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Review of  East Anglian English


Reviewer: Joan C. Beal
Book Title: East Anglian English
Book Author: Jacek F. Obe Peter Trudgill
Publisher:
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 12.3151

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Review:

Fisiak, Jacek, and Peter Trudgill, ed. (2001) East Anglian English.
D. S. Brewer, xii+264pp, hardback ISBN 0-85991-571-9, $99.00

Joan C. Beal, National Centre for English Cultural Tradition,
University of Sheffield

This collection of papers, some new, others reprinted but not easily
accessible elsewhere, is the first volume ever devoted to the English
of East Anglia. The justification for such a volume will be self-
evident to readers with an interest in the dialectology and/or
sociolinguistics of British English. To those who still need
convincing, the editors point out that 'East Anglia, just across the
sea from the coastline of the original West Germanic-speaking area,
must have been one of the very first English-speaking places in the
world, if not the first.'(x) As explained in the Preface, East Anglia
is not an official administrative region of England, but rather a
notional area whose boundaries are somewhat fuzzy (rather like 'the
Midwest' in the USA). In the first chapter, Peter Trudgill presents a
clear and systematic account of the defining features of East Anglian
English. He first justifies the selection of seven salient variants:
3rd person singular zero ((s) he go); absence of h- dropping; the NURSE
vowel pronounced as 'narse'; the FOOT vowel in, e.g. both; a fronted
realisation of the BATH vowel; glottaling and glottalisation of /t/;
and schwa in the final syllable of e.g. wanted. The composite map built
up from the isoglosses of all these features reveals a focal East
Anglian area, consisting of Norfolk and Suffolk, in which all the
salient variants occur, and a transition zone to the west and south, in
which at least two of the variants occur in any one place. This chapter
provides a very useful and helpful introduction to the volume,
providing as it does a clear definition of the 'core' and
'transitional' areas of East Anglia, which acts as a reference-point
for later chapters.

The main part of the volume is roughly chronological, starting with
Jacek Fisiak's paper on Old East Anglian, and concluding with Patricia
Poussa's 'real-time' study of syntactic change in 20th century Norfolk.
Fisiak, in a paper first published in 1988, begins by establishing a
methodology for the reconstruction of Old English dialects. He points
out that, despite the reservations about isoglosses expressed by
sociolinguists and dialectometrists 'dialects, as regional variants of
language, do exist' and are neither 'oversimplifications' nor
'fictitious abstractions'. (14) Echoing Trudgill's findings in the
previous chapter, Fisiak notes that, rather than being characterised by
clear-cut boundaries, dialects exist as focal areas surrounded by
transition zones. Focal areas are located around important political or
cultural centres, whilst transition zones lie within the sphere of
influence of more than one centre. Fisiak goes on to discuss the
resources available for the reconstruction of Old English dialects:
since textual evidence for the period before the 11th century is so
sparse, onomastic evidence, including information from place-names and
coins, must be used to supplement it. Even so, the only period of Old
English for which sufficient evidence exists is the 11th century, for
which the Domesday Book provides extensive and reliable data. Fisiak
also notes that data from 13th century dialects can be used as
'retrodictive' evidence. He goes on to provide evidence from all these
sources for the distribution of <e> forms of the I- umlaut of /u/ in
stressed syllables (e.g. Old English hyll 'hill') Contrary to Wyld
(1913-14), who includes only Suffolk in the <e> area, Fisiak posits a
dialect area including the whole of East Anglia. This is an important
chapter, providing both a summary of the methodological issues and
controversies in Old English dialectology and a useful starting- point
for establishing the linguistic characteristics of Old East Anglian.
Whilst its reprinting is welcome, this reader would have welcomed some
indication of whether further work has been done since the original
publication of this paper.

Chapter 3, by Karl Inge Sandred, deals with place-name evidence.
Sandred, noting that 'East Anglia has been submerged by several
linguistic invasions', gives a brief but lucid account of the evidence
for Celtic, Anglian, Scandinavian and French settlement and /or
influence. The Anglian evidence seems to confirm Trudgill's view of
Norfolk and Suffolk as the 'core' East Anglian counties. Names with the
early Anglian elements -ingas, -ingaham and -ham 'by their great number
in East Anglia...indicate the strength of early Anglian settlement in
the area....They constitute clear evidence that the two counties once
formed a distinct linguistic as well as an ethnic unit as the Kingdom
of East Anglia.' (43-44) There is extensive discussion of the evidence
for successive waves of Scandinavian settlement (-by names indicating
earlier settlement than -thorp names) and an interesting section on
street-names in Norwich, indicating that the urbanisation of this city
took place under the Danes, sometime in the late 9th or early 10th
century.

