Pitmatic

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Pitmatic (originally "pitmatical"), also colloquially known as "yakka", is a dialect of English used in the counties of Northumberland and Durham in England. It developed as a separate dialect from Northumbrian and Geordie partly due to the specialised terms used by mineworkers in the local coal pits. For example, in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear the word Cuddy is an abbreviation of the name Cuthbert but in Durham Pitmatic cuddy denotes a horse, specifically a pit pony.[1] In Lowland Scots, cuddie usually refers to a donkey or ass but may also denote a short, thick, strong horse.[2]

Traditionally, pitmatic, together with some rural Northumbrian communities including Rothbury, used a guttural R. This is now less frequently heard; since the closure of the area's deep mines, many younger people speak in local ways that do not usually include this characteristic.[citation needed] The guttural r sound can, however, still sometimes be detected, especially amongst elderly populations in more rural areas.

Dialectology

While in theory pitmatic was spoken throughout the Great Northern Coalfield, from Ashington in Northumberland to Fishburn in County Durham, early references apply specifically to its use by miners especially from the Durham district (1873) [3] and to its use in County Durham (1930).[citation needed]

Dialect words in Northumberland and Tyneside, including many specific to the coal-mining industry, were collected in the two volumes of Northumberland Words by Oliver Heslop in 1892 and 1894.[4][5]

Although he did not use the term, Alexander J Ellis's work on the language of miners "between rivers Tyne and Wansbeck" has been studied as an early transcription of Pitmatic, which used informants from Earsdon and Backworth.[6] In the 1950s, the Survey of English Dialects included Earsdon as a site and many of the forms recorded matched the transcriptions in Ellis's early work, although some appeared to have modified under pressure from other forms of English.[6]

Harold Orton compiled a database of dialect forms for 35 locations in Northumberland and northern Durham, known as the Orton Corpus.[6]

In 1973, a book Pit Talk in County Durham was authored by a local miner named David John Douglass, who later moved to South Yorkshire and published a series of socialist books.

In media

Nowadays "pitmatic" is an uncommon term in popular usage.[citation needed] In recent times, all three dialects have converged, acquiring features from more Standard English varieties. English as spoken in County Durham has been described as "half-Geordie, half-Teesside" (see the article about Mackem).

Melvyn Bragg presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 about pitmatic as part of a series on regional dialects.[7] Pitmatic has rarely featured in entertainment. One of the few cases is the second episode of Ken Loach's series Days of Hope, which was filmed around Esh Winning in Durham with mostly local actors, although the lead Paul Copley has a Yorkshire accent.

Related forms of English

Other Northern English dialects include

Notes

  1. ^ Durham Cathedral sermon discussing pitmatic
  2. ^ Entry for "cuddy" in Dictionary of the Scots Language
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Volume 1
  5. ^ Volume 2
  6. ^ a b c An Atlas of Alexander J. Ellis's The Existing Phonology of English Dialects, http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/EllisAtlas/Index.html, has further details.
  7. ^ Melvyn Bragg explores Pitmatic in a BBC Radio 4 programme

References

  • Dictionary of North-East Dialect, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2004).
  • Pitmatic: The Talk of the North East Coalfields, Bill Griffiths (Northumbria University Press, 2007).

External links

  • www.pitmatic.co.uk – newsletters February 2003
  • Durham Dialect website
  • Dialect Poems from the English regions
  • Sounds Familiar? – Listen to examples of regional accents and dialects from across the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website
  • Guardian review of "Pitmatic: The Talk of the North East Coalfield"
  • BBC News report on release of Griffiths' book
  • YouTube video of a Pitmatic poem, as read by its author
  • We're Not Mackems: A Pitmatic Dictionary
  • 'Jowl, Jowl and Listen' Film of North East miners talking about their work and lives: Faze3films
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