Trudgill is a respected academic in the study of
languages and dialects. He is Professor at
universities as far afield as Agder, Norway, La Trobe,
Melbourne, and the UEA. He’s also a Fellow of
the British Academy. But he’s a Norfolk boy born
and bred, is Honorary President of the Friends of
Norfolk Dialect, and writes regularly for the
EDP. His links to us are even closer, as
he’s descended from Martham folk through his
great-grandmother. In a way, he was coming home!
crowd packed Martham Village Hall in November to hear
international language expert, Professor Peter
Trudgill, explain why we do that different here in
explained that England is divided into two main types
of dialect. Those from up north who keep their
vowels short, and those from further south who are the
‘innovators’. Yes, we heard it right.
Norfolk people are at the cutting edge of dialect
change. Originally everyone pronounced the
‘path’ and ‘bath’ with a short ‘a’ as in ‘at’.
Gradually from the 1700s, Londoners, and then
southerners in general, started to pronounce it as
‘parth’ and ‘barth’. This even explains why the
Americans and Australians have such different
accents. Those in America descend from people
who emigrated before the short vowels became longer,
but early Australians emigrated after the change.
the Norfolk dialect used to be heard as far west as
Hertfordshire and as far south as Essex. But
those in Norfolk and Suffolk resisted further
change. For example, most of the country drops
the ‘h’ at the start of words. We don’t, except
in Norwich. And our ‘sit you down’, ‘go you
home’, and ‘shut you up’, all come from a medieval
form of polite grammar.
Norfolk has its own innovations. The dropping of
the ‘t’ in the middle of words comes from Norfolk, and
now everyone’s doing it. But our
pronunciation of words, like ‘roof’ and ‘road’, and
saying ‘that’ instead of ‘it’, as in ‘that’s raining’
not ‘it’s raining’, is unique.
more. Saying ‘he go’ and ‘she go’, not ‘he goes’
and ‘she goes’, dates from the late 1500s when 37% of
Norwich citizens had fled Catholic Europe and didn’t
speak English. At that time, the word, ‘goeth’
was becoming ‘goes’, (Shakespeare used both forms),
but those learning English in Norwich found it easier
just to say ‘go’. Certain words heard in Norfolk
also date from the influx of ‘strangers’ or
foreigners. ‘Dwile’ (floor cloth) and ‘to fye
out’ (clean up) were both originally Dutch
words. Also, Norwich’s Plains, as in Bank Plain,
and St Andrew’s Plain, come from the Dutch ‘plein’
which means open area. The word ‘staithe’ was
originally Viking, whereas ‘loke’ was Anglo Saxon.
Norfolk dialect is a mixture of the old and the
new. It’s unique but, like all language, is
changing all the time. This was a truly