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Somersetshire dialect. Take the following short dialogue, for example:
6 Whur bist guaine ?”
“Make heeaste, there's a good buoy. Zee if the keetle buoils, and tak keear of the quoat.”
uai. Here there are at least Quoat-uoa. four triphthongs-Buoy-uoy.
The combination uoy only exists in one word in English—buoy, a float; and there it is not sounded; but boy, a child, is always sounded in Somersetshire just as buoy, a float, is spelt.
This is not all, however. There is a class of English words beginning with a couple of vowels, where the two are made to do duty for one, and thus represent only a single vowel-sound. But in Somersetshire both are fully sounded by prefixing or giving to the first the semi-vowel sound of Y. Take the word eat, for instance. Here ea represents the single vowel-sound of long E, eat-eet, or ete. But the Somersetshire man is not content to lose his vowels in this way; he is far too fond of them, and determines therefore to retain both, which he does by prefixing, or rather giving, to the first the semi-vowel sound of Y, and eat accordingly becomes yëat. This may be illustrated by an extract from two short dialogues lately published, which, though by no means uniformly happy in representing the dialect, seize a few words well enough, amongst others the one in question :
Farmer without, driving the ducks from the garden.
Farmer. Shew! - shew !--geet out!- geet out! I wish zomebody would zsteal thic old woman's dukes! She never gives them nothing to yeat, and then they comes routing about in the garden, and yeating up all bevore 'em.
Wife. Drat those dukes! they be zuch zilly cratures ! They can't come in the garden and zstuff thursulls quietly, but they must begin quack, quack, quacking! And then old man hears 'em, and turns 'em out; zo thic's all they geet by their talking.
Farmer (as he comes in). Thic pigs must be turned out o' the orchard. The wind ha'e blown the apples down, and they be yeating away as never was.
Visitor. Without having asked your permission.
Farmer. O eze; they never does do that. Thic pig at the back o' the houze won't touch 'em tho'.
Visitor. Are they all of the same family?
Visitor. What an immense size, farmer, that pig is! She is nearly as large as a donkey, and seems quite choking with fat.
Farmer. He vat! why he beant haif a pig. I wou’dn't gi'e a penny vor zuch a pig as he. We'd yeat he up in vive weeks if he was made in bacon.
The following are other examples of the same process : Yee-ast=east
Yee-ath = earth
Yee-arly = early The same takes place in words with the aspirate prefixed, the aspirate giving place to the semivowel Y-e.g.:
Yee-ate =heat (“can you catch yeeat to-day ?”)
= head. This last word may be illustrated by the story of “ Old Barnzo:”
“Everybody knows old Barnzo' as weears his yee-ade a one zide. One night a waz a' comin' whoame from market, and vell off 's hoss into the road, a wuz zo drunk. Zome chaps coming by, picked 'um up, and zeein' his yee-ade wuz all a' one zide, they thought 'twas out o’jint, and began to pull'n into 's plee-ace again, when the auld buoy roared out— Barn zo [born so] I tell 'e!' Zo a woz allus called old Barnzo ever aterwards."
The same tendency is seen in many words having only one vowel, but that a long one-e.g. :
Yee-ale = ale.
arm = earm =yee-arm.
A similar process takes place in regard to other initial vowels, but enough has already been said to illustrate this part of the subject.
You will thus see how the whole characteristic tendency of the dialect is, in this way, to broaden and multiply the vowel-sounds ; and thus to make the pronunciation more smooth and fluent.
I will now turn to the consonants, where, if this tendency really exists, it must become still more apparent. You will remember that consonantal sounds are divided into various kinds, according to the different organs of speech chiefly active in their production, such as lip-and-teeth sounds -tongue-and-palate sounds, &c., and that each kind of sound is represented by two consonants, one hard, the other soft, e.g., the lip-and-teeth sounds V and F-V being the soft sound of F, F the hard - Sund of V; so with the tongue-andpalate sounds, D, T, &c. We are, thus furnished with an accurate and sufficient test by which to determine the hardness or softness, roughness or smoothness, of a given tongue. Now, how does the Somersetshire dialect stand affected by this test ? I will venture to say, that all that is peculiarly characteristic in its system of consonants may be explained on the one principle, of choosing a smooth consonant rather than a rough one, a soft rather than a hard one. In illustration of this I will take four classes of consonants, beginning with those in which this tendency is least seen, and going on to those where it is most strikingly manifested.
First of all take G and K. These are throatsounds, K being hard, G soft; but there is this to be said about them, that, being throat-sounds, and thus less agreeable than most others, there is a natural tendency to soften and suppress both. G is softened at the beginning of such words as the following: guaine -going ; gee-ame-game; geeate-gate. Here the broadening of the vowelsound tends to soften the initial consonant, so that it becomes quite a weak breathing. At the end of words, as a general rule, but especially of words ending in NG, the G goes out altogether - e.g.:
Courtin = courting Doomplin = dumpling
Puddun = pudding
You may have instances innumerable of this any Saturday on going early to market, in the greetings
flying about from one bustling market-woman to
Quine for corner
Quoit coit. In cuckoo, and a few other words, it is softened to G, cuckoo being universally pronounced gookoo. There are not many cases of its being softened or excluded at the end of a word. Pulman, however, in his “Rustic Sketches,” says that the word pickaxe is always pronounced “pickass,” in which case the K has gone out altogether.
I will pass on to a more characteristic pair of consonants — the tongue-and-palate sounds D and T—D, of course, being soft, T hard. There is a strong tendency in the dialect to soften T to D-e.g.:
Bedder for better Liddle for little
Boddum— bottom Cuddy-cutty (wren). Pulman, in some verses on “Summer,” says:
"Th’ vlowers all bright an' gay
Their zwitness dru th' day.” Not only, however, is the hard T thus softened to D, the still harder TH is often changed to D also. TH is a tongue-and-teeth sound, and there is, as you know (though unrepresented by any difference of letter) a hard and a soft sound of TH. The great