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Dialect Grammar of British English - LAN00103M

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Claire Childs
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

For all it is a relatively small geographical area, Britain is home to a vast range of different regional dialects. People often identify language varieties by the way they sound, but how similar or different are they in terms of their grammar? Can we identify robust dialect areas on the basis of grammatical properties, or are the boundaries less clear-cut? In this module, you will learn about grammatical variation and change in regional dialects of British English and different methods of analysing this variation. You will engage with a range of academic literature on this topic and apply your knowledge to an independent research project where you will collect and analyse data on a type of grammatical variation in a dialect or dialects of British English.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

  • to develop your knowledge of dialect variation in Britain

  • to enhance your understanding of different aspects of English grammar

  • to enhance your understanding of different approaches to the analysis of grammatical variation and change

  • To develop your skills in engaging with academic literature and forming convincing academic arguments on the basis of data

  • To develop your research skills in developing research questions, hypothesis testing, using tailored research methods, and carrying out an independent research project

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module, you should be able to:

  • identify and analyse grammatical properties of British English dialects

  • evaluate how these vary regionally within Britain

  • understand internal and external constraints on grammatical variation

  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods for grammatical analysis

  • engage sophistically with arguments and research questions set out in the literature and develop some of your own

  • design and successfully conduct a small research project into grammatical variation and change

Through this module, you will develop academic and graduate skills in:

  • reviewing and engaging critically with academic literature

  • the analysis and interpretation of data

  • planning and managing a research project

  • developing research questions and formulating a convincing academic argument

  • oral communication (in seminars) and written communication (in assessments)

Module content

The module will cover:

  • Grammatical characteristics of different regional dialects of British English;

  • Methods of analysing grammatical variation, e.g. corpus-based analysis, acceptability judgement questionnaires;

  • Different domains of grammatical variation, e.g. negation, agreement;

  • Key approaches and concepts that aid our understanding of regional language variation and change, e.g. dialect levelling.


Task Length % of module mark
Dialect Grammar of British English Research Project 5000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Dialect Grammar of British English Research Project 5000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback will be provided on formative and summative assessments within the University’s timescale for returning feedback. Students will also be able to seek additional feedback in office hours and the research project workshops in the Summer Term.

Indicative reading

Beal, J. C. 2004. English dialects in the North of England: Morphology and syntax. In B. Kortmann, K. