Which dialect?

image from Existential Ennui

I’ve just finished another of Kingsley Amis’s novels, a children’s book called We are all guilty (1991). Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) also wrote a usage guide, The King’s English, which was published two years after his death. Amis’s fascination with language is evident in all his work, and this is something I will be speaking about in my paper at our Cambridge English Usage (Guides) Symposium on 26 and 27 June.

The main character is 17-year-old Clive, who causes an injury to a watchman during a break-in in a local warehouse. Accent is – as in most of Amis’s novels – an important issue in the book. Clive’s stepfather is described as speaking “with an accent from somewhere up the north of England” (p. 10). Further on in the book the accent is referred to as “silly” (p. 20).

But Clive’s own language, too, is full of non-standard features, though Amis never specifies where the boy is from. I’d be interested to see if his dialect can be located, or whether Amis  just drew on a random collection of non-standard features merely to indicate Clive’s lower-class origins (though I doubt this very much).

So my question is if readers can help me identify the dialect. Here is a list of features I noted, all representing Clive’s language:

  • worse than anything I ever done
  • he come, I come
  • ennit
  • I rung up
  • it don’t
  • I was just trying to get away from him, like,
  • if I hadn’t of broke in
  • double negatives
  • you was
  • I’m sorry you’re hurt so bad

All that is clear is that it must be an urban dialect, since the boy is described as living “with his mother and stepfather in a small terrace house near one of the approach-roads to the western flyover” (p. 9), and that this western flyover was very likely the M1. But which dialect is it?

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One Response to Which dialect?

  1. Could be anywhere, Ingrid!

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