On Allowances for Dialect

 

Originally written for WRIT2250: Writing– Grammar, Syntax, and Style in 2014 as one of three discussions of grammatical concepts.

 

While talking with my father last week, I heard him use a phrase that I hadn’t heard used in a very long time:

‘Give it me [tomorrow then].’

To put this into cultural context, my Dad grew up in Bolton, and I had the first years of my life in Manchester and Lancashire, all areas of England encompassed in what is referred to as ‘The North’. In this part of the UK, the phrase ‘give it me’ is perfectly acceptable and frequently used. It is also, according to most people not from the area, incorrect.

To me, it is clear that this phrase is a shortening of ‘give it to me’, and coupled with a broad northern accent (although both my father and I speak with received pronunciation) sounds not at all out of place. In Australia people feel differently, as I discovered upon inadvertently repeating the phrase in a similar context a week later.

‘What? “Give it you?” What does that even mean?’ I was asked.

I recognise that this lack of the preposition to could make it unclear whether the it was to be given to me or if I were to be given to it, but I reject the notion that meaning is lost from this phrase when used in context. I am coming to the conclusion that the person who called me out did understand my meaning (to give me back the book they had borrowed the next day), and was just nitpicking at my unconventional pronunciation.

Just as there are different dialects of German, French and other languages, we must accept that regional dialects of English also exist. These versions of the same language should not be seen as ‘English with mistakes’ or as somehow less correct than standard British/Australian/American English, but accepted as correct in their own right.

I am not wrong for speaking Lanky (as the dialect is referred to in the UK). I am just speaking in another dialect of the same language.

***

I’ve finally got there! More to come over the coming weeks, my masters is ramping up now so hopefully I’ll have some new and improved content up in between old pieces of writing.

Until next time,

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