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Review of  Dialects

Reviewer: Charlotte Brammer
Book Title: Dialects
Book Author: Peter Trudgill
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Issue Number: 16.1759

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Subject: Dialects

AUTHOR: Trudgill, Peter
TITLE: Dialects
SERIES: Language Workbooks
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2004

Charlotte Brammer, Department of Communication Studies, Samford University


This second edition of Peter Trudgill's Dialects has the stated goal of
serving as an introduction to the field for beginners. As Trudgill states
in the Preface, "If it is successful, readers should acquire a taste for
*doing* dialectology," and guiding readers in the "doing" of dialectology
is a persistent focus in the text. The text's mere 63 pages, plus
appendices, belies its coverage.

The text contains twelve short chapters, ranging from five to seven pages
each, divided between discussion and exercises. The chapters begin with a
shaded box that defines the main discussion point. For example, Chapter 1:
Studying English Dialects highlights the following text: "Like all
languages, English is very varied. It comes in many different regional and
social varieties. All these varieties are linguistically equivalent. No
variety of the language is linguistically superior to any other." Not
surprisingly, the chapter then addresses how dialectologists study
languages in their many varieties in order to describe differences and to
understand how the differences emerge.

The answers to select exercises are provided in the back of the text, but
each chapter also contains exercises that require students to collect, or
in some cases recall, real linguistic data. For example in Chapter 1,
students are asked to determine the dialect origin of a poem (Scots), a
prose passage (American), and another passage (Cockney) and then to watch
an American or Australian television program and to note words and
expressions that are unique to those dialects. For exercises without
specific answers, students are asked to apply the concept discussed in the
chapter and to develop their own answers.

After establishing the basis of dialectology, the text then defines and,
more importantly, encourages students to explore key concepts of applied
linguistics. Chapter 2 delves into social and regional dialects and
accents, and distinguishes standard (BBC) English dialects from other
dialects. The author notes that while other dialects are not standard,
they are not inferior. Indeed, Trudgill demonstrates how successful
nonstandard dialects are in communicating, and in one of the exercises, he
invites students to: "Discuss why it is, given that Standard English is so
widely used in education and in the media, that most people in Britain
continue to speak nonstandard dialects" (p.10). Chapter 3 continues this
focus on the varieties of English within Britain by looking at styles,
formal to informal to slang, and registers, technical and non-technical,
for example. Students are then asked to identify style and register
choices in select prose passages. Chapter 4 differentiates between
traditional dialects, those spoken by older people in rural areas, and
mainstream dialects, which Trudgill claims are more similar to Standard
English and are spoken by younger, urban speakers.

Chapters 5 and 6 discuss dialect maps, how they are created and how they
can reveal information about the spread and development of dialect
features. Chapter 7 continues the discussion of dialect maps with more
recent developments in British English, primarily th-fronting. In many
ways, this chapter serves as a prelude to the phonological discussion of
Chapter 8 in which Trudgill remarks on the spread of the loss of r in
words like arm and the loss of h in hill, among others.

In chapters 9, 10, and 11, grammatical differences among dialects receive
more attention. After discrediting the myth that nonstandard
dialects "don't have grammar," Trudgill demonstrates how these dialects
have different grammars, or in come cases different elements to their
grammars, but are in no way deficient. Each of these chapters emphasizes
variations in verb tense (Chapter 9), rules (Chapter 10), and regularity
(Chapter 11).

Chapter 12 moves away from the technical side of grammatical rules and
addresses the very interesting concept of language contact and, more
pointedly, hyperadaptation, "where speakers try to modify their speech in
the direction of a different dialect and get it wrong because they overdo
it" (p. 61). Trudgill then asks students to identify instances of
hyperadaptation and to discuss the additive l in words such as Americal
and pastal in the Bristol dialect. The text ends here, with Trudgill
providing a list for "further reading" for those who are interested.


Not surprisingly, Trudgill successfully distills the relatively complex
field of dialectology down to the bare minimum for beginners. He does so
by simplifying key concepts in the field, giving basic examples to
demonstrate each of those concepts, and providing exercises that help
beginners see how dialectology is accomplished. This strength can also be
a weakness, however, if the reader is looking for anything more than basic
information. This would be useful as a workbook in a beginning linguistics
course, but it would need substantive lectures and additional reading to
prepare students to adequately elaborate on some of the exercises. For
example, in many of the exercises, Trudgill assumes students can
differentiate the various British dialects. Some students may not,
particularly if they are not native speakers of British English. In light
of the text's purpose as a workbook, this particular critique is certainly

A more perplexing issue, perhaps, is the almost off-hand reference to
American and Australian English, as if there is only one American English
and one Australian English, and absolutely no mention of other Englishes,
Indian, for example. Given the text's almost complete focus on various
British English dialects, one is left to wonder why American and
Australian Englishes were mentioned at all. Perhaps a short chapter on
World Englishes could have provided space to address this part of
dialectology more appropriately, including adding an exercise to ask
students to identify phonological, grammatical, and semantic among some of
these Englishes. Given the increasing emphasis on globalization, it is
surprising that this topic did not garner any attention in this workbook.

This critique aside, the workbook is valuable and will no doubt be very
useful for many beginner students in dialectology.


Dr. Brammer is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Howard
College of Arts and Sciences, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama,
USA. Her research interests include writing pedagogy, technical and
professional communication, and sociolinguistics.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0415342627
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 88
Prices: U.S. $ 78.95

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0415342635
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 88
Prices: U.S. $ 24.95