Article published in:Linguistics and Literary History: In honour of Sylvia Adamson
Edited by Anita Auer, Victorina González-Díaz, Jane Hodson and Violeta Sotirova
[Linguistic Approaches to Literature 25] 2016
► pp. 13–30
Chapter 1. Enregistering the North
The dialect of Mendicus in William Bullein’s Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence
William Bullein’s Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence (1st ed. 1564) was reprinted by the Early English Text Society in 1888 and later included in Early English Books Online (EEBO). Although much of the scholarly interest in the text has been in the areas of medical history (e.g. Mitchell 1959) and Early Modern English literature (e.g. Griffiths 2007), it has recently caught the attention of scholars interested in dialects of Early Modern English (Taavitsainen, Melchers and Pahti (eds.) 1999; Wales 2006; Ruano Garcia 2010). However, the history of Bullein’s Dialogue as a source of dialect material goes back to the time of the EETS reprint: it was included in R. O. Heslop’s (1896) bibliographical list of works illustrative of the dialect of Northumberland and Heslop used it as a source for some of the entries in his Northumberland Words (1892–4). Since Heslop’s glossary has, in its turn been widely cited as an authoritative source for information on traditional Northumbrian dialects, the influence of Bullein’s Dialogue has been considerable. In this paper, I discuss Bullein’s use of Northumbrian dialect within the framework of indexicality and enregisterment (Agha 2003). I argue that Bullein, who had had contact with speakers of Northumbrian dialect whilst practising as a physician in Tynemouth, chose to portray the character of Mendicus by referencing features that already indexed Northern stereotypes due to their association with the Border Ballads. In doing this, Bullein both drew on and contributed to the enregisterment of Northern, and, more specifically, Northumbrian dialect as ‘outlandish'.
Published online: 20 October 2016