PRAYIN’ JEMMY. BY S. LAYCOCK.
Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter
Date:July 11th 1863
The poem shows how the writer attempts to adopt readable orthographical spellings to suggest dialect sounds. The writer also uses the same spelling for a specific lexical set. This is the case of the digraph “eaw” in feawnded (founded), eawt (out), heawse (house), and neaw (now) which relates to the standard diphthong [aʊ]. “eaw” in these four words probably suggests the diphthong [ɛʊ] in the Lancashire dialect. However, [ɛʊ] is not considered a pure dialect sound as it is the standard variant of [aʊ]; this means [ɛʊ] is a novel realization which entered the dialect to substitute the archaic sound [u:].
This poem also shows “ow” in the words towd (told) and howd (hold). This spelling probably suggests either [aʊ] or [ǝʊ] in the dialect. The peculiarity of these two terms is also the omission of the grapheme “l” in the spelling which is associated with its absence in the pronunciation. In northern dialects, the letter [l] is subjected to vocalization that mostly results in the vowel [ʊ] as exemplified in the two possible diphthongs suggested. This linguistic phenomenon is known as [l]-vocalization and it is considered an enregistered northern feature.
Samuel Laycock presents the spelling “ee” in the words neet (night) and reet (right). The digraph “ee” in these two terms clearly suggests the long vowel [i:]. This monophthong in this type of words is related to an archaic pronunciation, which is rooted on some phonological phenomena distinct from the Standard English. The digraph “gh” in these words represented the consonant [ҫ] in Old English. This Old English consonant was vocalized into [ɪ] in the standard and joined the previous [ɪ]. This merger resulted in [i:] which later became the present-day English diphthong [aɪ]. However, in northern dialects and, in this case, the Lancashire dialect words containing the voiceless fricative [ç] remained unvocalized. As a result, [ɪ] remained unshifted, and when these words in northern dialects finally lost the consonant, the previous vowel became [i:] because of compensatory lengthening.
The words yeard (heard) and yed (head) presents the y-inclusion in the spelling, which is related to [ɪ] in the pronunciation. Therefore, these two words are probably realized as [ɪǝ] in the Lancashire dialect. This epenthesis is rather common before front vowels such as [e] in several dialects. In yeard, the diphthong [ɪǝ] could be due to the analogy with its correspondent infinitive form “hear”, pronounced with this diphthong in the standard. As a result, both the past and the infinitive/present tenses are equally pronounced in the Lancashire dialect. In yed, we also find the omission of the consonant “h” in word initial position. This omission, which also involves the absence of [h] in the pronunciation, is socially discredited.
The poem presents the construction connot which stands for “cannot”. The peculiarity of this word is the replacement of “a” by “o”. This substitution involves phonological implications as this term would be pronounced with [ɒ] instead of [æ]. This substitution is related to the tendency of substituting [a] or [æ] by [ɒ] in front of nasal consonants such as [n]. This is a very old phenomenon that dates back to the Old English period and is present in the north and in the West Midlands. Finally, the non-standard word fayther, standing for “father”, is probably pronounced with the diphthong [ɛɪ] in the Lancashire dialect. This pronunciation is, once more, rooted on distinct phonological processes.
As far as the lexicon and the grammatical structures are concerned, we do not notice several differences between the dialect and the Standard English. Laycock presents the term lad in the third paragraph to refer to the standard “man”. This word is not confined to Lancashire, but it is a widespread form in several dialects of England. The word hoo is the dialect form to refer to the third person singular pronoun “she”. The form hoo is the dialect outcome of the Old English form hēo. Although “she” is the most typical form, “hoo” covers several areas of England, including the county of Lancashire. Finally, the word Aw is again the dialect form that substitutes the first person singular pronoun “I”. Aw, which is very common in the Lancashire dialect, is pronounced as [ɔ:] according to Wright (1898-1905) but its origins are unknown.
Concerning the grammatical perspective, this poem presents the forms Aw’m getten and Aw’ve getten (I’ve got). The peculiarity in these two instances is the -en ending in the verb “get” to suggest the past participle tense. This form is an Old English influence which still prevails in northern dialects. Finally, we find the reduction of the definite article “the” as it is represented with the form th’ as in at th’ shop (at the shop). This reduction or ellipsis would be one of the most stereotypical marker of Northern British English dialect, especially of those varieties belonging to Lancashire.
- NADIA HAMADE ALMEIDA.