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Friday, 8 January 2016

William Barnes, from A Dissertation on the Dorset Dialect


Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, William Barnes, 1844

First edition, 1844; second edition, 1848 (with some corrections)

1. As increasing communication among the inhabitants of different parts of England, and the spread of school education among the lower ranks of the people, tend to substitute book-English for the provincial dialects, it is likely that' after a few years many of them will linger only in the more secluded parts of the land, if they live at all; though they would give valuable light to the philologist of that increasing class who wish to purify our tongue, and enrich it from its own resources as well as to the antiquary.

2. The rustic dialect of Dorsetshire, as the author of this Dissertation has some reason to think,
is, with little variation, that of most of the western parts of England, which were included in the kingdom of the West Saxons, the counties of Surrey, Hants, Berks, Wilts, and Dorset, and parts of Somerset and Devon, and has come down by independent descent from the Saxon dialect which our forefathers, the followers of Cerdic and Cynric, Porta, Stuf, and Wihtgar, brought from the south of Denmark; their inland seat, - which King Alfred calls 'Eald Seaxan" or Old Saxony, - in what is now Holstein, and the three islands Nordstrand, Busen and Helligoland ; (see Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons:) as the dialects of some of the eastern, middle, and northern counties, — which formerly constituted the kingdoms of the East and Middle Angles, the Mercians, the Northumbrians, the Deiri and Bemicians,- might have been derived immediately from that of the founders of those kingdoms, the Angles, who came from 'Anglen' or Old England, in what is now the duchy of Slesvig:  and it is not only credible, but most likely, that the Saxons of Holstein and the Angles of Slesvig, might speak different dialects of the common Teutonic tongue even in Denmark.

The modem Danish and Swedish are so much like English that some sentences of those languages, as uttered by a Dane or Swede, would be intelligible to an Englishman who might not have learnt them....

Full pdf file 

An essay by Heather Hawkins  - SOAS pdf -
A Rejection of the Urban Centre? Dialect in the Poetryof William Barnes and Thomas Hardy

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