Northern English in Writing

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Northern English is an important variety of British English, which has tended to be neglected in textbooks on the history of English. The chapter describes Northern English from the Early Modern period (1500–1900), based on evidence from a wide range of vernacular texts and styles. The first section of the chapter gives an overview of the foundations of Northern English. The second surveys the main types of texts used as data, and discusses also issues of reliability and limitation. In the third section salient features of ‘common core’ Northern English from this period are described, and also noteworthy regional variants, on the levels of phonology, morphology, syntaxt, lexis and discourse. Degrees of resilience or recessiveness are indicated, and particular innovations. The chapter as a whole seeks to confirm the distinctiveness of Northern English north of the Humber; and more generally the richness of vernacular literature as a source of data about dialect speech, much of it as yet under-explored.


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