“When a change (an innovation) appears among only one section of the speakers of a language, this automatically creates a dialectal difference. Sometimes an innovation in dialect A contrasts with the unchanged usage (archaism) in dialect B. Sometimes a separate innovation occurs in each of the two dialects. Of course, different innovations will appear in different dialects, so that, in comparison with its contemporaries, no one dialect as a whole can be considered archaic in any absolute sense. A dialect may be characterized as relatively archaic, because it shows fewer innovations than the others; or it may be archaic in one feature only”. (№9, p.415)
After the appearance of a dialectal feature, interaction between speakers who have adopted this feature and those who have not leads to the expansion of its area or even to its disappearance. In a single social milieu (generally the inhabitants of the same locality, generation and social class), the chance of the complete adoption or rejection of a new dialectal feature is very great; the intense contact and consciousness of membership within the social group fosters such uniformity. When several age groups or social strata live within the same locality and especially when people speaking the same language live in separate communities dialectal differences are easily maintained.
“The element of mutual contact plays a large role in the maintenance of speech patterns; that is why differences between geographically distant dialects are normally greater than those between dialects of neighbouring settlements. This also explains why bundles of isoglosses so often form along major natural barriers - impassable mountain ranges, deserts, uninhabited marshes or forests, or wide rivers - or along political borders. Similarly, racial or religious differences contribute to linguistic differentiation because contact between members of one faith or race and those of another within the same area is very often much more superficial and less frequent than contact between members of the same racial or religious group. An especially powerful influence is the relatively infrequent occurrence of intemarriages, thus preventing dialectal mixture at the point where it is most effective; namely, in the mother tongue learned by the child at home”. (№9, p.417)
The fact that speech, in particular, can give such a clear answer to the question “Where are you from?” exercises a peculiar fascination, and the terms dialect and accent are a normal part of everyday vocabulary. We can notice regional differences in the way people talk, laugh at dialect jokes, enjoy dialect literature and folklore and appreciate the point of dialect parodies.
At the same time - and this is the paradox of dialect study - we can easily make critical judgements about ways of speaking which we perceive as alien. These attitudes are usually subconscious.
The study of regional linguistic variation is very important. The more we know about regional variation and change in the use of English, the more we will come to appreciate the individuality of each of the varieties which we call dialects, and the less we are likely to adopt demeaning stereotypes about people from other parts of the country.
As for the United Kingdom until 1700 the small population was sparsely distributed and largely rural and agricultural, much as it had been in medieval times. From the mid-18th century, scientific and technological innovations created the first modern industrial state, while, at the same time, agriculture was undergoing technical and tenurial changes and revolutionary improvements in transport made easier the movement of materials and people. As a result, by the first decade of the 19th century, a previously mainly rural population had been largely replaced by a nation made up of industrial workers and town dwellers.
The rural exodus was a long process. The breakdown of communal farming started before the 14th century; and subsequently enclosures advanced steadily, especially after 1740, until a century later open fields had virtually disappeared from the landscape. Many of the landless agricultural labourers so displaced were attracted to the better opportunities for employment and the higher wage levels existing in the growing industries; their movements, together with those of the surplus population produced by the contemporary rapid rise in the birth rate, resulted in a high volume of internal migration that took the form of a movement toward the towns.
Industry, as well as the urban centres that inevitably grew up around it, was increasingly located near the coalfields, while the railway network, which grew rapidly after 1830, enhanced the commercial importance of many towns. The migration of people especially young people, from the country to industrialized towns took place at an unprecedented rate in the early railway age, and such movements were relatively confined geographically.
Soon after World War I, new interregional migrations flow commenced when the formerly booming 19th-century industrial and mining districts lost much of their economic momentum. Declining or stagnating heavy industry in Clydeside, northeastern England, South Wales, and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire swelled the ranks of the unemployed, and the consequent outward migration became the drift to the relatively more prosperous Midlands and southern England. This movement of people continued until it was arrested by the relatively full employment conditions that obtained soon after the outbreak of World War II.
In the 1950-s, opportunities for employment in the United Kingdom improved with government sponsored diversification of industry, and this did much to reduce the magnitude of the prewar drift to the south. The decline of certain northern industries - coal mining shipbuilding, and cotton textiles in particular - had nevertheless reached a critical level by the late 1960s, and the emergence of new growth points in the West Midlands and southwestern England made the drift to the south a continuing feature of British economic life. Subsequently, the area of most rapid growth shifted to East Anglia, the South West, and the East Midlands. This particular spatial emphasis resulted from the deliberately planned movement of people to the New Towns in order to relieve the congestion around London.
- Unifying influences on dialects.
Communication lines such as roads (if they are at least several centuries old), river valleys, or seacoasts often have a unifying influence. Also important urban centres often form the hub of a circular region in which the same dialect is spoken. In such areas the prestige dialect of the city has obviously expanded. As a general rule, those dialects, or at least certain dialectal features, with greater social prestige tend to replace those that are valued lower on the social scale.
In times of less frequent contact between populations, dialectal differences increase, in periods, of greater contact, they diminish. Mass literacy, schools, increased mobility of populations, and mass communications all contribute to this tendency.
Mass migrations may also contribute to the formation of a more or less uniform dialect over broad geographic areas. Either the resulting dialect is that of the original homeland of a particular migrating population or it is a dialect mixture formed by the levelling of differences among migrants from more than one homeland. The degree of dialectal differentiation depends to a great extent on the length of time a certain population has remained in a certain place.
- Focal, relic, and transitional areas.
Dialectologists often distinguish between focal areas - which provide sources of numerous important innovations and usually coincide with centres of lively economic or cultural activity - and relic areas - places toward which such innovations are spreading but have not usually arrived. (Relic areas also have their own innovations, which, however, usually extend over a smaller geographical area.)
“Relic areas or relic phenomena are particularly common in out-of-the-way regional pockets or along the periphery of a particular languages geographical territory.
The borders of regional dialects often contain transitional areas that share some features with one neighbour and some with the other. Such mixtures result from unequal diffusion of innovations from both sides. Similar unequal diffusion in mixed dialects in any region also may be a consequence of population mixture created by migrations”. (№9, p.420)
6. Received Pronunciation.
“The abbreviation RP (Received Pronunciation) denotes the speech of educated people living in London and the southeast of England and of other people elsewhere who speak in this way. If the qualifier educated be assumed, RP is then a regional (geographical) dialect, as contrasted with London Cockney, which is a class (social) dialect. RP is not intrinsically superior to other varieties of English; it is itself only one particular regional dialect that has, through the accidents of history, achieved more extensive use than others. Although acquiring its unique status without the aid of any established authority, it may have been fostered by the public schools (Winchester, Eton, Harrow and so on) and the ancient universities (Oxford and Cambridge). Other varieties of English are well preserved in spite of the levelling influences of film, television, and radio”. (№8, p.365)
The ancestral form of RP was well-established over 400 years ago as the accent of the court and the upper classes. The English courtier George Puttenham wr