes using more non standard regional features. Consequently, the majority of people use substandard English.

Therefore, it is very important to comprehend clearly, why people use dialecticisms in literature and consequently in poetry, and why it sometimes can be useful to know the particulars of English dialectical words which are used in poetry.

According to the article of J. Beal in the “Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics”[6] : “ Dialects in texts becomes an issue only when the language concerned has been standardized and there is a norm for written usage against which dialects are judged to be deviant or different. Any text written in English before the 15th century is thus written in the dialect of its author and scribe, and , with a few notable exceptions-such as Chaucer's attempt to represent a northern dialect in the ` The reeve's tale'- the deliberate use of dialect representation for comic or other purposes began in the 16 century. By this time, printed works produced anywhere in England were written in standard English, so any deviation in the text from this norm signaled the author's intention to introduce a `provincial' character or some kind of local color, usually for humorous purposes.” Thus, using of dialects in written texts has definite aims and can provide imagery, which gives wide range of opportunities for any author.

Moreover, it is usually intended some kind of readership, including speakers of the dialect, who are more likely both to understand what is being represented and to be willing to make the effort required to decipher an unconventional orthography. After all dialect is considerably, differ from The Standard Language, which cannot only supply for transferring information but also can give emotional expressive tinge to speech or other information.

2. Dialect in English Poetry

2.1 Utilization Dialecticisms in ancient Poetry

As we know standardization of written English began earlier and has proceeded much further than that of spoken English, and consequently English dialects today generally associated with speech much more than with writing. There are however several links between dialect, literature and poetry. In addition, this links will be considered in this graduation paper.

Many linguists and enthusiasts conducted the researches in this sphere.

Professor Brook in his book English dialects points out that problem of dialects in poetry was always complicated, relative especially to ancient poetry. Professor Brook writes in his book:

“The help afforded by the modern dialects in the interpretation of Old and Middle English texts is particularly welcome when an Early English text contains a word which is unique or so rare that its meaning cannot be deduced from the literary contexts in which it occurs.” For understanding the reasons of using dialects in these periods the author cites some instances.

“… the Old English poem Beowulf, where “hrinde bearwas” are described as overhanging a pool”. “Bearwas” means “ woods” or “groves” but “hrinde” is not recorded elsewhere in Old English, and Richard Morris suggested emendation to this word as a contracted form of “ hrimige” in other words rimy. And emendation was widely accepted until the publication of the fifth volum of EDD in 1904. Joseph Wright there showed that in Scottish and Northern English Wright there showed that in Scottish and Northern English dialects a common word for hoar frost is rindy with the same meaning as rimy. He pointed out that emendation is unnecessary: the MS reading hrinde is simply a contraction of hrinde or hrindige, the plural of the adjective hrindige.”[2]

This example demonstrates that sometime dialects can help to understand texts of different periods, in this case of Early English texts. Consequently, that dialecticisms can bring subsidiary sense which could not be realized without knowledge of dialects words. Therefore, it can be available for anyone who is unfamiliar with modern dialects to understand words, which might otherwise puzzle him.

2.2 Dialect in Classical poetry

Furthermore, knowledge of dialect more other cannot only throw the light on comprehension of ancient texts but can aid to understand of Classical English Poems like Shakespeare's plays.

In addition it is very important to notice that Shakespeare's texts, unlike many literary representations of dialect, makes little use of eye dialect. Some researches define his using of dialect as “respelling which reflect no phonetic facts whatsoever, such as `sez' for `says' or `wuz' for `was'” and that Shakespeare often uses dialectical words for giving the impression of lower-class uneducated speech rather than an accurate portrayal of a specific regional dialect. Nevertheless in the following examples from the Hamlet and King Henry Professor Brook proves that Shakespeare used in his works some dialectical words, which can confuse even native Englishman. There are several examples from the book `English dialects' by Professor Brook:

“Hamlet says of the play performed before Claudius: ` This is miching mallecho' it means `mischief '(III. ii.148). The word miching has puzzled many commentators but it is probably from mich ` to play truant from school'. In King Henry V England is described as ` that noo -shotten isle of Albion'(III, v, 14). Modern dialects provide two different meanings that have been used to explain the much-discussed word nook-shooten. In Cheshire the word has the sense `shot into the corner' and is used of cheese put aside from the rest of as inferior. Another north-country sense is ' having many sharp turns and angles' and the word is applied to a house that is all holes and corners. Either of these senses would suit the derogatory use of the word in King Henry V.”

According to these instances the author also wants to emphasize that words which were used in this sentences exist in dialects even now and that dialects can survive in poetry, becoming in general usage now and than.

In addition Professor Brook represents some more examples from Macbeth to prove it :

“ The phrase the baby of girl (III,iv,106) is sometimes taken to mean “ infant of a very young mother “, and is so glossed by C.T.. Onions in A Shakespeare Glossar, but it may be noted that babby is commonly used in dialects in the sense `doll' , and several editors take baby in Macbeth as having that meaning, which suits the context very well. Macbeth speaks of ` the blood brother`d Banquo'(IV,i,123); in Shropshire tangled or unkempt hair is called bautered and in Warwickshire snow is said to balter on horses` feet. The Doctor, after seeing Lady Macbeth sleepwalking, says “My mi`d she has mated, and amaz`d my sight' (V, i.75)the word mated survives in modern dialects with the meaning `confused, bewildered'. Other examples are darkling' in the dark fond `foolish', malkin `slattern', nayword `byword', ort `fragment, especially of food', pick-thank `flatterer, mischief-maker', urchin `hedgehog', yare `ready'.”

