Regional Variation in Late Middle and Early Modern English

The regional analysis of our 14 changes will operate on three levels of delicacy depending on the frequency of occurrence of the linguistic variable and the regional data available. With high-frequency variables, the fourfold distinction between the Court, London proper, East Anglia and the North will be established and quantified. It is particularly relevant with changes that diffuse from the North southwards. But there are also changes with which the division into four regions turns out to be too fine, and the significant dividing line falls between the capital and the two more northern regions.12

With some less frequently occurring variables we shall have to content ourselves with a threefold regional division, and analyse London and the Court separately, but East Anglia and the North in the aggregate. All these changes spread from the capital region to the rest of the country, and in all of them the differences between London and the Court proved significantly greater and more consistent than those observed between East Anglia and the North. Distributional differences of this kind will be taken as indicators of the social rather than purely regional character of these processes.

Finally, there are some low-frequency variables whose regional distributions could not be analysed reliably in quantitative terms. So the noun subject of the gerund will only be considered by contrasting the capital with the two more northern regions in the aggregate. Changes that will receive a more summary treatment include the determiner its, the prop-word one, inversion after clause-initial negatives and DO-support in negative declaratives. Indefinite pronouns with human reference provide perhaps the most intriguing case among these low-frequency phenomena. They will all be discussed in subsection 8.4.3.

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