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men would have been strictly justified in laying a deodand on boiler and piston as the clearly-ascertained cause and instrument of death.
From this conservative character of the dialects we may naturally expect to find in them, and especially in those furthest removed from the centre of national life and activity, more genuine AngloSaxon than in literary English, which is exposed to so many strong modifying influences. This is, in reality, the fact. I believe there is not a single dialect in the country which does not preserve important relics of Anglo-Saxon in accent, idiom, or vocabulary, commonly in all, which are lost in the current tongue. And while this is to some extent true of all dialects, it is likely to be preeminently true of the Somerset. Why? Because the Somersetshire dialect occupies the very seat of classical Anglo-Saxon. It was in the kingdom of Wessex that Anglo-Saxon was originally studied, elaborated, and brought to high literary perfection. Now the kingdom of Wessex, as we know, included Hampshire, Berkshire, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset, and part of Devon; so that, for practical purposes, part of Wilts, Dorset, and Somerset, may be taken as about the centre of its influence. Here AngloSaxon was diligently studied, and successfully used as an instrument of great precision, compass, and power. Nearly all the remains left us of that once extensive and still noble literature are in the Saxon of Wessex. In poetry, the sacred and profane epics of Cadmon and Beowulf, the metrical lives of the Exeter Book, and the Vercelli Codex, with not a few sacred and national lyrics; in history, the
Chronicle, and Alfred's translation of Bede and Orosius; in philosophy, Boethius; in Theology, the versions of the Gospels, Psalms, and Pentateuch; the voluminous Homilies of Elfric, and others, all in the same dialect—the national tongue of Wessex. Here, indeed, Anglo-Saxon first rose to the dignity of a national tongue; and here, too, it lasted longer, breaking up more slowly and gradually than elsewhere. As we might naturally expect, therefore, the Somersetshire dialect is particularly rich in Anglo-Saxon remains, both in its pronunciation and vocabulary.
I will now proceed to illustrate this in relation to the former-the pronunciation-and in doing so will follow the plan of the last paper, dealing first with the vowels and then with the consonants.
In looking into the vowel-system of the Somersetshire dialect, we have seen that its characteristic tendency is to lengthen, open, and multiply the vowel-sounds. Now this is essentially an AngloSaxon peculiarity—a peculiarity of Wessex AngloSaxon.
This language abounded to a curious extent in mixed and double vowel-sounds; this being, in fact, the great characteristic (so far as the vowels were concerned), by which the southern or Saxon branch is distinguished from the northern or Angle branch of the common tongue, as well as from other dialects on the Continent, with which it is closely allied. Anglo-Saxon, as you are aware, belongs to what is termed the Low-German division of the Teutonic tongues, the dialects of which are distinguished from those of the High-German by a more or less manifest preference for softer sounds.
I may remind you, too, in passing, that these epithets, high and low, as applied to the countries in which the Germanic tongues are spoken, refer not to their position north and south of each other, but to their comparative height above the level of the sea, High-German being, in fact, for the most part spoken much further south than Low-German. Low and high in this connexion, therefore, simply mean plain and mountainous; and the reason why these natural features are made the basis of a philological division is the clearly-ascertained fact, that the geographical difference of surface universally tends to produce a marked difference of pronunciation. The dwellers in high or mountainous lands are found to affect clear decisive vowels, and rough guttural consonants, while the inhabitants of level or gently undulating lowlands, of rich pastoral valleys, delight in soft vowels, and smooth consonantal sounds. While, however, all the Low-Germanic tongues possess these general characteristics, the Anglo-Saxon has more curious combinations of vowel-sounds than any other; and in these the Somersetshire dialect will be found to be its faithful representative. I, indeed, believe that the careful observation of the Somersetshire vowel-sounds might materially help in fixing the value of some AngloSaxon vowels, about the exact force of which there is still a good deal of uncertainty. I will illustrate this relation of the vowels in two positions as initial and medial.
Take, first, the medial in the middle of a word.
vowels, or those occurring The special combinations
of vowels in this position peculiar to Anglo-Saxon
are those of eä and eö, representing a and i of other dialects. The sounds expressive of these combinations, which are so characteristic in Anglo-Saxon, while altogether lost in common English, are retained in all their integrity in the Somersetshire dialect. Take, for instance, a word like beam; here the spelling, both in Anglo-Saxon and English, is the same, but the pronunciation very different. In the former, each vowel did duty, and the word was sounded beäm; but in the latter the two are changed to one-long e-and the word is beem or beme. The spelling belongs to the old language, the pronunciation to the new:-the word is Anglo-Saxon to the eye, but English to the ear. The Somersetshire man, however, is faithful to the spelling, and to this day sounds the word as his Saxon forefathers did before him, beäm or be-ame. The following are other instances in which the Saxon spelling is kept, but the pronunciation lost:
In other cases, again, the word has undergone a change, and the spelling is conformed to the pronunciation. The following are illustrations of this:
It need scarcely be said that the Somersetshire man, in such cases, remains faithful to the older form, pronouncing the words ree-ade, shee-ape, stee-ape, &c. The following list, illustrating, in parallel columns, the relation of the mother-tongue, the dialect, and the current speech, will bring out this more fully :
It would be out of place to illustrate what has now been said by any long extracts from AngloSaxon authors, but I will just quote a few lines before leaving this part of the subject. A page of any Anglo-Saxon book opened at random would supply ample illustrations of the sounds under