Chapters 4 and 5, both by Gillis Kristensson, present evidence from the
Survey of Middle English Dialects (SMED). In Chapter 4, Kristensson
discusses contact between the Old East Anglian and East Saxon dialects
in the East midlands. He argues that place-names with the element
Strat- developed from Saxon ae as opposed to Anglian e and suggest
that, whilst both Angles and Saxons invaded from the Wash, 'the Angles
who turned east and settled in East Anglia were intermingled with
Saxons and...the latter are behind the OE ae forms' (68). This
corroborates archaeological evidence showing a mixture of Anglian and
Saxon grave-goods in this area. SMED also provides evidence for a
boundary in OE between Northern East Anglian in Norfolk and Southern
East Anglian in Suffolk, the salient features being /i(=F9)/ (N) vs.
/e(=F9)/ (S) reflexes of OE y; OE hw- spelt as <qu> (N) vs. <wh> (S);
hird(e) (N) vs. herd(e) (S) for OE hirde, heorde 'herdsman'; and the
survival of kirk as a byname in Norfolk compared with cherch in
Suffolk. Kristensson goes on to suggest explanations for this dialect
division in the early ecclesiastical history of East Anglia, and in the
nature of the physical boundary between the counties, the river
Waveney, whose name elements *wagen 'quagmire' and ea 'river', point to
a river with adjoining marshland, which would have been much more
difficult to cross than the present river.

In chapter 5, Kristensson sets out to trace the origins of a
prestigious 14th-century sociolect behind the Chancery Standard which
emerged as the standard for written English in the 15th century.
Evidence from London documents shows forms of OE y as <u> and as <i>.
The boundaries established in SMED suggest that the <u> forms were
introduced by speakers from the counties to the north and west of
London, whilst the <i> forms must have been introduced from Norfolk or
northern Cambridgeshire. Kristensson argues that these forms represent
two sociolects in 14th-century London: one in which OE /y/ was
preserved, spoken by incomers from the north and west, who 'formed some
kind of middle class' (73), and one in which OE /y/ was pronounced /i/
(as in Standard English). The latter was spoken by a very small
minority, but their pronunciation was to prevail in Standard English.
Kristensson suggests that 'the Norfolk people in London came to form an
upper stratum of the Population, a merchant class with influence on the
administration' (75). The sociolect used by this wealthy elite would
then be the model used in government offices when English replaced
French and Latin as the language of administration. These two chapters
by Kristensson are both very short (8 and 6 pages respectively), but
dense with evidence which sheds light on issues of dialectal and
sociolectal variation in Old and Middle English.

By contrast, chapter 6, by Laura Wright, takes up almost one- third of
the entire volume. This is largely due to the inclusion in appendices
of full details of the 46 guild certificates of 1388/9 written in
Norfolk, and all the analysis on which the paper is based. The paper
thus provides an invaluable source for anybody wishing to carry out
further or comparative investigations. Wright here uses the same
methodology employed in her (1998) analysis of London guild
certificates, in which, by analysing the writings of each individual
scribe separately, she discovered that, whilst ratios of variability in
the spelling of inflections varied from scribe to scribe, each
individual scribe's ratio was stable from one certificate to another.
She analyses the same morphological features as in the 1998 paper, with
the addition of one orthographic variable. These are: infinitive
suffixes, prepositions preceding infinitives, strong past participle
suffixes, past participle prefixes, present participle and deverbal
noun suffixes, present tense indicative, indicative and subjunctive,
third person singular suffixes; present tense indicative and
subjunctive third person plural suffixes; third person plural pronouns,
negators, adverb suffixes and spellings for <wh>. What emerges from the
analysis is a picture of 'controlled variation' with 'more variation
present in Norfolk than in London' and 'more Northern features present
in the Norfolk texts' (85). Several interesting points of comparison
between the Norfolk and London certificates emerge. Perhaps the
sharpest contrast is in the use of present participle and gerundial
suffixes: the Norfolk scribes here use -ng mainly for substantives
(86%) and -nd mainly for verbal suffixes (73%), whereas the London
scribes only use -ng in both contexts. Wright concludes that this is
'one of the most divergent features between Norwich and London English'
(87). The analysis here also sheds light on the question of the
introduction of the -s suffix for third person singular present tense
into an area which lacks this feature in the present-day dialect.
Wright's analysis shows five Norfolk scribes all located in the north
of the county, using the -s suffix, amounting to 11% of tokens over the
46 Norfolk certificates, whilst -s accounted for only 0.5% of the
tokens in the London certificates. Thus the -s suffix is not a feature
of Standard English diffusing from London, but a northern feature
moving south, beginning to affect the language of scribes on the
Norfolk/Lincolnshire border, but missing out the rest of East Anglia.
Elsewhere in this volume (chapter 8), Trudgill argues that the presence
of the zero-suffix in present-day East Anglian dialect can be explained
by language-contact. Wright here inserts the intriguing counter-
suggestion that 'East Anglia was so powerful socially and economically
in the late fourteenth century as to give rise to a regional identity,
such as to repel the encroaching -s endings as 'foreign' to the
region'. (101) Wright's chapter is substantial enough to have been
published separately, but thematically it is placed very well in this
volume, adding as it does to our understanding of the nature and status
of Norfolk in the fourteenth century, and the history of the present-
day dialect.

