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18th century English

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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 Jun 2011 at 18:51
I read the other day that in 18th century Australia, translators were often needed for the Judge to be able to understand the convicts.
 
While the judge, coming from the middle or upper classes of English society, would be easily understood by us today (and vice versa I'm sure) the convicts often lived lives in very specialist areas that had entirely their own dialects. Did education wipe out these lower class dialects?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jun 2011 at 19:29
Depending on where they came from. Welsh and Gaelic were still the main languages in their respective areas (alot didn't even know how to speak english) as  well as Scots which was (as it is today) still unintelligible.
 
What about english accents? I don't know. I read some trials from the Old Baily dating back to early 18th century and don't remember reading an interpreter was there but don't forget that certain English accents are indeed difficult to understand.
 
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Zagros View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jun 2011 at 21:54
Completely feasible.  Not so long ago there used to be subtitles for people with some regional accents on British TV.

Edited by Zagros - 08 Jun 2011 at 21:57
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2011 at 02:49
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I read the other day that in 18th century Australia, translators were often needed for the Judge to be able to understand the convicts.
 
While the judge, coming from the middle or upper classes of English society, would be easily understood by us today (and vice versa I'm sure) the convicts often lived lives in very specialist areas that had entirely their own dialects. Did education wipe out these lower class dialects?
I'm not so sure about the middle/upper classes being mutually intelligible in he 18th century. There were no public schools to provide 'public school accents', and apart from possibly the very top, regional accents were common among the bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Not many people travelled very far, so differences weren't all that important.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jun 2011 at 19:15
I don't think the author (Watkin Tench) was referring to regional difference and certainly not to Welsh or Gaelic. He was referring to class or criminal accents. For example, a person who had spent years as a pickpocket spoke in a "despicable" manner that required a translator. Sailors have the reputation of having their own lingo, it was probably more like that.
 
I'm also not sure whether the judge would've been upper or middle or quite where the distinction was drawn. They would've been Captains or Lieutenants in the Navy or Marines, or their social equals. Anyone who had too much money and position wouldn't have chosen their post in NSW.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 10 Jun 2011 at 19:15
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jun 2011 at 21:06
I'm not certain, but I doubt that English dialects or argots or cants developed along class lines before the 19th century and the invention of the class based public school. Criminal cants were very localised (as indeed they would be up until the effect of radio and film).
 
Such things develop as a result of social interactions on a closed group, and there were few if any such groups on a national scale in 18th century England. The Navy may have come closer to making such a nation-wide grouping than any other, and it took in entrants as boys. The army though was still largely composed of localised units.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jun 2011 at 22:55
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I read the other day that in 18th century Australia, translators were often needed for the Judge to be able to understand the convicts.


Can I ask where you read that please?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jun 2011 at 12:30
Originally posted by 4ZZZ 4ZZZ wrote:

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

I read the other day that in 18th century Australia, translators were often needed for the Judge to be able to understand the convicts.


Can I ask where you read that please?
A complete account of the settlement of Port Jackson. Watkin Tench, London 1793.
There is also a preceeding book covering the first 6 months of the colony. The paragraph in question is in chapter 18 and reproduced below.
 
Quote A leading distinction, which marked the convicts on their outset in the colony, was an use of what is called the flash, or kiddy language. In some of our early courts of justice, an interpreter was frequently necessary to translate the deposition of the witness, and the defence of the prisoner. This language has many dialects. The sly dexterity of the pickpocket; the brutal ferocity of the footpad; the more elevated career of the highwayman; and the deadly purpose of the midnight ruffian, is each strictly appropriate in the terms which distinguish and characterize it. I have ever been of opinion, that an abolition of this unnatural jargon would open the path to reformation. And my observations on these people have constantly instructed me, that indulgence in this infatuating cant, is more deeply associated with depravity and continance in vice than is generally supposed. I recollect hardly one instance of a return to honest pursuits, and habits of industry, where this miserable perversion of our noblest and peculiar faculty was not previously conquered.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 11 Jun 2011 at 12:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko- Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jun 2011 at 13:11
Assimilation by reformation + Reformation through judiciary = Abolition of unnatural jargon.

There's an ironic twist of finality in that. The power of language (and those who wield it).


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jun 2011 at 14:28
I have heared that English and Dutch are closely related languages. Perhaps one is a dialect of the other. Is any truth on that?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Jun 2011 at 00:29
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

I have heared that English and Dutch are closely related languages. Perhaps one is a dialect of the other. Is any truth on that?
Dutch/Flemish is much more closely related to German. If you are williing to have a stack of very large Dutchmen queuing up to knock your head off, you could say Dutch is a dialect of German, but I wouldn't advise it.
Dutch would be closer to Anglo-Saxon than to English, since it doesn't have the same admixture of German, French and Brythonic grammar and vocabulary.
 
Incidentally, I'm not surprised the judges couldn't understand the criminals. My point was that the criminals, if they came from other parts of the country, probably couldn't understand each other either. The same probably wouldn't be quite so true of the judges, assuming they all had studied law at university.


Edited by gcle2003 - 12 Jun 2011 at 00:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jun 2011 at 23:26
The interesting thing about language is how we assign people to a single language group even though their everyday speech is not mutually intelligible. This is the case with many European countries. We might speak of Spanish and Italian and Enlgish even though those people from different parts of the country are not able to engage in a meaningful sentence.

I highly recommend watching the adventure of English, which documents the evolution of the language in some detail. As late as the 16th century the word 'church' was being spelled 12!!! different ways throughout England! And spoken English was just as fragmented and difficult. The intelligibility of different forms of English and Italian today is due to the exposure of the various regions of the country to an accepted 'official' version of the language (e.g. received pronounciation). And to a lesser extent some exposure of important regional twists to other areas. But none of that existed in the late 18th century.

My housemate is from Liverpool and even today I cringe as he utters barbaric regionalisms which make no sense to me. In the late 1700s it would have been a nightmare.
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