Tuesday 5 September 1989

Wessex Dialects


Mr. Norman Rogers’ lecture to the Warminster History Society, at Warminster Library, last night (Monday 4th September 1989) was a delight.
His subject was Wessex Dialects. His dry sense of humour, combined with a thorough and scholarly knowledge of the subject, made for an entertaining evening, and stirred the memories of members who, like Mr. Rogers, had been brought up with the sounds of broad dialect.

Some phrases were incomprehensive to an unpractised ear but this is not surprising as vowel sounds are changed, consonants sometimes added and sometimes omitted, and many words are outside the vocabulary of those who know only Received Standard English.

The origin of dialect probably goes back to Anglo-Saxon times. Language changes continuously but now it is changing more slowly than ever before. It is an illogical muddle which makes it a fascinating subject.

Mr. Rogers showed maps illustrating the areas in which certain sounds and words are commonly used. From these one could see that there is not necessarily a "Wessex Dialect" but a "West Country Dialect" as the language spoken has many similarities from Hampshire to Cornwall.

The extreme west of Cornwall is excluded. Here English was a replacement language when Cornish ceased to be spoken 200 years ago, and people are more likely to speak Received Standard English.

Sadly, the West Country Dialect does not carry prestige. To prove his point Mr. Rogers said that one of the local commercial radio stations has advertisements in London, Liverpool and other far flung accents but none in its own local dialect areas.

Report written by Danny Howell.