White rose of Yorkshire
 White rose of Yorkshire

"…there is much more regional variation in words used in Traditional Dialects than there is at the level of Modern Dialects." (Trudgill, 1990: 102)

Trudgill (1990) remarks on the prodigious variation in vocabulary arising from both the historical settlement patterns of the various European invaders and the later linguistic changes following settlement (see Historical Development of Yorkshire Dialect). Trudgill (1990) and Kellett (1992; 1994) cite the following examples of lexical (word) variations falling within the three Yorkshire Ridings

Standard English North Riding East Riding West Riding

sweets

goodies

goodies

spice

ear

lug

lug

tab

armpit

oxter

armpit

armhole

 

Trudgill (1990) also highlights the remarkable resemblance that some dialect words have in relation to their Scandinavian counterparts, a testimony to their historical origins:

Standard English

Yorkshire Dialect

Modern Norwegian

play

lake

leike

flea

lop

loppe

fist

nieve

neve

child

bairn

barn

 

Some words in Yorkshire dialect at first sight seem to be standard English but, as Kellett (1992) points out, " they do not mean what they appear to mean." He gives the following examples:

 

flags

not banners to be waved, but paving stones.

gang

not a group of people, but the verb ‘to go’.

real

a description of something good or outstanding, not a reference to genuineness.

brat

not necessarily a child, this could be an apron.

starved

relating to feeling cold rather than a state of hunger.

sharp

used in the sense of ‘quickly’ rather than having a point or edge

right

employed not only to indicate direction but as an intensifier in the sense of ‘very’.

 

Sheep-scoring numerals

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Yorkshire dialect is the method of sheep-scoring (counting). Witty (1927) observes that this system is associated only with Yorkshire and parts of Cumberland (Cumbria), an area equating roughly to the ancient Brythonic localities of Elmete, Loidis and Craven; the last bastions of the Celts in Yorkshire.

From comparisons made with, inter alia, Welsh, Gaelic, Erse (Irish) Old Norse and Old English, Witty concludes that the sheep-scoring numerals survive from the original Celtic language.

Halliday and Umpleby (1949: 168) provide the following examples of some of the numerals employed. There are other variations associated with the Craven, Knaresborough and Mashamshire areas

 

Swaledale

Wensleydale

Nidderdale

one

yahn

yan

yain

two

tayhn

tean

tain

three

tether

tither

eddero

four

mether

mither

peddero

five

mimph

pip

pitts

six

hithher

teaser

tayter

seven

lithher

leaser

later

eight

anver

catra

ovvero

nine

danver

horna

covvero

ten

dic

dick

dix

eleven

yahndic

yan-dick

yain-dix

twelve

tayhndic

tean-dick

tain-dix

thirteen

tetherdic

tither-dick

eddero-dix

fourteen

metherdic

mither-dick

peddero-dix

fifteen

mimphit (or mump)

bumper

bumfitt

sixteen

yahn-a-mimphit

yan-a-bum

yain-o-bumfitt

seventeen

tayhn-a-mimphit

tean-a-bum

tain-o-bumfitt

eighteen

tether-a-mimphit

tither-a-bum

eddero-o-bumfitt

nineteen

mether-a-mimphit

mither-a-bum

peddero-o-bumfitt

twenty

jigit

jigger

jiggit or giggit


It is however not only purely words which contribute to the distinctiveness of the Yorkshire dialect but also the variety of idiomatic expression. The following examples are taken from Kellett (1992).

 

allus at t’ last push up

always at the last moment.

nobbut a mention

just a small amount.

it’s nut jannock

it’s not fair.

’e wor ’ard on

he was fast asleep.

livin’ tally / ower t’ brush

living together as man and wife but not married.

tek a good likeness

be very photogenic.

It caps owt

it beats everything.

goin’ dahn t’ nick

ill and not going to get better.

a reight gooid sooart

a really kind person

Ah wor fair starved

I really was cold

 

Variations in Lexis

Form

Trudgill (1990) observes that, whilst variation in the vocabulary of modern dialect is still extant, the differences are much less than those which occur in traditional dialect. He considers that, in modern English, vocabulary is becoming increasingly more uniform (1990: 114). Wakelin (1977) suggests that the phonetic (pronunciation) and semantic (meaning) 'disintegration of words 'may particularly occur 'in boundary areas between dialects'. Using the Yorkshire word for starling, he provides an example of 'how the phonemic variants .may provide a series of easy transitional steps from one to another across a border area' (1977: 73-4; 76-7). The position is summarized in the following table which illustrates how, moving westward from the Yorkshire coast, sound-changes occur in different parts of the word.

 

 

Meaning

One example of variation in meaning, noted by Rawling (2000), relates to the dialect word nawpin. Kellett (1994) ascribes this word to the WR and defines its meaning as : 'a free handout, tip, or something cadged' (1994: 122). However, Rawling found that the word was also used in the NER to describe 'the act of hitting someone' (2000: 31).

 

Sources

Halliday, W.J. and Umpleby, A. S. (eds) (1949) The White Rose Garland, London: Dent and Sons.

Kellett, A. (1992) Basic Broad Yorkshire, Revised Edition, Otley: Smith Settle.

Kellett, A. (1994) The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Otley: Smith Settle.

Rawling, B.J.H. (2000) A Study of Present-day Yorkshire Dialect, BA Dissertation, College of Ripon and York St John, York

Trudgill, P.(1990) The Dialects of England, Oxford: Blackwell.

Wakelin, M. F. (1977) English Dialects: An Introduction, Revised Edition, London: The Athlone Press, University of London.

Witty, J.R. (1927) Sheep and Sheep-scoring. In Kellett, A. and Dewhirst, I .(1997) A Century of Yorkshire Dialect, Otley: Smith Settle.