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YORKSHIRE

YORKSHIRE Historically, the largest county of England, administered from the city of York, now the counties of East, West, and North Yorkshire, with some territory contributed to the county of Humberside. The name Yorkshire continues in informal use, however, for the area of the former county. Used attributively, the term refers to anything in or from the old county: Yorkshire DIALECT, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Used elliptically, it refers to the Yorkshire dialect: talking broad Yorkshire.

Yorkshire dialect

The dialects of the region derive from the northern dialect of Old English known as Anglian or Anglic; an early text is the song of Caedmon, a lay brother at the monastery of Whitby (c.670). Scandinavian influence, from invasions and occupations from the 9c to 1066, had its most immediate influence on the non-literate in the area. However, a Danish element from the north entered the standard southern language in such words as sky and outlaw. Some MIDDLE ENGLISH writers can be identified as writing a northern English representing Yorkshire speech: for example, Richard Rolle, author of The Ayenbite of Inwit (Modern: The Prick of Conscience, written c.1340), and the authors of the Miracles or Mystery Plays from York and Wakefield. A feature of northern Middle English orthography was quh rather than wh, as in quhilk for the more southern hwich (which): compare SCOTS; see Q. Although English as used in Yorkshire is often taken to be a single homogeneous dialect, it is not in fact so. There are many kinds of Yorkshire usage, some of which are mutually unintelligible. The two main varieties are derived from the two groups of speakers in the county, and are divided by the boundary between the Midland and Northern groups of dialects.

Pronunciation

(1) Yorkshire accents are non-rhotic, with the exception of East Yorkshire, where a postvocalic alveolar r is occasionally heard in stressed syllables and final unstressed syllables, the word farmer having two such r-sounds. (2) The a-sound before s, f, and voiceless th is regularly short, as in fast, staff, and path. Yorkshire-speakers use a short /a/ vowel in my aunt can't dance. In southern England, the vowel is nasalized and long. (3) Some, mainly rural, speakers in the North and East Ridings have preserved something of the northern vowels of Middle English in the ungrounded vowel of such words as /naː/ and /saː/ for know and saw, in /swan/ for swan and /kwari/ for quarry, and in an unchanged long vowel giving /huːs/ for house and /duːn/ for down. (4) The pronunciation or non-pronunciation of the is a well-known Yorkshire shibboleth. It varies from complete absence in the East, through a kind of suspended t in the central areas (often represented as t'book, t'man), to d' in the North before voiced consonants and t' before voiceless consonants (d' book, t'packet), and in the extreme West a th' before vowels and t' before consonants (th' old man, t'book). (5) Traditional short u in Yorkshire and throughout the north has the same sound in such words as up, come as in standard wool, put, but -ook words have remained long: /buːk/ and /kuːk/ for book and cook. (6) Regional variations often contrast greatly, especially between West on the one hand and North and East on the other: for example, soon, road, stone in the West sound like ‘sooin’, ‘rooad’, ‘stooan’, and in the North and East like ‘see-en’, ‘reead’, ‘steean’ (with ‘sioon’ for soon in the North-West).

Grammar

(1) The second-person singular thou survives in various forms, with /ðuː/ for thou in the East and North, and /ðaː/ in the West. In the West, thou can appear as /tə/, as in /wat duz tə want/ (What do you want?). The accusative form thee also survives, as in Ah'll gi it thee I'll give it to you. (2) Happen is widely used rather than perhaps, as in Happen he'll come Perhaps he'll come. (3) The form summat (somewhat), as in There's summat up and I've summat to tell thee, corresponds in use to something. (4) There is a common intransitive progressive use of the verb like in the question Are you liking? (Do you like it here?). (5) Aye and nay (yes and no) are widely used, especially in rural areas. (6) While is often used instead of until, as in I'll stay here while eight, a usage that occasionally causes confusion, as in the ambiguous Wait while the light is green. (7) The use of an echoic tag is common, usually is that, as in It's a good buy, is that! and That's right nice, is that.

Vocabulary

(1) The Scandinavian element is strong in rural and especially in agricultural usage that is obsolescent along with the objects it refers to: flaycrow scarecrow, stoops gateposts, stower rung (of a stee ladder), lea scythe, flake hurdle, pike small stack of hay. Most of such words were common to much of the north of England. (2) Many items in common use descend from Old Norse, and include: addle to earn, beck stream, brook, cleg horse-fly (shared with ScoE), lake or laik to play, spaining or speaning weaning (animals), and ted to spread hay. (3) The West Yorkshire form of the northern and Scots verb thole (permit, endure, tolerate) is thoil, which carries the Old English sense of suffer. It is applied mostly to spending money on something desirable but too expensive, as in Nay, I couldn't thoil ten pound for that. (4) The northern and ScoE term bairn (child) is common, as is the distinctive northern childer, plural of child, which descends from Middle English childre and childer, from late Old English cildru and cildra. The southern and standard children was assimilated to a now obsolete -en plural, as in house/housen. The cognate Scots chiel(d) (child, lad) has the regular plural chiel(d)s. Typical also, as part of northern English generally, are such usages as lad and lass (as in We have a little lass: a small daughter) and love, pronounced /lʊv/, as a form of address (as in It's time to go, love).

Literary Yorkshire

Yorkshire dialect began to be written for literary purposes in the 17c with the publication of an anonymous poem, possibly from the Northallerton area, entitled A Yorkshire Dialogue between an Awd Wife, a Lass and a Butcher (printed at York, 1673). It opens with the Old Wife saying:
Pretha now lass, gang into t'hurn An' fetch me heame a skeel o'burn. Na pretha, barn, mak heeaste an' gang, I's mar my deagh, thou stays sae lang.[Prithee now, girl, go into the corner of the field / And fetch me home a bucket of water. / Now prithee, child, make haste and go, / I'll spoil my dough, you stay so long.]

This language would not at the time, nor would it now, be accepted over the whole area as Yorkshire dialect, but would be well understood, especially in parts of the North. Perhaps the most famous representation of Yorkshire dialect in literature is that by Emily Brontë in Wuthering Heights (1847), as in the following excerpt from Chapter 9, when the old servant Joseph says:
Yon lad gets wur na' wur! … He's left th' yate ut t'full swing and miss's pony has trodden dahn two rigs uh corn, un plottered through, raight o'r intuh t'meadow![That boy gets worse and worse….He's left the gate wide open and the young lady's pony has pressed down two ridges of corn and floundered through right over into the meadow!

This kind of prose continues in many Yorkshire newspapers.

Yorkshire Dialect Society

The first group concerned with the dialect came together in 1894 as a Yorkshire Committee of the ENGLISH DIALECT SOCIETY, to assist in the preparation of Joseph Wright's English Dialect Dictionary. After the disbandment of the EDS in 1896, the committee reformed in 1897 as the Yorkshire Dialect Society, which publishes The Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society. The society combines the scholarly study of local speech with the publication of prose and poetry in various forms of local dialect. It meets at colleges and university premises throughout the three Yorkshires as well as at industrial and folk museums, and promotes joint meetings with other groups. Papers on placenames and studies of local vocabularies are given as well as readings and recitations by dialect speakers. See DIALECT IN ENGLAND, ENGLISH IN ENGLAND, NORTHERN ENGLISH.

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Yorkshire

Yorkshire, the largest county in England, was bounded to the south by the Humber (which formed part of the ancient dividing line between northern and southern England), to the north by the Tees, and extends east–westwards from the North Sea into the Pennine hills, corresponding to lands settled by Halfdan's invading Danish army after 876. They divided it into three ridings (‘thridings’) for easier administration, the meeting-place for the North Riding being at the Yarles tree (probably near Thirsk), that for the East Riding at Craikhow (near Beverley), and possibly York for the West Riding; the subdivisions called wapentakes took their names from the meeting-places of their courts (Agbrigg from a bridge, Ewcross from a cross). The Danes were by no means the first European settlers: Eboracum (York) had been provincial capital of the Romans' Britannia Secunda, 6th-cent. Angles had formed the nucleus of the kingdom of Deira, and some Norse immigration had occurred in the west from Lancashire and Westmorland. After the Norman Conquest, William's ‘harrying of the north’ left devastation, reflected in the Domesday survey. The wolds became subject to forest law, but Cistercian settlement transformed much from desolation to sheep-run—Rievaulx abbey was founded 1131, Fountains 1132, Byland 1147—and the monks soon became famous for their wool production. Although the see had been raised to an archbishopric in 735, enhancing the area's national importance, it was not until 1070, when Thomas of Bayeux became archbishop of York, that the struggle for precedence between Canterbury and York began, not to be settled until the 14th cent. The might of the Norman barons was symbolized by their castles (Knaresborough, Richmond, Scarborough); although their families were allowed to consolidate power to counteract repeated threats of Scottish invasion, Yorkshire medieval nobility was decimated and humbled during the Wars of the Roses. Opposition to the closure of the lesser monasteries in 1536 and resentment of an increasingly centralized government in the south found outlet in Robert Aske's Pilgrimage of Grace, but this failed and monastic lands passed to loyal or opportunist families (Cholmley, Fairfax, Ramsden, Ingram), creating wide estates with substantial residences, though recusancy persisted despite the failure of the rising of the northern earls (1569). York and Beverley's decline in the Tudor wool trade was the West Riding's gain, and it became one of the three major regions of the English cloth industry; Sheffield's cutlery industry was well established, Hull became one of England's busiest outports, and Whitby a coaling port. Yorkshire's integration into national life steadily increased.

In 1642 Charles I abandoned London to set up court at York, but Hull, strategically vital, refused to admit him, and Scarborough (at this stage) was in parliamentary hands. The civil wars (when Sir Thomas Fairfax gained military prominence) saw confused street fighting and one major battle: the clothing towns changed hands repeatedly, but York's surrender after Marston Moor (1644) spelled the end of the royalist cause in the shire, leaving the county depressed and with a badly damaged wool trade; recovery was so slow that the Restoration was welcomed. In 1697 Celia Fiennes noted coal pits, sampled various springs in and around Harrogate, was impressed by Newby Hall but dismayed by York's mean appearance apart from the minster; Defoe found early Georgian Yorkshire endowed with thriving market towns (Doncaster, Ripon, Richmond), though he was more impressed by its horses and stone bridges than its spas. But the pace of industry was increasing, aided by improvements in the road network, canals to implement an already extensive river system (expanded to link with Lancashire counterparts, e.g. Leeds–Liverpool canal) and accelerated enclosure; the East and North Ridings remained predominantly agricultural or moorland, but the West Riding was transformed, since it sat at the northern edge of a huge coalfield that additionally contained iron. Inventiveness, initiative, and mechanization changed cottage industry into the harshness of ‘dark, satanic mills’; Leeds was hailed as the principal seat of woollen manufacture, Bradford the centre of the worsted trade, and Sheffield was the focal point of the iron and steel industry, all experiencing massive increases in population and associated social problems. The advent of the railway in the 19th cent. (including the heroic Settle–Carlisle line) opened up some once isolated places while York developed into an important railway centre. The First World War shifted industrial emphasis to arms manufacture and khaki cloth, and encouraged agriculture; the ensuing slump hit the county badly, but both industry and agriculture rose again to the demands of renewed warfare after 1939, this time including aircraft production (Sheffield). In subsequent decades traditional industries (textiles, coal, iron and steel) declined, but the strong sense of community barely wavered. In the local government reorganization of 1972, there were many changes. The county was divided into North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and West Yorkshire, losing the east riding to Humberside, and Middlesbrough and Redcar to Cleveland. In a further reorganization in the 1990s, East Riding was reconstituted as a unitary authority, and South and West Yorkshire divided into nine unitary authorities. A separate country to many because of its intense local patriotism—cricketers born outside Yorkshire were long ineligible to play for the county—the blunt-spoken, thrifty inhabitants yet retain an identity that many other shires have lost.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Yorkshire

Yorkshire, former county, N England. From 1889 to 1974 it formed three counties, the East Riding, North Riding, and West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1974, Yorkshire was divided among the nonmetropolitan counties of Humberside, Cleveland, and North Yorkshire and the metropolitan counties of South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. All but North Yorkshire have since been dissolved as units of local elected government, but the the East Riding of Yorkshire was reestablished as a unitary authority in 1996. The East Riding of Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and South Yorkshire remain ceremonial counties under the Lieutenancies Act.

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Yorkshire

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Yorkshire

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