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Linguistic identity in nineteenth-century Tyneside dialect songs

Hermeston, Rodney (2009) Linguistic identity in nineteenth-century Tyneside dialect songs. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.


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This thesis examines the social meanings and identities conveyed by the use of local dialect in nineteenth-century Tyneside song. It is deliberately a hybrid of literary and linguistic approaches,and this dual methodology is used to raise questions about some of the categorical assumptions that have underpinned much previous discussion of this kind of material. The thesis argues that there is a recent tendency amongst scholars of dialect song to oversimplify links between its language and 'solidarity', particularly in respect of large-scale concepts of class 'identity' and geographical 'allegiance', or community 'values'. The relationship between language and identity is not disputed here; however, I examine ways in which songs differentiate, and even play out, antagonisms between identity categories within both the locality and a notion of the working/ labouring class. The result is an investigation that reveals more nuanced understandings of how dialect song of this period connected those who wrote, performed, or heard it. By employing the linguistic concept of indexicality to examine the relationship between language and social meaning, I trace a wider range of semiotic associations than has been previously offered. The combined literary and linguistic approach permits an analysis which, while tracing the common cherished features of local dialect, also reveals linguistic, social, and cultural differences in voice types within and between certain songs - and convergences in others. 'Social meaning' in language is seen to encompass varied audience or reader responses to both individual and group character. This permits satiric representations of pitmen and keelmen early in the century, but also more celebratory responses to the labouring class, particularly as the century progresses. The thesis complicates a widespread view that language in Tyneside song is simultaneously a symbol of local or regional identification, and the expression of a broad labouring-class identity. I use my literary/linguistic approach, which includes matters of character, persona, and performance, to observe intricacies of meaning in the use of even the most iconic of regional words. It is only once we recognise the complexities of meaning afforded to the dialect in performance, including its most cherished and resonant forms, that we can understand the varied ways in which local patriotism is constructed through song across time. Shifts in meaning are an essential part of this whole process. A significant dimension to this thesis is the electronic corpus of printed songs, which I have created (see the attached disc), which allows me to investigate language at multiple levels, and locate linguistic, social, and cultural differences in voice types within and between songs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2011 10:04
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1956

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