BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

29 October 2014
Your Voice

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Language and Place by Prof Peter Trudgill
Also on Voices
When languages collide
Language change

In Your Area
What do you think about your local accent?
Talk about Voices in your area

Did You Know?
If someone refers to you as a Cuddie Wifter, a Ciotach or Corrie Fisted it's probably because they have realised you are left-handed.

Page 4 of 7
1. Language and identity
2. Dialect areas
3. Origins of regional differences
4. Influence of other languages
5. Change and spread
6. The media
7. Other dialects and languages

4. Influence of other languages

In most other cases we need different explanations for regional variation. It often happens, for instance, that geographical patterns of dialect variation are due to the replacement in a particular area of an older, long-established word by a newer, incoming one. For example, the word autumn is normal in most of southern England, but in parts of the Southwest and in Lincolnshire the traditional dialect word is fall. This reflects the introduction into England in late mediaeval times of the originally French word autumn. This eventually replaced the Anglo-Saxon word fall in Standard English in England and in some of the dialects, but not in others. It is obvious that at one time the use of autumn must have been much less widespread than it is today, since fall was the form which was carried by settlers to North America. (In much of the north of England and Scotland another word, backend, is used.)

Another language which helped to produce geographical variation in English dialects was Old Norse - the ancestor of the modern Scandinavian languages. Many words now used in all English dialects, such as they, egg, skirt, are of Scandinavian origin. However, Scandinavian linguistic influence was heavier in the north of England than elsewhere. This is because this area was heavily colonized by Vikings from the 9th century onwards - Norwegians settling mostly in the west, often via Ireland, and Danes in the east. This led to at least 200 years of Scandinavian-English bilingualism, and the extent of the Norse influence on the northern dialects can be seen in the use of Scandinavian words like laik ('play') and lop ('flea'), which are unknown elsewhere, in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Migration of a different type has had an influence on the English of Northern Ireland. Originally, all of Ireland was Irish Gaelic speaking, and the modern English of the island differs according to how and when English arrived, and where it came from. Most of the regional differences within the English of modern Northern Ireland can be accounted for by the degree to which English did or did not first arrive there in the mouths of Scottish dialect speakers from the Lowlands, more than three hundred years ago.

previous next

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy