Dialect spellings in novels etc

Spelling Humour   Vivian Cook

Spellings of dialect in novels depends not only on the pronunciation but also on 'eye-dialect', i.e spellings that reflect standard pronunciation but not standard spelling

Cockney (Dickens)

"You're one o' the adwice gratis order," thought Sam, "or you wouldn't be so wery fond o' me all at once."

"Well," said Mr. Weller, "the adwantage o' the plan's hobvious."

   (G.B. Shaw)

"Cheer ap, Keptin; n' baw ya flahr orf a pore gel."

Cornish (du Maurier)

That which I'm preparin' to say to you now is not the outcome of anythin' hasty, nor the result of wild thinkin'.

Glasgow/Edinburgh, (Irvine Welsh)

The problem wi Begbie wis...well, thirs that many problems wi Begbie. One ay the things thit concerned us maist wis the fact that ye couldnae really relax in his company, especially if he'd hud a bevvy.

Black South Florida (Zora Neal Hurst)

"Oh, er, Phoeby, if youse ready to go, Ah could walk over dere wid you," Mrs Sumpkins volunteered. "It’s sort of duskin' down dark. De booger man might ketch yuh".

"You better git dat kivver offa dat youngun and dat quick!" she clashed at me. "Look lak you don't know who is Mistis on dis plantation, Madam. But Ah aims to show you."

"You ain't been used tuh knockin' round and doin' fuh yo'self, Mis' Starks. You been well taken keer of, you needs a man" (ZNF, Black South Florida)

London (Michael Moorcock) spellings that represent something close to what everybody says:
Wot’s ’appenin’?  
it woz nuffink. 
Is there any other possible pronunciation for 'wot' and 'woz'?

Sorry I’m shore. 


Few people now have the pronunciation 'shewer'
’e corled ’isself somefink else.  How else can an English person pronounce 'called'?
wots ’e want?  h-dropping is normal standard speech for unstressed 'function' words like 'he', though not for content words like 'happen '.
’em  Standard short form of 'them' (based on h-dropping from 'hem' in medieval times)
yer  normal unstressed pronunciation of 'your'
spellings that show general non-standard pronunciation features
  ’appenin’, ’eard  h-dropping and final /n/ are widespread features of British non-standard speech
spellings that show pronunciation features sometimes found in local speech
nuffink, somefink  perhaps true Cockney?
Nottingham (D.H. Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe)

spellings that represent something close to what everybody says :

duzn’t, ha’penny normal standard British pronunciation

spellings that show general non-standard pronunciation features

'appen  normal h-dropping
widespread overcompensatory 'h' by h- droppers ham (am) (c.f. haitch (H))

spellings that show features sometimes found in local speech

wi’, an’  Final consonant-dropping, found in both novels, perhaps true Notts?


The Wiltshire Moonrakers

Down Vizes way zom years, agoo,

'z' means Wiltshire voiced 's'

When smuggal'n wur nuthen new,

all forms like non-standard pronunciation

An people wurden nar bit shy

dialect words, but not pronunciation

Of who they did ther sperrits buy

rural British dialects pronounce word final 'r' (like standard American)