Regional Dialect – Brummie or Not?

regional dialect

Denise Jackson

This subject is an interesting one, occuring to me during the writing of my book ‘The Shelter’.  It is set in Birmingham, just before and during the outbreak of, World War 2.

Regional dialect is when local speech is used when writing conversation between characters.

The term dialect (from the ancient Greek word Διάλεκτος diálektos, “discourse”, from διά diá, “through” + λέγω legō, “I speak”) is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language’s speakers.[1] The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors, such as social class.[2] A dialect that is associated with a particular social class can be termed a sociolect and a regional dialect may be termed a regiolect or topolect. The other usage refers to a language that is socially subordinate to a regional or national standard language, often historically cognate to the standard, but not a variety of it or in any other sense derived from it

Thanks Wikipedia 🙂

The local term for the Birmingham dialect is known as, ‘Brummie’.  This dialect is used throughout the story and is essential to the plot and for the believeability of the characters.

During a period of ‘Writers’ Block’, on another story, I began reading through this work and posting draft chapters on this blog to gain an insight into what potential readers (and buyers) were thinking.

Over a period of a few days, it began to emerge that many of these readers were from countries other than the UK and it occurred to me that they may not be able to understand what was being said, ‘Brummie’ being almost a foreign language.

Indeed, would any reader from any town in the UK, other than Birmingham itself, be able to follow the distinct dialect, with its’ colloquialisms and slang speech.

When looking at other writers’, taking Catherine Cookson as an example, it is noticeable that she uses regional dialect from Yorkshire and northern England counties.  One might say it is essential to the plot.

Is it wise to consider adding a bibliography of terms at the back of the book, or would the reader find following the plot impossible, having to research the meaning of all the different words?

Many of the previous comments I have received think not and believe it is unwise to write without the use of the regional dialect, but, many of these people are actually Brummies, or know Brummie, so are they reliable, in that sense?

Following another comment from one follower of the story, I also realised that, if regional dialect is used, it is important to be consistent and to ensure that the correct dialect for a particular area is used perfectly.  If you are not from the area you are writing about, careful research should be done to avoid errors.  Many Brummies may relate to this if they have watched a TV programme that over exaggerates the accent! Being a Brummie myself, I have often scoffed at the (mis)use of the accent.

In conclusion, I would say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to write a believable account of a family in Birmingham if regional dialect is not used.  Even if it can only be clearly read and understood by Brummies themselves.  The market is narrowed, for sure, but surely one cannot forsake the story itself for sales!

I would welcome any thoughts from other writers and their opinions, especially those who write ‘regionally’ 🙂


Regional Dialect –

British regional accents ‘still thriving’ – The Telegraph




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