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The Kentish dialect combines many features of other speech patterns, particularly those of East Anglia, The Southern Counties and London. Although there are audio examples available on the British Library website and BBC sources, its most distinctive features are in the lexicon rather than in pronunciation. As Estuary English is considered to be spreading in the area since at least 1984, some debate has emerged as to whether it is replacing local dialects in Kent, Essex and Sussex.
Modern Kentish dialect shares many features with other areas of south-east England (sometimes collectively called "Estuary English"). Other characteristic features are more localised. For instance some parts of Kent, particularly in the north west of the county, share many features with broader Cockney. Typical Kentish pronunciation features include the following:
- Yod-coalescence, i.e., the use of the affricates similar to [dʒ] and [tʃ] for the clusters /dj/ and /tj/ in words like dune and tune.
- Diphthong shifts, e.g., the use of open [ɑɪ] or rounded [ɒɪ] for /aɪ/ in words like pie, or the use of [æɪ~aɪ] for /eɪ/ in words like take.
- A lengthened [æ]. This appears often before voiced consonants such as in ladder.
- H-dropping, i.e., Dropping [h] in stressed words (e.g. [æʔ] for hat). This is thought[by whom?] to have first started amongst Londoners some 300–400 years ago.
- Vowel shortening in certain words, e.g. /iː/ becomes [ɪ] in words like seen (but not scene, which regularly uses the shifted diphthong [əi~ɐi]).
Examples of the Kentish Dialect
The pattern of speech in some of Dickens books pertain to Kentish Dialect, as the author who lived at Higham familiar with the mudflats near to Rochester, and created a comic character Sam Weller who spoke the local accent, principally Kentish with strong London influences. The character name of "Miss Havisham" sounds like the small town on the Rochester/Canterbury road, Faversham.
Dialect words and phrases
The Kentish dialect appears to have been[weasel words] very colourful in the past, with many interesting[weasel words] agricultural words appearing. Many of these seem to have[weasel words] disappeared in the modern age:
- Alleycumfee - a non-existent place.
- Better-most - the best, something superior
- Dabster, a dab hand - somebody very skilled at something
- Fanteeg - to be flustered
- Ha'ant - "Haven't." For example, "Ha'ant yew sin 'im yet?"
- Jawsy - a chatterbox
- March-men - people from the borders of two counties
- 'Od Rabbit It! - a blasphemous utterance
- Ringle - to put a ring in a pig's nose
- Scithers - scissors (clippers may have been "clithers.")
- Twinge - an earwig
- Wrongtake - to misunderstand
- Yarping - to complain, applied to children
- Parish 1888, p. vii
- Parish, W.D.; Shaw (1888). The Kentish Dialect and Provincialisms (PDF). Lewes: Farncombe & Co.
- Major, Alan (2011). "Guide to the Kentish Accent". Historic Kent . com. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- "Kent Voices". BBC. 2005. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
Kent Archaeological Society, online dictionary of the Kentish Dialect (378 pages)
Links to Charles Dickens and Kent: