English, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 22 (1991)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


Any writer attempting to represent graphically variant pronunciations is faced with the double problem of being accurate as regards the pronunciation he has in mind and of choosing a spelling easily identifiable with the standard word. As a rule, he will keep most of the normal spelling and alter only the orthography of the syllable pronounced in a different way. The results of this operation should enable the reader to interpret the variant spelling quickly and, at the same time, give him a good idea about how that word sounds in dialect speech. It is not always easy to interpret variant spellings and the extra effort they demand from the reader's attention may sometimes provoke his rejection; it all depends on the writer's ability and on the reader's good disposition. The existence of a long standing tradition in the use of dialects in English literature reaching as far back as Chaucer says much for their general acceptance among the public. Research has been carried out on this aspect of the works of some individual authors who tried to suggest Scottish, northern, southern or Cockney pronunciations in the XIXth century. Those were also the dialects most frequently described in glossaries, essays and periodicals, and the best known to the general reader. Yet very little has been said about the dialect in the novels of George Eliot 0), the first author to fully represent the speech of the West Midlands. The reason for this may be the almost total lack of dialect studies about this region in the XIXth century (2) and also the absence of other writers to continue the path she started.