Saturday 6 August 2016

The Yorkshire Dialect Society

I've just discovered the website of The Yorkshire Dialect Society at which is the oldest dialect society in Britain. It's a fun read, not only on the arrival of the different waves of Germanic dialects in England (via the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and later the Normans), but specifically on the Viking based dialect that established in Yorkshire. There's an interesting piece on how English dialects have evolved across the land over the last few centuries, including the following bit on rhoticity (pronunciation of an 'r' after vowels) which amused me:

Until about 1700, most English speakers (whatever their dialect) pronounced the letter R very clearly in words where it followed a vowel such as in “farmer” and “carter”. After 1700, this custom died out quite rapidly and is now virtually unknown in Standard English, It survives, however, in the dialects of the West Country, parts of Lancashire and small pockets of Yorkshire. It is also a standard feature of the English spoken in Scotland, Ireland, and of course, North America. Nobody is quite sure why it disappeared from Standard English, but its loss was certainly noticed at the time. Some eighteenth-century folk complained about “R-dropping” the way people complain about “H-dropping” today!

There are some fascinating explanations about dialect changes and 'vowel shift' on the site, including the fact that in times past people went to sea in 'boots' and wore 'boats' on their feet! The page on the Yorkshire dialect is equally of interest, noting how there are in fact several regional dialects (Yorkshire is only slighly smaller than Northern Ireland after all, so only to be expected), despite the prevalence of a media stereotype Yorkshire accent found commonly on TV and radio.

Also fun is the page with audio recordings of the dialect at, including a recording of poem on having to keep quiet because there's a "babby i’ t’hahse"

The website is well worth a visit, and there's also a Facebook page at

Incidentally, the following blog post may be of interest also, on an Anglo-Saxon August, part of an Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem known as the Menologium from the 10th century describing the months of the year - see Just a wee bit different to how we speak today...

(With thanks to @1_gillian via Twitter)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

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