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The Routes of English - BBC Radio 4
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This week Melvyn visits Oswestry. Just five miles from the Welsh border, this is a frontier town whose name means 'boundary'. Here Offa's Dyke and countless crumbling castles bear witness to centuries of shifting political allegiances. Language too, has been a battle ground. Welsh and English have waxed and waned, woven and unravelled.

Visit the town's bustling livestock market today and there is little Welsh to be heard. Centuries of relentless anglicisation, beginning in the Norman period, have rendered English the lingua franca. Yet listen a little harder and more complex patterns emerge. There are Welsh idioms and words and Midlands forms all jostling for position in the dialects of Shropshire.

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A Shropshire Lad

Russell Humphries, coach of the Oswestry Town Youth Football Club, a self-proclaimed Shropshire Lad. audio clip


Dr. Clive Upton and Stanley Ellis, of Leeds University's Survey of English dialects, describe the complex interaction between Welsh and English dialects and idioms. audio clip


Dr Robert Penhallurick, Lecturer in English Language at the University of Wales in Swansea, on the process of (enforced) anglicisation which began after the Norman conquest. audio clip


The many varieties of local talk overheard in Oswestry's busy weekly market. audio clip

At the town's weekly livestock market it is more than just stock that change hands. Words and phrases are also exchanged as Welsh and English farmers clip

Pritchard's is Oswestry's delightfully old-fashioned gentleman's outfitters. Here, in his thriving shop, properietor Geraint Prtichard has turned a carefully tuned ear to the complexities of the local dialects. audio clip

Cutch & Argau

Dr Robert Penhallurick, on Offa's Dyke, cites the word 'cutch' to explain the cross-border linguistic exchanges that have shaped both the Welsh and English languages. audio clip

'Argys' is another Shropshire term borrowed from Welsh, as David Ellis, Chairman of the Oswestry branch of the National Farmers' Union, and Gwenda Williams, a retired local teacher, explain. audio clip

A Welsh Renaissance?

Many local people, including David Ellis, are fighting to safeguard the future of the Welsh language against the strong anglicising influences of intermarriage, de-population, resettlement and the media. audio clip


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