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On the enregisterment of the Lancashire dialect in Late Modern English: Spelling in focus

Javier Ruano-García


This paper places literary recreations of Lancashire English into the context of enregisterment and the sociolinguistics of spelling. Using the Salamanca Corpus, I examine Lancashire dialect writings published between 1700 and 1900 representative of both dialect literature and literary dialect to determine the repertoire of forms that were circulated in representations of the dialect. More specifically, my aim is to identify the respellings employed to highlight the pronunciation features that may have been noticeable at the time and associated with a Lancashire identity. I argue that the socially meaningful choices made by Lancashire writers can be seen as authenticating practices whereby the dialect was constructed and circulated, having authenticity effects concerning how it was experienced by the audience. The analysis treats respellings as sociolinguistic variables that are quantified to measure the relative salience of the phonological features they represent. It focuses on three of the commonly occurring traits found in the corpus, namely the MOUTH, GOAT, and PRICE diphthongs, showing that such an approach may give insight into their degree of salience, whilst providing a window into how the Lancashire dialect was perceived during this time.


I wish to thank the editors and two anonymous readers for comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper. Any errors that remain are my own responsibility.


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Published Online: 2020-04-21

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