Yorkshire Post (08/Feb/1929) - The Library Table: Yorkshire Dialect

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.




A notable addition to the dialect literature of Yorkshire is Mr. Walter E. Haigh's "Dialect of the Huddersfield District" (Oxford University Press, 12s. 6d. net). Since the days of the English Dialect Society it has too readily been assumed that the field of dialect is now conquered, the palms have been awarded to the victorious general, Dr. Joseph Wright, and the demobilised victors may now go home to read at their leisure "the English Dialect Dictionary." But, really, it is not like that at all. A dialect is not something which existed in the nineteenth century, and is now extinct. Dialects still exist, and, as the population is greater than ever, they are spoken by more people than ever. They have been profoundly modified by standard English, and are not so "broad" as they once were ; but they will never entirely disappear, for it is impossible that all men should speak alike. Even the Bolsheviks have not been able to arrange for this sort of equality. And though the dialects of the West Riding are not what they were fifty years ago, they are still as far remote from the English of Eton and Harrow as ever they were.

Mr. Haigh's Glossary comes at an opportune time. The old order changeth, giving place to new. The broad variety of dialect is being modified by the English of the schools. Some of the old words are being ousted by their literary equivalents. But Mr. Haigh is catholic in his tastes. He is proud of the good old words like "halsh" (loop), "lollek," "fous" (fox), and "chavel," but he presents us also with beautiful varieties of current words, such as "advertanzment," "akshelli," "ditariuin" (determine), "manifacter," "mauser" (miser), "nuatifau" (notify), "tract" (trout), and "waern" (warn). We have here a glossary of some 5,000 words in daily use in the Huddersfield district, and most of them are well known in Leeds and Bradford also, and probably much further afield. Dialect etymology is full of interest, as is natural in a language so strongly tinctured with Scandinavian and French words; and as yet the study of the derivation of dialect-words is something which still awaits the Skeat of the future. Mr. Haigh has bravely attempted to indicate the origins of words, often with success, though we take leave to doubt some of his etymologies — "bedlem," for instance is surely "Bethlehem," as in the Bedlam Hospital. But such matters are notoriously the scraps from the feast of language over which the pedants wrangle, or "wangle" as they say in Huddersfield. Some of the dialect words are very old. To "addle" goes back to the years before the Norman Conquest, when the Northmen ruled. "Melsh" and "dollem" are even older, and probably the thanes of the founder of York Minster spoke of a milsc apple, and called a heap of rubbish a dwolm, if Mr. Haigh's etymologies are correct. In this glossary the Yorkshireman can find the old words of his boyhood ; and the scholar may find material for illustrating most of the peculiarities of the English language — its mixed vocabulary, its curious sound-changes, and its loss of inflexions. Standing between the North-West Midlands and the North, the dialect of Hudderstield shares some of the peculiarities of each. Its grammar and vocabulary, as Professor J.R.R. Tolkiln [sic] points out in an attractive introduction, bristle with points of interest. Mr. Haigh is to be congratulated not only for having undertaken the stupendous task of collecting the material and writing the book, but for doing it so thoroughly.

Haigh's "Dialect of the Huddersfield District" is a standard work that no library can afford to neglect, and that every patriotic Yorkshireman should buy, both for its interest and its excellence and to encourage the author to proceed with further studies of the same kind. The attention with which the proofs have been read is worthy of note, and is in keeping with the careful scholarship of the author. The definitions are precise and lull, and the illustrations are admirable and often humorous, as in the example of "drau-spokkn." A tramp addresses a local "character": "Hey, mester. au'm reit ard up ; can yo elp me? Au'v been on t'ruad all this day." The dry-spoken one: "Well, tha mun walk on t'causey for a change."