The West Midlands

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Wells (1982b: 364) remarks that “in the West Midlands area, the accent surrounding ‘the Black Country area around Wolverhampton’ is particularly distinctive”, though this accent is discussed in the section of the volume which deals with the North. Mathisen, in her discussion of English in the Black Country consistently compares each reflex discussed to the usual reflexes of ‘northern varieties’ (1999: 107–108). Chambers and Trudgill (1998: 110) even discuss the concept of “mixed and fudged lects” which lie on the isoglosses between northern and southern varieties. In this chapter I argue the linguistic legitimacy of according the varieties of the Western Midlands a regional label of their own. I show by examining Birmingham and Black Country phonology and morphology that these varieties do not sit comfortably with the varieties of the North. Neither do they belong wholly to the varieties typical of the South, rather, they form a bundle of features which, I will argue, constitute a separate dialect area. The sum of their linguistic parts maintains their status as a discrete linguistic region.


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