Talk Yorkshire is a project led by The Yorkshire Dialect Society in partnership with The Yorkshire Society. The aim of the project is to raise awareness, celebrate and encourage the use of Yorkshire Dialect, not just as an archaic form of English to be studied in libraries and on CDs, but as a vibrant living language, even though it may have evolved in different ways from its earlier pre-industrial forms.
As someone thoughtfully remarked at a seminar at Keighley Library just before Yorkshire Day 2022, there are three elements necessary for national identity – 1, special landscapes (which Yorkshire most certainly has an abundance of), 2, people (and there are over 5.4 million of us in Yorkshire), and last but not least 3, its own language – and we have the Yorkshire Dialect.
Many people believe that Yorkshire dialect, a form of English which has its roots in the Danish and Norwegian Viking occupation of Yorkshire or Jorvik as it was known in the 9th century, has in fact died out.
Talk Yorkshire is an attempt to find out if that is true. Or if by encouraging people to recall, remember but above all use the language of their childhood, a new generation of Yorkshire speakers can be encouraged to emerge.
The project began in 2022, with a series of short films commissioned by the Yorkshire Dialect Society from a young Rotherham film maker Joshua Daniels. These films are intended to be used by teachers or tutors online or in face-to-face situations as well as on websites and on social media. The first of these outlines the story of Yorkshire language as an ancient, rich and “correct” form of English that Yorkshire people are right to be proud of. The second is readings, by members of the YDS, past and present, and with suitable landscape images and subtitles, if necessary, of some great short Yorkshire poems or pieces of prose. The third, and most experimental, is a short feature film with Aamina Kahn and Zara Sehar, two young Yorkshire female student-teachers of Asian heritage, talking about Yorkshire and how their own slightly varied Yorkshire accent has shaped their own writing – the message of this is that Yorkshire language is not just to be used and spoken by elderly white males, born and bred in Yorkshire, but belongs to everyone who has adopted this amazing Region of England as a place to live, to work and to enjoy. It will also emphasis the point that dialect is not a dead or static thing, but will evolve in new ways, especially among young people and working-class communities in Yorkshire.
But as the Welsh and more recently the Cornish have shown, you can shape that process by sharing knowledge and encouraging people to have pride in their linguistic heritage. To shape the future, you need to understand and respect the past.
Another, fourth video, by Yorkshire Dialect Society Treasurer and Edward Aveyard discovers some fascinating links with the great English author Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and West Riding dialect, most notably that of Huddersfield.
All the videos can be downloaded free of charge from YouTube by using the following links:
- The Story of Yorkshire Dialect: Colin Speakman: https://youtu.be/dBvViC0L8lU
- A Selection of famous Yorkshire Dialect poems: https://youtu.be/gyQpDbx1iDo
- Dual Heritage – Aamina Kahn and Zara Sehar: https://youtu.be/vIOD8z11alA
- Tolkien and Yorkshire Dialect Edward Aveyard: https://youtu.be/V00CqqEMxpQ
A further contribution has been made by YDS member Hebden Longtofts in a well presented yet practical handbook Yorkshire – How to write it which includes not only some very useful tips about the West Riding variant of Yorkshire, especially when writing poetry, but also a standard English to Yorkshire dictionary, very useful to increase your knowledge of Yorkshire when writing either poetry or prose. The golden rule is, if there isn’t a suitable dialect word, then use standard English as long as you pronounce it in the “proper” Yorkshire way!
YORKSHIRE DAY PLUS ONE – an event not to be missed
This year in the little town of Wath-on-Dearne between Barnsley and Rotherham, in the heart of dialects speaking South Yorkshire, on Wednesday August 2nd, as an adjunct to Yorkshire Day we are celebrating Yorkshire Day Plus One.
This comprises an event including a visit to the town of Wath with a guided tour and also a visit to the remarkable Georgian Wath Hall now being restored by a dedicated team of volunteers. The afternoon session will focus on the Talk Yorkshire films to be shown and then followed by audience participatory session with Chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society Rod Dimbleby who if you were born or live in Yorkshire might surprise when he finds out just how many Yorkshire dialect words and phrases you know. It promises to be a “reet good do!”
Tickets are just £5 and the event is listed on the Society website HERE.
But we hope this is only the beginning.
What we also hope to achieve is the setting up of some pioneering educational courses in Yorkshire language, both for adult education groups and in schools, the latter reflecting the national curriculum. Talk Yorkshire is not in fact unique; similar ideas are being explored in Northumberland through the work of our colleagues of the Northumberland Language Society, and there seems little doubt that cooperating on parallel pilot schemes on both sides of the Tees could offer significant shared experience and mutual benefit.
We need to find suitable experienced teachers or lectures with good dialect knowledge in different parts of the Yorkshire Region to take these ideas forward in practical ways.
If you want further details, would like to help or get hold of a copy of Yorkshire How to Write it contact the Society at Home – Yorkshire Dialect Society
This is only the beginning of a journey which may take years to fulfil, but parallels the growing sense of where Yorkshire, a unique part of England, should be in the 21st century. It is not a wasteland beyond the M25 or outside the civilised Home Counties, but a vibrant, prosperous Province or Region of England, like one of the Länder of Germany, the Cantons of Switzerland or the Regions of France, able to take its own decisions on many key issues, creating its own wealth through the green technologies of the future. For this to happen we also need that rich linguistic heritage to come alive and to be part of that cultural revolution, a celebration of diversity, within a truly United Kingdom, a revolution which would be a huge source of economic, as well as cultural strength.