Dialect

Wuthering Heights

by

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights: Dialect 1 key example

Chapter 3
Explanation and Analysis—Yorkshire Accents:

Brontë uses dialect throughout the novel to express differences in characters' class and education. She makes most frequent use of Joseph's impenetrable lower-class Yorkshire accent, seemingly with the goal of amusing and confounding the reader. In Chapter 3, Lockwood reads an entry in Catherine's diary in which she recreates one of Joseph's scolding rants:

‘“T’ maister nobbut just buried, and Sabbath nut o’ered, und t’ sahnd uh t’ gospel still i’ yer lugs, and yah darr be laiking! shame on ye! sit ye dahn, ill childer! they’s good books eneugh if ye’ll read ‘em; sit ye dahn, and think uh yer sowls!’

Joseph is basically saying that scarcely any time has passed since Mr. Earnshaw was buried, and it's still Sunday, yet Catherine and Heathcliff are irreverently playing; they should consider their souls and read good books instead. With its colorful regional diction and pronunciation paired with a characteristically sour tone, Joseph's dialect perhaps isn't meant to be fully understood—just to get across that he's comically inclined to the same old rants, which are often somewhat irrelevant. (It takes a lot of time to read Joseph's speeches throughout the novel, yet they seldom advance the plot very much.)

The use of dialect also conveys class difference—seen in the fact that upper-class characters who are also Yorkshire natives imitate Joseph's dialect in a distinctive and often mocking way; it's clearly different from the way they speak. This dialect also injects a sense of the Yorkshire moors' "foreign" remoteness into the setting (English Gothic novels often took place in foreign lands, so Brontë could be taking a slightly different, creative tack here).

Later, in Chapter 21, Hareton's less pronounced yet still distinctive accent shows that he's poorly educated, making him an object of mockery for Cathy and Linton:

‘My cousin fancies you are an idiot . . . There you experience the consequence of scorning “book-larning,” as you would say . . . Have you noticed, Catherine, his frightful Yorkshire pronunciation?’

‘Why, where the devil is the use on’t?’ growled Hareton [...] He was about to enlarge further, but the two youngsters broke into a noisy fit of merriment[.]

In contrast to Joseph's, which seems designed to make him a despicable figure, Hareton's dialect makes him sympathetic, reminding readers that the main reason he's unlearned is because of Heathcliff's oppression of him. In other words, if he'd been educated as an Earnshaw ought to be, he would presumably speak like Cathy and Linton do. In both cases, Brontë's use of dialect aids in her characters' development, simply by having them speak.

Chapter 21
Explanation and Analysis—Yorkshire Accents:

Brontë uses dialect throughout the novel to express differences in characters' class and education. She makes most frequent use of Joseph's impenetrable lower-class Yorkshire accent, seemingly with the goal of amusing and confounding the reader. In Chapter 3, Lockwood reads an entry in Catherine's diary in which she recreates one of Joseph's scolding rants:

‘“T’ maister nobbut just buried, and Sabbath nut o’ered, und t’ sahnd uh t’ gospel still i’ yer lugs, and yah darr be laiking! shame on ye! sit ye dahn, ill childer! they’s good books eneugh if ye’ll read ‘em; sit ye dahn, and think uh yer sowls!’

Joseph is basically saying that scarcely any time has passed since Mr. Earnshaw was buried, and it's still Sunday, yet Catherine and Heathcliff are irreverently playing; they should consider their souls and read good books instead. With its colorful regional diction and pronunciation paired with a characteristically sour tone, Joseph's dialect perhaps isn't meant to be fully understood—just to get across that he's comically inclined to the same old rants, which are often somewhat irrelevant. (It takes a lot of time to read Joseph's speeches throughout the novel, yet they seldom advance the plot very much.)

The use of dialect also conveys class difference—seen in the fact that upper-class characters who are also Yorkshire natives imitate Joseph's dialect in a distinctive and often mocking way; it's clearly different from the way they speak. This dialect also injects a sense of the Yorkshire moors' "foreign" remoteness into the setting (English Gothic novels often took place in foreign lands, so Brontë could be taking a slightly different, creative tack here).

Later, in Chapter 21, Hareton's less pronounced yet still distinctive accent shows that he's poorly educated, making him an object of mockery for Cathy and Linton:

‘My cousin fancies you are an idiot . . . There you experience the consequence of scorning “book-larning,” as you would say . . . Have you noticed, Catherine, his frightful Yorkshire pronunciation?’

‘Why, where the devil is the use on’t?’ growled Hareton [...] He was about to enlarge further, but the two youngsters broke into a noisy fit of merriment[.]

In contrast to Joseph's, which seems designed to make him a despicable figure, Hareton's dialect makes him sympathetic, reminding readers that the main reason he's unlearned is because of Heathcliff's oppression of him. In other words, if he'd been educated as an Earnshaw ought to be, he would presumably speak like Cathy and Linton do. In both cases, Brontë's use of dialect aids in her characters' development, simply by having them speak.

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