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anomalies of the English formation of verbs, by carrying them back to the old strong system in E. begin, began, G. binde, band. Thus we find hit, hat –“he hat him”-git, gat (get, got), and some others; but besides this a modernising of old participles, as in “ Is he comt 2
The idiomatic syntax and phraseology are especially rich for the philologist, but nothing more can be attempted here than an enumeration of the principal points. There is a strange combination in use with the verb can, exemplified in the following: "He won't can lend you,” “I wadn't could see.” Anderson has this remarkable idiom : “She yence cud ha' crammeled, and writ her awn neame,” meaning she once could have written her own name crammelingly (scrawlingly). “Whea's aw this ?" is a phrase most difficult to understand, but probably contains an inversion to which the English language is not familiar. It is not unusual to hear in some dialects, “Whae belangs this?” that is, instead of saying, “ To whom does the hat belong ?” they use the inversion, “Who belongs to the hat?" And this is the interpretation, as I understand it, of the above: “Whea's aw (owe to) this?" signifying, “ Who belongs to this ?” with aw used in the Old English sense.
“ He may sit his lone (alone)” is a Celtic idiom, but perhaps not exclusively so. The indefinite use of the word kind, that is, to reduce the sense, is very nearly the same as in America : “ Aw kind o com to mysel agean," partly came to myself. The word bit is used to form diminutives : “a bit lad," "a bit thing." “ A few broth” is an idiom not confined to this district, its peculiarity lying in the word few, not in any idea of divisibility in the broth, as might seem at first sight; for we also find “a good few,” that is, a good many. “What's the matter?" is a singular periphrasis for why: “What's the matter thou hes nea hat on?”
Such names as Kirkoswald, Kirkby Stephen, the church of Oswald, the church town of Stephen, involve in their composition a remarkable point of grammar (government), in accordance with Celtic, and opposed diametrically to Gothic. All Hiberno-Celtic compounds are formed according to this law, that the first word governs the second in the genitive. Londonderry (the London of
SYNTAX AND IDIOMS.
Derry county) has been formed like the above, and the accentuation on the second part of the compounds, shows that the inventors understood clearly what they were about. We may compare with these the old Cornish Lanstuphadon. Eamont could not mean, as has been supposed, the water of the mountain, for the reason just given; and in Mounsey we find the form in which a name of this signification would appear.
Some peculiar ellipses occur : “He's gettin into my pocket," that is, getting his hand into it. “ And I efter it”—an ellipsis of the verb to go, which next to the verb to be seems most easily dispensed with in language. We may compare the provincial phrase, “ Away with him, and I after him”-away he went with himself (carried himself), and I went after him. “Twea three mair," two or three more, has an ellipsis of the conjunction, and is identical with the Lancashire “tuthri moor.”
The following phrases do not need much explanation or comment: “The folks will a' be which to be thrangest.” co tother,” the earlier up shall call the other, contains the D. tidt, early, in the comparative degree.“ Titter it's dune an better," the the sooner it's done the better. “He put tay fout intot tayn, an tudder intot tudder." “A rank pay (D. rank, upright)"” “It caps Langeroon!" an imaginary person with a crown (head) so long that he was equal to all reasonable difficulties. " What sic creeturs they are," what kind of creatures, contains a remarkable use of such. “ Thou couldn't tell me be a frosk,” from a frog, in which be is eq. E. beside. “Through amang fwok, and owr fwok.” “To sit ith hoos,” to stay at home. “ Gaw bun!” one of the most frequently used exclamatory phrases—the D. gaa, bonde, go, clown, and so indefinitely applied that we even find,“ Gaw bun light on
“ What the hangman !"—the German Was zum henker ! “ Wiah than!” “sea than !” are exclamations very common in ordinary conversation, but " and seya (and so)” must be heard in a “ fratch," if it is to be heard to perfection.
66 Titter up
It has already been observed, that in the dialect of the different parts of these counties great diversity exists. Considering the varying elements of the population, we are not to be surprised at such discrepancies; for it is decidedly in the original colonisations that the foundation of the dialect is laid, however it may be subsequently modified by circumstances. Many words and idioms used in some localities of Cumbria are unknown in others, but in the pronunciations of the same words, the distinctions are most obvious.
