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hereditary pronunciation will survive, together with our grammatical peculiarities, long after board schools and newspapers have brought English as a written language to one dead level.
Holding this view, which Dr. Henry Sweet says (on Laws of Sound Change, Fhil. Society, Dec. 17, 1886) "is now generally admitted by philologists," I have given much attention and space to pronunciation, and to grammatical and syntactic construction, which I trust may not be found useless to future students.
A comparison of our present dialectal pronunciation of many literary words with their forms in Early and Middle English, will prove how very slow phonetic changes have been in the past, at least in the spoken language of the people. The same holds good, and will be found to be fully illustrated in these pages, with respect to many forms of grammar and syntax which have long become obsolete in literature. Both these subjects have been dealt with at some length in former papers published by this Society, and I shall therefore only endeavour now to notice some facts previously unobserved, or not adequately recorded.
Inasmuch as a great deal of the peculiarity of a dialect is altogether lost if attempted in conventional literary spelling, or even in modifications of it, I have continued to use Mr. Ellis's Glossic, which though at first sight uncouth in appearance to those accustomed only to conventional spelling, yet is extremely easy to read after a very little practice. I have not followed all the extreme refinements of the system; but to have a definite and distinct method at all is, it seems to me, of far more importance than either the use or the merits of this or that system of notation. A full and elaborate key will be found on p. 24 of my Dialect of West Somerset, 1875, and a concise one, quite sufficient for the understanding of all here written, is on p. 2 of the Grammar of West Somerset, 1877. This latter is reprinted at the end of the Introduction (p. xlvii).
It seems almost needless to offer anything by way of defence against the criticisms which are certain to be applied to phonetic spelling; but unless some definite plan is to be followed, how is a stranger, a foreigner for instance, to be made aware of the difference in sound of o in come, gone, bone; of a in tardy, mustard; or of i in mind and wind? Could such a sentence as that which illustrates LIMBLESS be contrived in conventional spelling? I shall indeed be satisfied if critics confine their disapproval of this book to the Glossic.
I have noticed among the works issued by this Society many attempts to convey the sound of words by ordinary values of letters, for instance, I find "Footing pronounced Fuutin'," but no clue is given as to the value of the two us, and not knowing the dialect I am no wiser.
Halliwell has "Allous; all of us-Somerset," but what stranger to the county, or foreigner, would guess that this should be pronounced aul oa uus?
I have in the following pages endeavoured to give clear definitions of words, and where they related to anything of a technical character I have tried to describe the object, so that those who come after us may be able to know precisely what the article now is. Who can now say with any certainty what size, shape, or capacity, was a biker of the 15th century? The beaker of modern novelists is something very different, even if it be not a fabulous article. What will people understand of a Yorkshire " Stoup, a wooden drinking vessel"? Halliwell describes "Clevvy, a species of draft iron for a plough." What species? He gives "Ledger, horizontal bar of a scaffold." Which? Forby gives "Spud, an instrument, a sort of hoe." What sort? Instances of similar indefinite definitions might be multiplied to any extent. I trust I have not run into the other extreme of describing at length that with which everybody is familiar. Skillett and crock are common names of household utensils, but not many town-bred people could distinguish them in an ironmonger's shop.
In deciding whether a word or phrase is literary or not, I have followed no exact rule. Generally words, or meanings of literary words, if given in Webster, have not been inserted; but for some words, though literary, there have appeared reasons, such as pronunciation, or peculiarity of use, why they should appear. In such cases they are not, however, allowed much space. I have acted on the best advice I could obtain-to insert doubtful words shortly, rather than omit them.
Ordinary colloquialisms, such as all to smash, cross-patch, crow's feet, crusty, a setting-down, stone-blind, spick and span, transmogrify, are not here noted, though I observe that many glossaries contain such words, but space had to be regarded, or this book would have been unwieldy. I have in no case considered whether a word was widely known, or peculiar to this district; so that if in my opinion it was a dialect word, I have inserted it, though common from John o' Groats to the Land's End. On this point I fully expect
to hear exception taken; but if there is any value at all in preserving current speech, by no means the least is to be able to define how far any particular word or phrase is known, and in what sense it is so known. Therefore I offer no excuse to the reader from Northumberland who finds here a word familiar to him, unless it is found in the dictionaries in the sense in which I have given it; in that case I acknowledge my faults and apologize accordingly.
Certain well-known names of cominon articles have been inserted as a sort of legacy to the future-these are now obsolescent, and probably in a few years will be quite forgotten-e. g. pattens, gambaders, &c.
Further, I have not taken any word at second-hand except in a few cases, where I have specially given my informant's initials; but every word noted has been heard spoken by myself (except as above), and must be accepted, or otherwise, on my own testimony alone. And here I would remark that the one point I have kept steadily in view has been truth. So far as I am conscious I have neither under nor over stated, unless it may be in the use of the word (always) — which will be found after many of the words-to indicate that among dialect speakers the expression is that which is the usual and ordinary one, and that any variation from it would be quite exceptional.
