A DIALECT expert from Warwick will be celebrating the voices of the Black Country for a BBC Radio 4 series.
Esther Asprey will feature in the episode ‘Tongue and Talk: the Dialect Poets’, alongside presenter and poet Emma Purshous, to discuss the origins of the dialect – a West Midlands language variety descending ultimately from Mercian Old English. She will also explore what it means to write in dialect, how we represent sound through spelling choices, and the pressure poets can feel on a national level to use standard English.
Dr Asprey said: “Regional dialects have suffered increasing stigma nationally since processes of standardisation really began in earnest in the 18th century, and even at the local level, children whose first language is Black Country dialect face pressure to abandon these speech forms as they progress through school into the working world.”
The distinctive Black Country dialect is often associated with entertainers such as Slade frontman Noddy Holder and comedian Sir Lenny Henry, but has in fact been used by writers since the 19th century, and in recent years has inspired a rich contemporary poetry movement.
The expert added: “The BBC series Tongue and Talk plays an extremely important role in legitimising dialect poets, too often seen in England as ‘niche’ and only concerned with regional interests.
“I was delighted to connect my knowledge about the history of the dialect with Emma’s first-hand knowledge of how to represent sounds in writing to better understand the ways in which its speakers are using it creatively.
“Dialect poetry speaks to a community on a deep emotional level – particularly communities like the Black Country where speakers come under pressure to lose their dialect for the schoolroom and the workplace.
“Dialect speech is an important part of our identity, and dialect poetry is one of the ways speakers can share it on a national level with others who can enjoy what they write.”
The episode will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday (September 6) at 4.30pm and will be available on the BBC iplayer.