Representation of Northern English and Scots in seventeenth century drama
Stewart, Lauren Marie
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Early Modern English (c. 1500-‐1700) is a difficult period for dialectological study. A dearth of textual evidence means that no comprehensive account of regional variation for this period can be attempted, and the field has therefore tended to be somewhat neglected. However, some evidence of regional varieties of English is provided by dialect representation in Early Modern drama. The dialogue of certain English and Scottish characters (and of those who impersonate them) is often marked linguistically as different from other characters: morphosyntactic forms, lexical items, and phonological features shown through variant spellings suggest dialectal usage in contrast to Standard English. This evidence, I argue, forms a legitimate basis on which to build at least a partial account of regional variation. The 47 plays analysed in this thesis were all written and/or printed between 1598 and 1705, and all feature examples of either Northern English or Scots dialect representation. From these examples we can build up a picture of some of the main phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical elements of the seventeenth century dialects spoken in Scotland and northern England. Moreover, this literary evidence can help clarify and contextualise earlier scholarly work on the topic. The content of the plays themselves, along with the dialect representations, also provide sociocultural and sociolinguistic information about the perception of Scots and northerners and of the attitudes towards them across the country. In Chapter 1 I outline my methodology and provide a review of relevant literature, particularly focusing on other studies of dialect representation in drama. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the historical context for my linguistic data in seventeenth century Britain, including discussions of theatrical history in both England and Scotland, and of population movement and dialect contact. The Scottish dialect evidence is presented in Chapters 3 to 6. In Chapter 3, I give a chronological list of 33 plays featuring Scots dialect representation. In order to contextualise the plays, I provide background information about the author, printing, and performance history; a brief summary of the plot and a description of the dialect speaker; my assessment of the dialect representation; and if pertinent, commentary by other critics. I present and analyse the data from dramatic depictions of Scots, focusing on lexical items (Chapter 4), morphosyntactic features (Chapter 5), and phonological features as indicated by variant spellings (Chapter 6). I compare the literary data with linguistic reference works, including modern and historical dialect atlases, dictionaries, and dialect surveys. I also consult additional Early Modern sources and other reference works. The next four chapters focus on representations of dialects of northern England. These chapters follow the same format as the chapters on Scottish dialect: Chapter 7 contains a discussion of 15 seventeenth-‐century plays featuring representations of Northern English. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 mirror the structure of Chapters 4, 5, and 6, respectively, discussing lexical forms, and morphosyntactic and phonological features in representations of Northern English. I offer my conclusions in Chapter 11. With my detailed analysis of the data, I demonstrate that representations of regional usage in seventeenth century drama cannot be dismissed as stereotyped examples of a stage dialect, and that these literary data are worthy of being analysed linguistically. Although the quantity of dialect representation differs from one play to the next, and the quality covers a broad spectrum of linguistic accuracy, it nevertheless provides important information about non-‐standard dialects of northern England and Scotland in the seventeenth century.