In Halliwell I find many errors. Very numerous words which he gives as "Somerset" or "West," are either obsolete or quite unknown, while many others described as peculiar to other districts, are familiar in this, and probably have been so for agesCheatery fraud, "North," is one of our commonest words. Again, many words undoubtedly peculiar to us are wrongly defined-for instance, "Clavy-tack. A Key. Exmoor." Except the coincidence of clav there is nothing even to suggest the idea of key. The article, a mantel-piece or shelf, is perfectly common.
In the following pages I repeat that I have taken nothing from Halliwell, nor from any other Glossary, but I have used them merely as reminders of words which I had omitted; and for this purpose I have found Pulman's Rustic Sketches by far the most valuable. I have quoted freely from his verses, and so far as dialect goes, he is by a long way the most accurate, and less given to eke out his versification with literaryisms. On this point, however, he does but as all other writers of the same class, not excepting Barnes, have done-humour and quaintness first, dialect and correct construction
of the spoken language second. Moreover, Pulman's district is closely allied to this, as also is that of Nathan Hogg and Peter Pindar. It will be understood then that any word given as Somerset by Halliwell, if not mentioned herein, is unknown in West Somerset so far as I can ascertain. A peculiarity of all Western Dialect poets except Pulman, who refers to the point in his preface, but yet is guilty in his verses, is that all common English words in ƒ are spelt with, and all words in s are spelt with z. No doubt it is very funny; both Shakspere and Ben Jonson adopted that method to distinguish a clown; a method which has become conventional, and has lasted down through Fielding to our own day in Punch. But notwithstanding such authorities it is incorrect. Ben Jonson never heard anybody say varrier (Tale of a Tub) who was speaking his own genuine tongue. In many cases, however, there is uncertainty of pronunciation, and apparent exception to the rule that words in for s, if Teutonic, are sounded with initial v or z, while French or other imported words with the same initials, keep them sharp and precise (see VETHERVOw). For example, file, for bills, is always fuyul (O. Fr. file), while file, a rasp, both v. and sb., is always vuyul, (Dutch, vijl). Indeed it may be taken as a rule that where literary words in for s have their counterparts in Dutch, our Western English dialectal pronunciation of the initial is the same; compare finger, first, fist, fleece, follow, foot, forth, forward, freeze, see, seed, seek, self, send, seven, sieve, silver, sinew, sing, sister, six, &c. In exceptional cases where the rule does not hold good, it will usually be found that there has been a confusion of meaning owing to similarity of sound. For instance, summer, a season, and summer, a beam (Fr. sommier) are both alike sounded zuum'ur, whereas but for confusion in consequence of similarity of sound, the latter would probably have been suum'ur. Sea again is exceptional, and is always sai with s quite sharp, while see and say are always according to rule zee and zai.
How common these confusions of meaning and sound are, and to what results they lead must be within the experience of most observers. At this moment upon the wall of the boot and knife house at Foxdown is a grafitto, very well written in Board School hand, immediately over a fragment of looking-glass
Things seen is Intempural
Sunday, Aug. 23, 1885.
Another of my servants always says of a kind of artificial manure
-"that there consecrated manure's double so good's the tother." He has heard it called concentrated.
Imperfect imitation of foreign pronunciation of imported words leads to variety of sound in different districts, and eventually to apparent change, when the form of a particular district or a literary appreciation becomes the standard. For example, gillyflower and manger, about which there can be no controversy, are now literary names; but how very unlike they are in sound to their prototypes giroflee and mangeoire, and how much nearer to what are probably. the original O. F. sounds of these words are our rustic júlaufur and maunjur. All these points will be found dealt with in the
I have ventured to include many technical words, some of which are peculiar to the district, and others are common to the trades to which they apply, but in most cases I think there are some points of divergence from ordinary trade or hunting terms, sufficient to make them worth recording here. In some cases it will be found that common terms have in this district quite a different signification to that current elsewhere—e. g. ALE and BEER, while in others we have our own distinct names for common things-e. g. LINHAY, SPRANKER, &c.
Upon the slippery path of etymology I have been careful not to tread, and whenever any remark upon that point has been made, it has always been with much diffidence and merely by way of suggestion, or in a few cases where received explanations are unsatisfactory or improbable. Of course I shall be charged with omitting the most interesting part of the whole matter, but for many reasons I have confined myself to bare identification with Old or Middle English, or with some foreign language, where both sense and sound render such identification obvious. The book is already over bulky, and etymological speculations would have distended it, and possibly destroyed what little value it may now possess. Moreover, an observer and recorder of facts has no business with theories, and be he never so circumspect in his enunciation, he cannot escape the suspicion that in his desire to prove his propositions, his facts have been at least marshalled, and his work will only be valued accordingly. Even if I had felt tempted at any time to branch off into that line, I was long ago cured of the symptom by a gentleman who has established a large credit for learning of all kinds. Meeting him one day, he was as usual anxious to instruct the ignorant, and he inquired if I knew