Lancashire dialect was the speech of the common people of Lancashire from before the period when cotton working passed from the handloom to the factory and during the subsequent industrial revolution. We know of it because a number of Lancashire folk wrote it down for profit, for entertainment and for posterity in the period from about 1750 onwards; its heyday was during the nineteenth century, after which it declined such that it is now the preserve of small, but discerning, clubs and societies.
I find Lancashire dialect extremely interesting for several reasons. Most obviously I love many of the poems and sketches that I have had the opportunity to discover; I love their language and their moods. I also find that they contain many elements of a way of life that part of my family – the Dunkerleys of Oldham – experienced and that are therefore relevant to my interest in family history.
I know the names of a fair number of my forebears, when and where they were born, got married, lived and died. I may know what they did for a living and where and when they made certain journeys, and I can read about the events that were happening around them, of which they must have been aware, of which they must have talked, and which affected their lives. But I often cannot know, unfortunately, about their personalities, what talents they possessed, what they liked to do for amusement, or what kind of sense of humour they had. I am denied all these ‘spiritual’ things. However, through a study of Lancashire dialect I can come to know how they spoke, learn to say some of the same things they would have said and understand some of the emotions that they would have felt. This is probably the most intimately I can possibly ‘know’ them.
Language, in any case, has always fascinated me. I start with a short history of the development of English and then move on to consider what we know of Lancashire dialect. Though I have looked, I have yet to find anyone telling the story of the Lancashire dialect in this way.
The first ot these two essays looks at the development of modern English from its origins through the Old English of Saxon times and the Middle English of the Normans. It includes a quick look at the Great Vowel shift and its significance for the northern dialects and then looks at the Modern English period.
The second essay examines how vernacular English - the spoken tongue of the common man (and woman) came to be written down in the face of all the obstacles that stood in its way. The story is a fascinating one and I have included a good number of examples and links to illustrate the various points. I hope you will find it interesting.
The site also includes a major Lancashire Dialect Glossary and notes on Conjugations of the verbs in Lancashire Dialect.
This page was last modified on Tuesday, August 31, 2010