COWD WINTER IS COMIN’ WONST MOOR.
(BY W. BILLINGTON.)
Title:Cowd Winter is Comin' Wonst Moor
Date:September 19th 1862
The poem, once more, shows a higher prevalence of phonological features than grammatical or lexical traits.
This poem shows the presence of the non-standard spelling “eaw” in several terms: neaw (now), eawt (out), heaw (how), meauths (mouths), witheawt (without), eawr (our), deawn (down), and theawsands (thousands). The spelling “eaw” is usually seen in the Lancashire dialect representation. Thus, “eaw” and its pronunciation conveyed [ɛʊ] are typical or common in Lancashire. The diphthong [ɛʊ] is a novel realization as it is the variant of the standard pronunciation [aʊ].
The spelling “oi” represented in the words loike (like), toimes (times), and loife (life) conveys the diphthong [ɔɪ]. The readability of “oi” should not entail difficulties for readers unfamiliar with the dialect as the same digraph in found in Standard English in words such as “toil”. The diphthong [ɔɪ] in words related to the standard pronunciation [aɪ] is a standard variant and it is the result of the so-called Diphthong Shift. Although this diphthong is frequently found in the Lancashire dialects, its use is associated with working-class and rural people.
The spelling “ee” found in the word neet and substituting the standard form “night” suggests the archaic pronunciation [i:]. The Old English consonantal sound [ҫ], represented by “gh” in Standard English, was vocalized into [ɪ] in Standard English and joined the previous [ɪ]. The resulting vowel was [i:], which subsequently became the diphthong [aɪ]. On the contrary, in the Lancashire dialect and, in general, all northern dialects, the consonant [ç] did not change. When these words in northern dialects finally lost the consonant, the previous vowel became [i:] as compensatory lengthening.
The spelling “ee” in the word death for “death” suggests pronunciation with either [i:] or the diphthong [ɪǝ] instead of the standard [ɛ]. The difference between the standard diphthong and the dialect pronunciation/s relies on distinct source origins. This means, whereas the standard diphthong [aɪ] would come from [i:], the monophthong [i:] would derive from [e:]. The diphthong [ɪǝ] is also suggested as the grapheme "a" usually represents the sound [ǝ].
The spelling “ow” suggesting either [aʊ] or [ǝʊ] is represented in the words cowd and owd for cold and old respectively. The absence of the letter “l” in the spelling involves the absence of its realization in the dialect. This phonological phenomenon is called [l] vocalization, by which the consonant [l] tended to vocalize into [ʊ] in northern dialects.
The spelling “ooa” conveying the diphthong [ʊǝ] is represented in the words clooas, booath, and whooam for “clothes”, “both”, and “home” respectively. Interestingly, [ǝʊ] and the non-standard diphthong [ʊǝ] share the same origin with Middle English [ɔ:]. Northern dialects typically contained Middle English [ɑ:] and not [ɔ:], since this last monophthong is usually connected with southern dialects. Therefore, in this case, the Lancashire dialect presents a southern characteristic.
The terms wonst and whooam for “once” and “home” respectively present the inclusion of "w", which involves a phonological shift. In southern England and in the West Midlands, an initial /w/ is added and pronounced before long back vowels, especially in word initial position or after a preceding consonant. Therefore, these two words would be pronounced as [wɒnst] and [wʊǝm] respectively in the Lancashire dialect. Indeed, this inclusion can be seen in the present-day English word “one” as it is pronounced as [wʌn]. This epenthesis is indeed considered a dialectal borrowing.
The term yeds for “heads” presents the inclusion of “y” and the drop of the consonant “h” in word initial position, which involve the pronunciation of [ɪ] and the absence of [h] in the pronunciation. The epenthesis of [ɪ] is usual before front vowels such as [e] in several dialects and the drop of [h] in word initial position is a widespread phonological phenomenon which is socially stigmatized and related to working-class people. Therefore, the word yeds is realized as [ɪǝds] in the Lancashire dialect.
The substitution of “a” for “o” in the words mon and con for “man” and “can” respectively involve a shift in the pronunciation of these words as they are realized with [ɒ]. This phonological phenomenon, which dates back to the Old English times, is commonly found in the Lancashire dialect when the vocalic sound [æ] is followed by nasal consonants such as [n] or [m].
The term lung for “long” presents the substitution of “o” by “u” involving a pronunciation with [ʊ]. This shift is usual when [ɒ] was followed by the nasal consonant [ɳ]. This phonological phenomenon seems to go back to the Middle English times, when West-Midland dialect had the tendency for OE /ɒ/ to become /ʊ/ in Middle English before /ɳ/.
The word sich is used for the standard “such”. The spelling “i” instead of “u” suggests a pronunciation with the front vowel [ɪ]. In Old English, this word contained the sound [ü], which contained three different developments [ɪ], [ʊ] or [e] depending on the geographical area. The Old English sound developed into [ɪ] in northern and eastern varieties, into [ʊ] in southern dialects and into [e] in Kentish. Therefore, the Lancashire dialect took the northern and eastern development.
As far as the grammatical structures are concerned, the poem represents the use of ut for the conjunction “that”, as exemplified in ut cotton is kept (that cotton is kept). Finally, we also find the reduction of the definite article “the”, which is seen represented as th’ and t’ throughout the poem. This reduction or ellipsis would be one of the most stereotypical marker of Northern British English dialect, especially of those varieties belonging to Lancashire.
Concerning the lexicon, there are some words that have changed the meaning in the Standard English or that they do not appear in the standard lexicon. The term welly in the fourth line is usually found in the Lancashire dialect with the meaning of “almost”.
The word meyt for “meat” represented in the fifth line was used during the Old English times with the meaning of “food”. However, it later came to be interpreted as “flesh”. What the writer, W. Billington, here exemplifies is the old meaning of “meat”, this is “food”. The word Aw is used instead of “I” as the first person singular personal pronoun. The use of Aw is very usual in the Lancashire dialect, but its origins are still uncertain.
Finally, the dialect word childer represented in the third stanza is used for “children”. Childer was the Middle English form to refer to the plural of “child”. The Standard English word “children” would be a wrong form as it shows the addition of the -en suffix to mark the plurality. As a result, “children” is a wrong derivation as it shows double plurality and the dialect term “childer” is the right form.
- Nadia Hamade Almedia.