After this instances professor Brook emphasizes that: “Sometimes words which have survived in present-day English in different form are used by Shakespeare and his contemporaries in forms which still survives in dialects. Examples are : ballet for ballad, brinded for brindled, crowner for coroner, haviour for behavior, margent for margin, and the verb owe for own.

A number of idiomatic phrases used by Shakespeare are still current in dialects. Examples are ; we burn daylight( Romeo and Juliet, I, iv, 43) ` we light candles before they are needed”, hence used figuratively in the sense” we waste time”: by inchmeal (The Tempest,II,ii,3),'little by little; to make a coil(King John, II,I, 165) ` to make a fuss'; a thing of naught ( A Midsummer Night`s dream,IV,ii, 14) ` a worthless thing'; ha` done ( The Taming of the Shrew, III, ii, 118) ' cease'.

As was shown such dialecticisms were rather frequently used in English literature in 16 century, but for modern English language it is not typical to use them.” The reason lies in the changing of society which influences on the process of formation different systems of language, like vocabulary, grammar and system of semantics. For example, English vocabulary system, which has become mostly liable and there is a complex changing of language. It happens because of the disappearance of craft, social phenomena and other events. Therefore, using of dialect in literature and poetry is rare.

3. Dialect in modern English poetry

Nowadays using of dialects in English poetry is not very frequent, because of disappearance of craft or social phenomena. Nevertheless, there are some authors who write verses with dialtical words and use them in their life. In such poetry, the reader can feel writer's love and proud for his countryand region. An image which is represented in such poetry, is expressive and colorful. It gives an idea of nature, a rural way of life, customs of people, their hopes and feelings.

The devices which are used to represent dialect in non-standard dialect poetry, as a whole, are sometimes, though not always, more sophisticated than those which are used in literary dialect.

Dialectical words can be found practically everywhere in poetry of native poets from Yorkshire, Cornwall, Lancashire, Norfolk, Ireland and in other parts of England.

In this graduation paper will be regarded several poems from different dialects of The United Kingdom for understanding peculiarities which they have .

Yorkshire poetry

Yorkshire is Northern part of the country. It is celebrated by its Yorkshire dialect (Tyke)[9].It is very soften spoken dialect and it is mainly used by farmers. Nowadays, enthusiasts compose verses on this dialect.The verses are notable by the subject which is connected with modern life, memories and other life events.

There are several fiatures which Yorkshire dialect has. They are:

The foot-strut merger. This is a phonetic phenomenon where the vowels /?/ and /u:/ are merged .

Non-rhoticity, except in some rural areas.

The dipthong in words like ''kite'' and ''ride'' is lengthened so that kite can become something like IPA /ka:?t/.

Unique vocabulary

Little Sparrer by Fred Hirst

Little sparrer upon mi windersill

Lookin far crumbs, thi tummy ta fill

Little sparrer, nooah cap, nooah scahrf on thi neck

T'north wind 'll ruffle thi feathers, by 'eck

Little sparrer, nooah socks, nooah booits on thi feet

Surely tha bahn t'a bi bitterly cowd taneet


sparer: sparrow

mi: my

windersill: windowsill

far: for

nooah: no

thi: your

scahrf: scarf

T'north: thorn

by 'eck

tha bahn: you are going

cowd: cold

taneet: skin

In this verse can be found some words which can seem difficult, for example `windersill'. Though this word has very simple translation, which will be understandable if the reader compare its phonetic forms. The meaning of this word is windowsill. Therefore, it is an example of a phonetic dialectal word.

The other words in this poem do not have such difficulties except the last line, where are a grammatical form of the word ''going'' which was specially changed to' (bahn). Besides, the personal pronoun ''you'' (tha) is phonetically changed.

In this example it can be seen that the author's using of dialects is connected with a desire to stand out , to deprive a reader of automatically understanding of the verse, and to make a reader to think and to sympathize with this ''little sparer'', who feels cold and looking for something to eat.

In addition, sometimes authors can use incomprehensible words which even native English speaker can not understand, because of the lack of knowledge in dialect. For example, in the following verse `Bevin Hut', the author uses the word welligogs, which means rain boots, and it is also notable that nowadays the name `Welligogs` became a brand of rain boots in England. So, it can be an example of dialectical word's penitration in to Standard English.

In addition, the following poem is noticible by its mortological items and forms, which convey the local accent ''There'd bin'' ( there I have been), ''reet'' (right)


Lang syne: long ago

lang afore: at an earlier time

ried: red

callan: man

blaad: to beat

Nae: not

naethin: nothing

cuddy: donkey

Lexically this poem is very colorfull . In this poem it can be seen, that the author uses neologisms as `modem' and `faxes' .So, it can be sad, that the author shows a contrast between modern and dialectical words.

In this poem it can be found several actually lexical dialectisms `callan'- for a man, `cuddy'- for a donkey, `lang syne, lang afore' -for `very long time ago'. In addition, the author uses non-standard orthography to show phonetical pecularities of the dialect -`naethin' for nothing,'ried' for 'red' and `nae' for not.

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