Research Seminar, 19 December 2019: Esther Asprey on Black Country Dialect

Dr Esther Asprey (Birmingham City University) will be presenting her paper, ‘Black Coutry dialect literature and what it can tell us about Black Country dialect’, at 2.00 p.m. on Thursday, 19 December 2019. The event will take place in the University of Wolverhampton’s Millennium City Building, MC 226.

Abstract
This talk tracks spelling representations across time and region to add to what is known about patterns of linguistic change within one of the UK’s most socially stigmatised dialects. The area in which Black Country dialect is spoken centres on the town of Dudley and has been changed demographically since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s. 12 Waves of migrant workers from Wales, Shropshire, and the wider north (Lancashire, Yorkshire, Scotland), as well as Ireland, came during the 18th and 19th centuries, and are now succeeded by migration from former UK colonies (India, Pakistan, the Caribbean). Such migration has been mooted as a source of change in the region. Added to this is the complexity of the Black Country linguistic system. It has a system of modal verbs which negate by ablaut, a phonological system which is at its most local end of the continuum between less and more localised, extremely different to RP, and retains many older Midlands morphemes lost in other dialects including [ɜ:] er for the third person singular female subject pronoun, and -n suffixing for the present tense verbal infinitive. It is, then, a rich dialect which has been seen to be moving from a more Northern system to a Southern system over the past 100 years. Examination of the two Black Country texts in the Salamanca corpus, together with selected dialect poems and monologues collected from local interest newspapers, novels and poetry collections and spanning 1850 to the present day, will tell us more about the nature of these changes.

Esther Asprey is a sociolinguist and dialectologist whose specialist area of research is linguistic variation in the West Midlands. She gained her first degree in English Language and German at the University of Edinburgh before going on to complete a Masters. She gained her PhD from the University of Leeds in 2007, writing on Black Country English and Black Country Identity. Esther went on to teach at the University of Birmingham and then at Aston University, where she was Research Assistant for three years on a series of funded projects looking at performances of identity using Birmingham and Black Country dialects.

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