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7 - English in Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2012

Richard Hogg
Affiliation:
Smith Professor of Language and Medieval English, University of Manchester
Richard Hogg
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
David Denison
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
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Summary

Introduction

We can be certain that, for as long as the English language has been established in Britain, so dialect variation has also existed. If we examine dialect variation in present-day English, even if it is possible to assume that there is a single over-arching speech community which makes up the language which we might, for the lack of a better term and with acknowledgement of the insult thereby perpetrated on the Irish, call ‘British English’, there remains the problem of what we recognise as the dialects of that community. We could simply recognise the individual nations, and talk about English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish dialects. But it takes only a moment to see that that will not do. The speaker from Kent does not see his or her dialect as the same as that of someone from Newcastle, any more than speakers from Aberdeen and Glasgow think that they share a single dialect.

Suppose, however, that we were able to set out a geography of British English dialects which somehow overcame the above points. Dialects are not merely a matter of geography. For dialects vary by much more than geography. Speakers vary in age, gender, social class and, increasingly, ethnicity. So, speakers from the same geographical area must differ from each other because of their age, their gender, and other social variables. All these variations may cause difficulties for the student of present-day English. But for the historian of English they are even worse.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • English in Britain
    • By Richard Hogg, Smith Professor of Language and Medieval English, University of Manchester
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.008
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  • English in Britain
    • By Richard Hogg, Smith Professor of Language and Medieval English, University of Manchester
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.008
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • English in Britain
    • By Richard Hogg, Smith Professor of Language and Medieval English, University of Manchester
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.008
Available formats
×