Monday, 28 September 2009


Northern dialect and, equally interesting, patterns of speech (even when using standard English), have been hardy perennials for me during my time reporting from the region. I have a host of mentors from the great Joseph Wright, who rose from mill work aged six in the Bradford suburb of Idle (never so wrongly named as in his case) to become Professor of Comparitive Philology at Oxford University. His tradition lives on in the Yorkshire Dialect Society whose website is full of good things. Rather like him, Rev Joseph Hunter did a very good job with his The Hallamshire Glossary, republished by the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language at Sheffield University in 1983. Assorted copies of the centre's journal Lore and Language have added to my store of theories and facts. Another venerable authority is John H Wilkinson who published his Leeds Dialect, Glossary and Lore in 1924. Blatherskyte, gallehbawk, topful''s like a pudding full of plums.
In recent times, Dr Arnold Kellett of Knaresborough has been a marvellous source; among many others, he inspired Ross Raisin, the young Keighley writer whose novel God's Own Country (Viking 2008) plays excellent games with language. Dr Kellett's many books include Basic Broad Yorkshire (Smith Settle 1991), a fine summary, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore (Smith Settle 1994), Ee by gum, Lord - the Gospels in Broad Yorkshire (Smith Settle 1996) and, if you want a very rapid skim, The Little Book of Yorkshire Dialect (Dalesman 2008). It really is little, but concise.

Poetry often gives a guide to language, and apart from Permanently Bard (Bloodaxe 1995) and anything else by Tony Harrison, I have made good use of Ian Duhig's Nominies (Bloodaxe 1998) and The Lammas Hireling (Picador 2003). I've already mentioned Lucy Newlyn below; another good poetess is Joan Ingilby (of Marie Hartley fame), for example her simply-named Poems (Smith Settle 1994).
Sir Herbert Read's famous memoir An Innocent Eye (Faber & Faber 1933, reprinted with an introduction by one of his sons, Piers Paul Read, Smith Settle 1996) stands re-reading again and again. So does a singular novel which raised my interest in speech is Sam Small, the Flying Yorkshireman by Eric Knight (Neville Spearman 1957). It's a cracking story too. I got my copy in Kit Calvert's shop in Hawes and it has a column on Knight by Willis Hall from the Yorkshire Evening Post tucked inside.

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