The north above the North

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Linguistic varieties in Northern England and Scotland have always been closely related, as a result of their shared history and geographical proximity. Older Scots and Northern Middle English were divided from other Middle English dialects by a major dialect boundary, and this division survived into modern times, separating Scots and far Northern English dialects on the one hand from Southern and Midland English dialects on the other. Cutting across this dialect unity, the Scottish-English Border has further shaped the relationship between linguistic varieties on either side of it. This has caused dialects in Northern England and Scotland to look in different directions and, as traditional dialect boundaries have faded, the Scottish-English Border appears to have become increasingly important as a linguistic divide. Thus we cannot begin to understand the meaning of ‘Northern English’ without considering the relationship between linguistic varieties in Scotland and Northern England, and the extent to which the Scottish-English Border constitutes a linguistic boundary between them.


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