The north of Cumberland has in use the word lile (little); in the neighbourhood of Penrith this is pronounced laal; the dales shorten the latter somewhat, as if it were lal; the Borrowdale Letter (Eamont Bridge) has got lile, which we also find in the south of Westmorland; in Lancaster it is loil, but in the south of Lancashire it disappears, and is replaced by little. Again, the word sic (such) of Cumberland, and the south of Westmorland, is sitch in many parts of the latter, as well as in Lancashire.*
* The dialect of Penrith and the immediate neighbourhood affords a good average specinien of what is spoken in the two counties, and contains a certain degree of refinement, without sacrificing much of the provincial character. This is no more than might have been expected from its central position. The dialects of the “fellsides” (Pennine), and Keswick, do not differ materially from that of Penrith.
These differences have had considerable effect on the literature, and in the absence of a recognised system of orthography, have aided in confining it within narrow limits. There is no doubt the less intelligible is a provincial production, the less it will obtain general currency. For instance, a Devonshire song will be read by a person indifferent to all the dialects, when a Cumbrian production will be thrown aside.
But if these reasons can be given why the literature has not had a very
brilliant existence in the past, they show it to be the better worthy of future preservation. The writer always endeavours to give faithfully the dialect as he has heard and spoken it in his own neighbourhood, and the birthplace of the author is as it were the key to the peculiarities of his orthography. Cumberland and Westmorland have been fortunate beyond any other district in England, in the quality and extent of their provincial productions. This pre-eminence is certainly to be attributed in part to the poetic genius of the writers. And it is a curious fact that the vernacular publications of Cumberland are all poetical, and in imitation of the successful Burns of Scotland, whilst the principal literary productions of Westmorland are in prose, and have been written in rivalry of the Lancashire Tim Bobbin. This observation is not made in detraction of our Cumbrian literature; it cannot diminish its value from a linguistic point of view, and will not surprise those who have made any study of the course of literature in general.
The oldest publication in the dialect of which we have any mention, is entitled, “ A bran new Wark by William de Worfat, containing a true Calendar of his thoughts concerning good nebberhood.” It appeared in Kendal, 1785. It is a good specimen of the Westmorland dialect, says Halliwell, but is of great rarity. Besides this, the principal productions of Westmorland are the dialogues of Mrs. Wheeler, which belongs to the Lancashire border, and the Borrowdale Letter, by Isaac Ritson, a native of Eamont Bridge (Penrith). The Cumberland authors almost exclusively belong to the northern part of the county, and, as remarked before, are all poets. The names of the Rev. J. Relph, Ewan Clark, John Stegg, Mark Lonsdale, Robert Anderson, Miss Blamire, Miss Gilpin,
and John Rayson, furnish a respectable list of authors, and make out what may be styled the Augustan era of Cumbrian literature. Very remarkable is the dearth of poetic talent in Westmorland, as far as the vernacular is concerned, for there appears to be nothing of any celebrity, with the exception of the well-known lines on Eighty-eight, the author of which is, and unfortunately must remain, anonymous.
Other minor productions there may have been, but they are now forgotten; and of these one only has
to my knowledge, namely, a “ Pastoral Dialogue,” by Charles Graham, printed at Penrith, 1778.
I understand, a native of Eamont Bridge, and therefore another Westmorland poet.
During Anderson's life two editions of his Cumberland Ballads were printed, but after his death a much larger collection than either, including one hundred and thirty new pieces from manuscript, appeared from under the hands of William Robinson, a Wigton publisher. In this volume are printed a limited number of John Rayson's ballads, and two or three by other poets of Cumberland.
The “ Westmorland and Cumberland Dialects," published by Russell Smith, London, is the principal collection that has yet appeared in connexion with these counties, and now affords the chief means of study accessible to any curious linguist. It includes the best published compositions of all the authors above-named, with biographical notices; and to it must be referred any person desirous of following up this part of the subject further. The glossary appended to this volume is unusually full, all previous glossaries, and some manuscript collections of words, having been laid under contribution. But it is in the rudest state, and the few etymological attempts made or adopted by the editor, are failures.
Independent of claims as illustrative of the provincial idiom, many of the songs and ballads of the Cumbrian authors are, on their own merits, deserving of praise. The descriptions of local manners, customs, and modes of thought—what best represent the life of the people-preserved in these productions, for vivid