Christine Elsweiler, Sarah van Eyndhoven


Interactions with the Standard in Early and Late Modern Regional Varieties of English

In recent years, increasing research focus has been placed on the nature and development of regional varieties such as Scots and Irish English in the Early and Late Modern periods (see e.g. Hickey 2007, Amador-Moreno 2019, Millar 2020). This is also the time when Southern Standard English emerged and subsequently was codified and prescribed as a norm. Speaker-writers of regional varieties were exposed to the standard model to varying degrees and interacted with it in interesting ways, e.g. by anglicising their writing and speech (e.g. Meurman-Solin 1993, Dossena 2019). These interactions could moreover lead to writers following their own but rather conservative local norms (e.g. Pietsch 2015).

Lately, new materials have become available (e.g. The Salamanca Corpus, among many others), which may offer novel insights. Therefore, this workshop proposes to explore the various types of interactions with the standard in more depth. It aims to take a closer look at (a) how writers from different regional and social backgrounds reacted to standard norms, both on an individual level and on the level of local networks or communities practice, and (b) how this gave rise to regional, vernacular, covert or transitional ‘standards’.

We invite papers on different regional varieties, e.g. Scots, Irish English, or Northern English, both in Britain and overseas. In our discussions, we aim to address the following questions:

  1. In which text types and communicative situations do writers use regional features in a standard English context?
  2. Do writers evince intra-writer variation regarding their use of regional features?
  3. How do different genders, social classes and local communities of practice interact with the standard?
  4. Which metalinguistic comments do writers provide on the (non-appropriate) use of regional features?
  5. How do standard and regional features on different linguistic levels interact in texts?
  6. Which data are suitable for the exploration of the interaction of regional and social varieties with the standard and what more is needed for future research?
  7. How can these datasets be retrieved and approached?
  8. Which methodologies are suitable to address the above research questions?

Prospective contributions to this workshop include the following titles:

  1. “Orthoepy as evidence for 16th- and 17th-century pronunciations beyond London”
  2. “Regularisation and standardisation in the syntax of 17th century Scottish correspondence“
  3. “for a man to Write well is an accomplishment which I could not dispense with": tracing meta-comments and the influence of prescriptive advice in Mary Ann Wodrow Archbald's (1762–1841) private writings“
  4. “‘The brogue is common everywhere in Ireland, but you are taught to avoid it in reading’: notions of correctness and speakers' attitudes in nineteenth century Ireland”
  5. “Exploring new data: Scots and (Scottish) Standard English in Late Modern Scottish pauper petitions“
  6. “Northern English pauper letters: Exploring social and regional variation in late modern England”
  7. “Vernacular, standard and / or conservative writing? Regional variation in nineteenth-century American English correspondence”


Amador-Moreno, Carolina. 2019. Orality in Written Texts : Using Historical Corpora to Investigate Irish English 1700-1900. London & New York: Routledge.

Dossena, Marina. 2019. “Usage Guides, Social Commentary and Views on Education in Late Modern Scotland” Brno Studies in English 45.1: 25–42.

Hickey, Raymond. 2007. Irish English : History and Present-day Forms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meurman-Solin, Anneli. 1993. Variation and Change in Early Scottish Prose. Studies Based on the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.

Millar, Robert McColl. 2020. A Sociolinguistic History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Pietsch, Lukas. 2015. “Archaisms and Dialect in Irish Emigrant Letters”. Anita Auer, Daniel Schreier and Richard Watts (eds.). Letter Writing and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 223–239.