London dialect in Dickens


London dialect in Dickens


  • Intro

    In his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens (1812–70) introduced Sam Weller, the smart-talking Cockney of the White Hart Inn. Weller and Dickens soon became household names. Dickens’ striking use of colloquial expressions and adapted spelling to convey a sense of the natural rhythms of London speech became a hallmark of his characterisations.



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    Dickens exploits several linguistic features to capture Weller’s Cockney (London) dialect. Consonants are frequently omitted, as in ’ere (here), as are vowels or whole syllables as in ’tain’t (it isn’t) and ’cept (except). Spelling is used to suggest a different vowel quality, as in gal (girl), or socially marked pronunciation such as nothin’. Dialect grammar appears in ain’t (isn’t), a lookin’ and more tenderer. Perhaps the most unfamiliar feature to us is the switching of v and w in words such as inwariable and wery.


    Shelfmark: C.144.b.1.

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