Page:The dialect of the southern counties of Scotland - Murray - 1873.djvu/38

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24

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION.

and Ayenbite, or to inform us of the date at which the Northern tongue emancipated itself from the trammels of inflection, and assumed that essentially modern form which it wears in the earliest of these connected specimens. All we know is, that the grammatical revolution had already begun in the 9th and 10th centuries, and that the change was completed long before it had advanced to any extent in the south, so that when the curtain rises over the northern dialect, in England towards the close of the 13th century, and in Scotland nearly a hundred years later, the language had become as thoroughly uninflectional as the modern English, while the sister dialect of the south retained to a great extent the noun-, pronoun-, and adjective-declension of the Anglo-Saxon. The same phenomenon of earlier development has been repeated in almost every subsequent change which the language has undergone. The South has been tenaciously conservative of old forms and usages, the North has inaugurated often by centuries nearly every one of those structural changes which have transformed the English of Alfred into English as it has been since the days of Shakspeare. Hence, of two contemporary writers, one northern and the other southern, the Englishman of to-day always feels the former the more modern, the nearer to him—Cursor Mundi and Barbour are infinitely more intelligible, even to the southern reader, than the Kentish Ayenbite of Inwyt.

§ 10. The same deficiency of materials, in the period preceding the 13th century, renders it difficult to estimate the amount of influence exerted upon the Northern dialect by the Scandinavian, in consequence of the Danish invasions and settlements of the 8th and 10th centuries. In the opinion of the writer the present tendency is rather to over-estimate the amount of this influence. He sees reason to believe that the Northern dialect from the beginning diverged from the classical Anglo-Saxon in a direction which made it more closely connected in form with the Scandinavian. The chief points in which the language of the Ruthwell Cross, and the verses of Crodmon and Beda differ from the contemporary West Saxon, are the inflectional characteristics which distinguish the Scandinavian and Frisian from the Saxon and German division of the Teutonic languages. There seems ground, therefore, to regard many of the characteristics of the northern dialect which currently pass as Danish as having been original elements of the North Angle speech, due to the fact that this dialect was, like the Frisian, one which formed a connecting link between the Scandinavian and Germanic branches. Such characteristics would of course be strengthened and increased by the influx of Danish and Norwegian settlers, but the influence of these was necessarily at first confined to particular localities, and only gradually and at a later period affected the northern dialect as a whole. Cursor Mundi and Hampole have more of it than