'Summat Ah've Sed?': An Analysis of Orthographic Vowel Representation in Contemporary Cumbrian Dialect Literature
Dent, Samantha Elizabeth
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In this paper, I examine the use of non-standard English in published texts that form a genre known as dialect literature, a form of writing that has been relatively overlooked in the field of dialectology (Shorrocks: 1996: 385). The standardisation of written English, which aims to represent a variety of the language labelled ‘Standard English’, differs radically from many localised varieties of English. Dialect literature is a reaction genre which aims to give regional Englishes a written form. The limitations of English orthography means that phonetic differences are often highlighted by spelling alterations that vary widely in success (Carney 1994: 54) and also differ within regions, between authors and sometimes in the same text (Wales 2010: 68). However, this paper argues that despite the various limitations of non-standard spelling usage, dialect literature can still offer useful information about varieties of English, perhaps most obviously in terms of regional lexis and morphosyntax but respellings can also give information about phonology. This is especially important in historical linguistics but can also shed light on varieties that have gone long periods without being studied or recorded in depth. In order to show this usefulness of dialect literature, I will be looking at a variety of English spoken in Cumbria, England, and a book of humorous verse written in that dialect from 1984. The paper will look at the phonology of the dialect and the extent to which the orthography in the literature can accurately represent it. Through this study I aim to show how the dialectology of dialect literature is relevant to the study of language variation and change.