Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
West Midlands English

West Midlands English: Birmingham and the Black Country

Urszula Clark
Esther Asprey
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    West Midlands English
    Book Description:

    This volume focuses on the closely allied yet differing linguistic varieties of Birmingham and its immediate neighbour to the west, the industrial heartland of the Black Country. Both of these areas rose to economic prominence and success during the Industrial Revolution, and both have suffered economically and socially as a result of post-war industrial decline. The industrial heritage of both areas has meant that tight knit and socially homogeneous individual areas in each region have demonstrated in many respects little linguistic change over time, and have continued to exhibit linguistic features, especially morphological constructions, peculiar to these areas or now restricted to these areas. At the same time, immigration from other areas of the British Isles over time, from Commonwealth countries and later from EU member states, together with increased social mobility, have meant that newly developing structures and more widespread UK linguistic phenomena have spread into these varieties. This volume provides a clear description of the structure of the linguistic varieties spoken in the two areas. Following the structure of the Dialects of English volumes, it provides:*A comprehensive overview of the phonological, grammatical and lexical structure of both varieties, as well as similarities between the two varieties and distinguishing features.*Thorough discussion of the historical and social factors behind the development of the varieties and the stigma attached to these varieties. *Discussion of the unusual situation of the Black Country as an area undefined in geographical and administrative terms, existing only in the imagination. *Examples of the variety from native speakers of differing ethnicities, ages and genders.*An annotated bibliography for further consultation.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-8580-6
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Geography, Demography, Culture and Research Design
    (pp. 1-31)

    This chapter provides an overview, discussing firstly the boundaries of the West Midlands area today within which Birmingham and the Black Country are situated, taking account of how they have changed across time. It includes a section on the demographic make-up of the region across time, before moving on to consider issues relating to language, culture and identity in section 1.5 on the theoretical underpinnings of the research upon which much of this book is based, particularly in relation to Chapters 2, 3 and 4 is also included. Section 1.6 then considers issues relating to research design, and the different...

  6. 2 Phonetics and Phonology
    (pp. 32-71)

    This chapter provides a description of the phonology of the west Midlands. The data upon which this chapter draws is taken largely from Asprey (2007) and Clark (2008) discussed in section 1.5, supplemented by the data gathered as part of the projects outlined in section 1.6. The vocalic inventory is presented in a structure based on Wells’s lexical sets (1982a). An examination of consonantal variables over time follows. The chapter presents supporting evidence for patterns of use and change in progress.

    Wells (1982b: 363) uses lexical sets to show the vocalic inventory of what he calls West Midlands speech. He...

  7. 3 Grammar
    (pp. 72-117)

    We open this chapter concerning the grammar of Birmingham and Black Country (BC) English by reminding readers that, within any dialect speech community, speakers have access (albeit to varying degrees depending on exposure throughout their lives to different varieties) to a range of structures along what we can term a continuum, with in this case the Birmingham and BC local varieties at one end and standard West Midlands English at the other. It is important to remember in this chapter that although we will analyse grammatical structures, we are not compelled in doing so to make constant reference to Standard...

  8. 4 Lexis
    (pp. 118-143)

    In this chapter, we give examples of words which may be perceived to be declining in terms of attrition and loss of lexical variation, and the restriction of lexical items to specific contexts. We also, to some extent, debunk the myth that lexical variation is declining on an unprecedented scale. Instead, we point to lexical revitalisation, despite the fact that words which are no longer in use due to changes in working practices are in use by even the youngest working generation. For example, although there has been attrition and loss in the words related to highly specific cottage industries...

  9. 5 Survey of Previous Works and Bibliography
    (pp. 144-156)

    Birmingham and Black Country English are both typical of varieties situated on the so-called North–South linguistic divide in England. In both morphological and phonological terms it sits on this boundary, or to be more precise, forms a transition zone which might more reasonably be termed a ‘Midlands’ dialect area.

    Wells’s 1982 work on accents of English in the British Isles includes a description of what he terms ‘West Midlands phonology’. Although this work gives a good overview of possible phonological variation in the regional variety, very little previous work has been undertaken on Birmingham English, which remains an under-researched...

  10. 6 Annotated Texts
    (pp. 157-161)

    Craig is a 44 year old white male. He self-declared working/middle class at interview and talked about the difficulty of knowing what social class he belonged to. He attended the University of Hull where he read Modern Languages; he now teaches at secondary level in Birmingham. Apart from his time in Hull and other short spells in Germany and France he has lived all his life in Birmingham; first on the northern side of the city and now more centrally. At the time of recording he was building up a successful second career in stand-up comedy, and this is the...

  11. Index
    (pp. 162-174)