The importance of being Janus

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It is well understood that boundaries between linguistic varieties are not solid, but rather that there are transition zones where competing variants merge almost imperceptibly into one another in both geographical and social space. Between northern and southern England there exists the populous region of the Midlands, inhabited by millions of people whose speech is a unique blend of northern, southern and regionally-specific features. Using data from a range of recent-historical and present-day surveys, this paper explores what we can divine of the uniqueness of speech in an area which is neither “northern” nor “southern”. It helps towards a better understanding of (especially geographical) linguistic transitions, so shedding light on the notion of the “dialect area”.


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