All the following examples of Yorkshire dialect grammar are taken from Arnold Kelletts (1992) Basic Broad Yorkshire. As Dr Kellett explains in his opening comments, this book was not written as a joke, although there are amusing aspects to it, but as a serious and practical guide to the Yorkshire dialect.
The text below contains only a small example of basic grammar. It does not include all the varieties of form and construction, nor the detailed explanatory notes which are provided in DR Kelletts book. Differences between West Riding speech and that of the North and East Ridings are indicated, respectively, by (WR) and (NER).
The following shows verb formation together with examples of personal pronouns.
to laik (play)
|Ah (or Aw)||laik||Wer, wi||laik|
|Tha (WR) Thoo (NER)||laiks||Yer, Yo(u)||laik|
|e||laiks||Thet, ther, or the||laik|
|Shoo, sher or sh||laiks|
Indicated by bahn (WR) or off ti (NER). For example:
Ahm bahn ter side them pots.
es off ti shut t yat.
Im going to put those dishes away.
Hes going to shut the gate.
Some of the participles used in the formation of the past tense are a retention of earlier forms of English:
gat or getten
fahned, fan or fun
Nut is the equivalent of not in both NER and WR speech although nooan is also used in the WR:
Thooll nut finnd owt.
Ahm nooan bahn yonder.
Youll not find anything.
Im not going there.
Double negatives are quite common in dialect:
|e nivver said nowt neeaways ti neean on em.|
|He never said anything at all to anybody.|
The occur more in dialect than standard English:
|Sit thissen dahn, lad. (WR)||Sit thissel doon, lad. (NER)|
Sit yourself down, lad
Possessive adjectives and pronouns do not differ greatly to those of standard English:
|mi or ma||my||mine or mahne||mine|
|thi or thy||your||thine||yours|
|wer, ahr (WR) |
Plural forms are not normally used when referring to periods of time or to quantities:
|six pund||two week owd|
|six pounds||two weeks old|
Plurals of some nouns exist in their older form. For example
As with the past participles mentioned above, some prepositions have a different form to those in standard English. For example:
|aboon||above||behunt, behint (NER)||behind|
|afooar||before||fra (WR) frev (NER)||from|
|baht||without||ter, tul (WR) tiv (NER)||to|
When used in dialect the demonstratives (that, this) are normally accompanied by theeare (there) or ere (here):
|that theeare pig||this ere cannle|
|that pig||this candle|
Variations in Yorkshire Grammar
Kellett (1992) draws few distinctions between the grammar of the NER and WR and, even then, some of these are more lexical (word related) than grammatical. For example, in relation to the formation of the future tense he cites the following constructions:
|The're bahn to laik at taws (WR)||They're going to play marbles|
|'E's off ti shut yat( NER)||He's going to shut the gate|
Wakelin (1977) cites an example which is more precisely grammatical and which distinguishes the dialect of the WR from that of the NER; the use of the pronoun us as a possessive (e.g. us car meaning our car). He maintains that this feature is confined solely to the WR, a claim which is born out by the data of the SED which shows no occurrences of this usage in the NER (Wakelin, 1977: 115; SED VIII.8.8).
After Trudgill (1990)
Another example highlighted by Trudgill (1990) is described by Upton et al (1994:494) as the 'anomalous conjugation' of the verb to be. This relates to the use of is in place of am. Trudgill refers to the pattern formed by the dialect of the 1950s and 60s relative to the construction am I. As can be seen from the map, much of the area to the west of York employed the non-standard form. The suggestion is, claims Trudgill, that this anomalous use stems from an old Scandinavian form inherited from the Viking, Danish and Norwegian settlers (1990: 98-9). Wakelin (1977) claims that the origin was the Old Norse ek es.
A further feature of the Yorkshire dialect which has its roots in the past relates to the reflexive pronouns. These elements are used in a way not found in Standard English. For example, an invitation to sit down may be expressed by the construction sit thee down or sit thissen down. In relation to the latter, the suffix -sen, which may be affixed to any pronoun to form a reflexive, can also be realized as -sel or -seln. All these forms are derivations of the Middle English seluen (Wakelin 1977: 116). However, this characteristic of Yorkshire dialect cannot be claimed to be purely grammatical as it also links in to lexis and phonology. It is interesting to note that the SED data on reflexives suggests that the majority or informants in the WR (63%) favoured the -sen affix whilst those in the NER (55%) opted for -sel (SED IX.11.1-4).
Kellett, A. (1992) Basic Broad Yorkshire, Revised Edition, Otley: Smith Settle.
Orton, H. and Halliday, W.J. (1963) Survey of English Dialects: The Basic Material, Vol. 1, Leeds: Arnold.
Trudgill, P.(1990) The Dialects of England, Oxford: Blackwell.
Upton, C., Parry, D. and Widdowson, J.D.A. (1994) Survey of English Dialects: The Dictionary and the Grammar, London: Routledge.
Wakelin, M. F. (1977) English Dialects: An Introduction, Revised Edition, London: The Athlone Press, University of London.