East Midlands English is a dialect traditionally spoken in those parts of Mercia lying East of Watling Street (the A5 London - Shrewsbury Road). Today this area is represented by the counties of the East Midlands of England, (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, see below).
Like that of Yorkshire, the East Midlands dialect owes much of its grammar and vocabulary to Nordic influences, the region having been incorporated in the Norse controlled Danelaw in the late 9th century. For example, the East Midlands word scraight ('to cry') is thought to be derived from the Norse, skrike in modern Scandinavian, also meaning to cry.
The romantic English novelist, and East Midlander, D. H. Lawrence who was from the Nottinghamshire town of Eastwood wrote in the dialect of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Coalfield in several dialect poems as well as in his more famous works such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Sons and Lovers.
Though spoken less commonly today, the dialect of the East Midlands has been investigated in notable texts such as the affectionately titled Ey Up Mi Duck series of books (and an LP) by Richard Scollins and John Titford. These books were originally intended as a study of Derbyshire Dialect, particularly the distinctive speech of Ilkeston and the Erewash valley, but later editions acknowledge similarities in vocabulary and grammar which unite the East Midlands dialects and broadened their appeal to the region as a whole.
"Ey Up" (often spelt ayup / eyup) is a greeting thought to be of Old Norse origin (se upp) used widely throughout the North Midlands and South Yorkshire, and "Mi Duck" is thought to be derived from a respectful Anglo Saxon form of address, "Duka" (Literally "Duke"), and is unrelated to waterfowl. Non-natives of the East Midlands are often surprised to hear men greet each other as 'Mi Duck.'
In recent years, humorous texts such as Nottingham, As it is Spoke have combined phonetically spelt standard English words together in order to deliberately confuse non-natives to the region. For example:
However, there are many words in use in the traditional East Midlands Dialect which do not appear in standard English. The short list below is by no means exhaustive. More comprehensive glossaries exist within texts such as Ey Up Mi Duck by Richard Scollins and John Titford.
Those who speak traditional regional dialects are not trying unsuccessfully to speak Standard English. East Midlands English follows a series of distinct grammatical rules. Some examples follow below.
Up until the mid 20th century it was not uncommon to hear the use of informal forms of address, Thee and Thou, as compared to the more formal Yo or You. Use of the informal form of address is now uncommon in modern speech.
The greeting 'Now Then' (as 'Nah theen') is still in use in Lincolnshire, used where other people might say "Hello".
Personal pronouns differ from standard English as follows:
Example "It eent theirn; it's ourn!" (It isn't theirs; it's ours!)
Reflexive pronouns are characterised by the replacement of Self with 'Sen' (From Middle English seluen)
Y'usen - Yourself, Mesen - Myself, Thisens - Themselves/Yourselves, Ussens - Ourselves
Example "We sh'll ay to do it ussens." (We shall have to do it ourselves)
Although Northamptonshire is located in the East Midlands, and has historically harboured a dialect comparable to other forms of East Midlands English, particularly among the older generation, the linguistic distinctiveness of Northamptonshire has significantly eroded. This is represented by the dialect of Kettering which is influenced by the dialects of western parts of East Anglia, the West Midlands, and the South as well as the 'Watford Gap Isogloss', the demarcation line between southern and northern English accents. In Kettering (north of the Watford Gap) the word 'glass' rhymes with 'mass' whereas in Northampton, only 14 miles further south but south of the Watford Gap, the pronunciation of 'glass' rhymes with 'farce'. Contrary to popular belief, the Watford in question is Watford village and not the town of Watford which borders the north of London.
The Danelaw split the present county into a Viking north and a Saxon south. This is quite plainly heard, with people in the south speaking more like people from Oxfordshire or Cambridgeshire and people in the north sounding more like people from Leicestershire.
Also of note is the anomalous dialect of Corbyite spoken around Corby in the north of Northamptonshire, which reflects the migration of large numbers of Scottish and Irish steelworkers to the town during the 20th Century. The dialect is often compared to Glaswegian.
The dialect of Coalville in Leicestershire is said to resemble that of Derbyshire because many of the Coalville miners came from there,and the dialect of Glossop in North West Derbyshire has similarities with Northern English due to its close geographical position to Greater Manchester.
Lincolnshire is, in a sense, separated from the remainder of the East Midlands. East of the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the southern part of the county, the Lincolnshire dialect is closely linked to The Fens and East Anglia, and, in the northern areas of the county, the local speech has characteristics in common with the speech of the East Riding of Yorkshire. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the land area of Lincolnshire was surrounded by sea, the Humber Estuary, marshland, and the wolds; these geographical circumstances permitted little linguistic interference from the East Midlands dialects until the nineteenth century when canal and rail routes penetrated the eastern heartland of the county .