Another important point made by Wright is that certificates written in
English are found only in Norfolk and London, pointing again to the
special status of Norfolk as an area of high population density and
language contact. 'The fashion for abandoning Latin and French and
using English began in the centres of commodity and exchange.' (100)
This early use of English in Norfolk led to a certain regularisation
and elaboration of the dialect before the Chancery dialect emerged as
an incipient national standard. In chapter 7, Claire Jones takes up
this theme with reference to a body of medical texts written in East
Anglian English. Taking up Richard Beadle's (1991) call for a 'literary
geography of later medieval England', she takes an interdisciplinary
approach, not discussing the linguistic detail of these texts, but
building up a picture of their readership and ownership, and their
place in the overall pattern of medical writings. Jones concludes that
'we can postulate various levels of literacy, including literacy in the
standardised or colourless vernacular and the local dialect, as well as
fluent or simply functional literacy in Latin.' (175) This chapter
provides fascinating insights into 15th century East Anglian society
and suggests that there is much scope for investigations of this kind
into several genres of Later Middle English writing.

In chapter 8, Peter Trudgill presents the argument already alluded to
by Laura Wright, that the presence in East Anglian dialect of third
person singular zero suffix can be explained by language contact.
Noting that evidence for the zero suffix can be traced back at least to
the early 17th century, Trudgill posits that the modern system must
either have been arrived at 'via an intermediate s- marking system' or
'there was no intermediate stage, and East Anglian dialects lack -s
because they never had it in the first place' (182). He goes on to
relate that, in the late 16th century, large numbers of Dutch- and
French-speaking migrants from the Low Countries settled in Norwich
after fleeing persecution by Philip of Spain. This led to a
considerable degree of language-contact, which here, as in other
language-contact based varieties such as creoles, led to the
simplification of the third-person singular ending. He further argues
that it was precisely this feature which was simplified because, at the
time of the immigration, there was variation in the Norwich dialect
between zero, -s, and -th forms. Thus the zero-form used by non-native
speakers was not competing with a single 'native' variant and so was
more likely to win out. Many readers will be familiar with Trudgill's
argument (the paper was previously published in Folia Linguistica
Historica 18 (1997)), but here it both complements the other chapters
in building up a picture of Norwich as an important cosmopolitan city,
and is in turn reinforced by, for instance, Laura Wright's confirmation
that -s was absent from all but the most northerly of the Norfolk
scribes in her study.

Chapter 9, by Terttu Nevalainen, Helena Raumolin-Bromberg and Peter
Trudgill examines variation in third-person singular endings in texts
from the Corpus of Early English Correspondence (CEEC). Taking a
sociohistorical approach, in which the letters are grouped according to
the social class of the authors, they compare texts from north of
Lincolnshire, where -s was attested throughout the Early Modern period,
with those from London and from East Anglia. They find that -s was not
generalised in East Anglia until the 17th century, forty years later
than in London. The-s ending appears to have been introduced as a
'change from below' led by the non-gentry between 1540-1549. The
increase in -s stalls in 1560-1579, possibly because by then it is
stigmatised by comparison with the 'Chancery' variant -th. After 1560,
the introduction of -s is led by women, and whilst the verbs have and
do are slower to adopt -s than other verbs, the introduction of -s
forms here is again led by women rather than men, but also by
professional men rather than other classes of men. The authors go on to
argue that East Anglia lagged behind other areas in the introduction of
-s because, by the 16th century, it was self-contained and isolated
from population movements within England. However, they do not rule out
'multiple causation' in which Trudgill's language-contact hypothesis
and also the possibility of contact with Scandinavians in the Danelaw
could also play a part.

The remaining chapters 10-12 deal with the modern dialects of East
Anglia. In chapter 10, Ken Lodge discusses the modern reflexes of a
number of ME vowel contrasts in the dialects of Norfolk and Norwich. In
many cases, contrasts which have been lost in other varieties, such as
moan/ mown; gate/gait, are retained in Norfolk, making this dialect
distinctive at the systematic (phonemic) rather than just the
superficial (phonetic) level. Some distinctions (e.g. gate/ gait) are
being lost in the urban dialect of Norwich, but not in rural Norfolk,
whilst others (moan/mown) are retained throughout the county. This
chapter provides a good, clear summary of research on the distribution
of vocalic phonemes in Norfolk dialects, which would be a good
starting-point for anybody wishing to undertake further sociophonetic
studies of the area.

In chapter 11, David Britain presents findings from very recent work on
two well-known dialect boundaries in the Fenland region, the 'FOOT-
STRUT' split and the 'TRAP-BATH' split. These boundaries mark the two
most salient differences between 'northern' (unsplit) and 'southern'
(split) accents of present-day English in England. Chambers and
Trudgill (1980) reanalysed the data from the Survey of English Dialects
(SED), revealing the Fenland region to be a transition area, in which
several types of variable lect occurred. Britain here presents the
results of his own sociolinguistic investigation into the speech of
young (16-30) and old (45-66) groups of Fenlanders, recorded between
1987 and 1990. Comparing the 'young' and 'old' groups thus provides an
'apparent time' study of changes in progress. What emerges is that, in
both cases, when the speakers' places of residence and index scores for
the variable concerned are placed on the map, the transition zone
appears to shrink: the 'southern' variants have advanced (i.e. moved
north), but the 'northern' variants have also moved south, with the
result that the transition zone is 'squeezed'. In the case of 'FOOT-
STRUT' with the variable lects are stabilizing in the more central
area, but in for 'TRAP- BATH', younger speakers appear to be moving
towards a more categorical use of either the 'southern' or the
'northern' pattern. Given the current interest in 'dialect-levelling'
(see, for instance, Foulkes & Docherty (1999)), Britain's evidence is
very important, showing as it does the levelling towards either
'northern' or 'southern' norms by young people in what was formerly a
transition area.

In the final chapter, Patricia Poussa presents the results of a 'real-
time' study of syntactic change in North-west Norfolk, for which she
recorded in 1991elderly speakers in Docking, one of the sample points
for the SED. Concentrating on two syntactic features, relative markers
and the stereotypically East Anglian that anaphora (as in That rained
yesterday), she demonstrates that, whilst the latter had disappeared by
1991, the favoured relative marker in 1991 as in the SED sample was
still what. However, the near-categorical use of what in the SED sample
(90.90% in Docking) had been replaced in 1991 by a pattern in which
zero is used almost as frequently as what in the male informants'
usage, and more than twice as frequently (56.52 % vs. 21.73%) in that
of the one female informant. The use of that as a relative marker
remains fairly constant: the SED informants do not use it at all,
whilst those in the 1991 sample use it between 0% and 08.33%. Poussa
argues that the presence of that anaphora in the traditional dialect of
Norfolk, which she attributes to the Scandinavian substratum, inhibits
the adoption of that as a relative marker. Instead, the what- relative,
first appearing in ME texts from this area as a declined pronoun,
particlised and took on in this dialect, the equivalent role to SE
that. In more recent times, relative what has become stigmatized due to
its association with the speech of lower-class Londoners, and so is
avoided by upwardly- mobile speakers in Norfolk. However, although,
with the loss of that anaphora, there is no longer any linguistic
reason for the avoidance of that as a relative marker, Poussa's results
here show that its use is much more restricted than in SE. It would be
interesting to see whether further research sampling younger speakers
might show an increase in relative that usage.

This collection of papers is a welcome addition to a growing body of
literature on dialects of British English. The inclusion of papers on
all periods of East Anglian English and the inclusion of onomastic and
archaeological evidence makes this an excellent source book for anybody
wishing to conduct further research in this area. Britain's and
Poussa's chapters bring us up to date, both in terms of the samples
discussed and the methodologies adopted, and would be of interest to
anybody working in the area of linguistic variation and change. The
editorial strategy here has clearly been to adopt a 'light touch',
which has paid dividends in, for instance allowing Wright to make all
her source materials available, but which also results in a lack of
cross- referencing and some quotes left untranslated.

REFERENCES
Chambers, J. & P. Trudgill (1980) Dialectology Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Foulkes, P. & G. Docherty (eds.) (1999) Urban Voices London: Arnold.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Joan C. Beal is Director of the National Centre for English Cultural
Tradition at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of 'English
Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence's "Grand
Repository of the English Language" (1775)', Oxford, Clarendon Press,
1999. Her research interests are in the dialects and history of English
within and outside the British Isles.


 
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