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The Kentish dialect is a dialect of English spoken in and around the county of Kent in southeast England. Kentish dialect combines many features of other speech patterns, particularly those of East Anglia, the Southern Counties and London. Although there are audio examples available on the British Library website and BBC sources, its most distinctive features are in the lexicon rather than in pronunciation. As Estuary English is considered to be spreading in the area since at least 1984, some debate has emerged as to whether it is replacing local dialects in Kent, Essex and Sussex.
The dialect of Kent has had a greater influence on the modern language than many others. When William Caxton's invented the printing press, he began the standardisation of the English language; the county had more than it's fair share of presses and so many of the first books to be published were from Kentish writers, and this helped spread Kent dialectal words (e.g. 'abide', 'ruck') to the rest of the country. Printed books also helped standardise spellings and those of writers in the South East often became favoured, which is why the Kentish 'left' superseded other Middle English alternatives for the word, such as 'lift' and 'luft''.
Modern Kentish dialect shares many features with other areas of southeastern England, sometimes collectively called "Estuary English". Other characteristic features are more localised. For instance, some parts of Kent, particularly in the northwest of the county, share many features with broader Cockney.
Typical Kentish pronunciation features include the following:
- Yod-coalescence, the use of the affricates [dʒ] and [tʃ] for the clusters /dj/ and /tj/ in words like dune and Tuesday. Thus, the words sound like June and choose day, respectively.
- Diphthong shifts, the use of open [ɑɪ] or rounded [ɒɪ] for /aɪ/ in words like pie or the use of [æɪ~aɪ] for /eɪ/ in words like take.
- A lengthened [æ] appears often before voiced consonants, such as in ladder.
- H-dropping, deleting [h] in stressed words: [æʔ] for hat. It is thought[by whom?] to have first started by Londoners some 300–400 years ago.
- Vowel shortening in certain words: /iː/ becomes [ɪ] in words like seen (but not scene, which regularly uses the shifted diphthong [əi~ɐi]).
The pattern of speech in some of Charles Dickens' books pertain to Kentish dialect, as the author lived at Higham was familiar with the mudflats near Rochester and created a comic character Sam Weller who spoke the local accent, principally Kentish but with strong London influences. The character name of "Miss Havisham" sounds like the small town on the Rochester/Canterbury road, Faversham.
Dialect words and phrasesEdit
- Alleycumfee - a non-existent place.
- Better-most - the best, something superior
- Cheesy bug - woodlouse
- Dabster, a dab hand - somebody very skilled at something
- Fanteeg - to be flustered
- Ha'ant - "Haven't." For example, "Ha'ant yew sin 'im yet?"
- Jawsy - a chatterbox
- March-men - people from the borders of two counties
- 'Od Rabbit It! - a minced oath
- Ringle - to put a ring in a pig's nose
- Scithers - scissors (clippers may have been "clithers.")
- Twinge - an earwig
- Wrongtake - to misunderstand
- Yarping - to complain, applied to children
The following are Kentish words and phrases that will be more familiar to English speakers elsewhere:
- Addle - to be dazed or confused
- Allow - to think of, consider or regard
- Dumbledore - bumblebee
- Dunes - sand hills or hillocks near the sea
- Heft - weight
- Oast - kiln for drying hops
- Peeky - unwell, ill-looking
- Pikey - traveller on the turnpike, i.e. a vagabond or ruffian
- Radical - a troublemaker or rebel.
Kent Archaeological Society, online dictionary of the Kentish Dialect (378 pages)
Links to Charles Dickens and Kent: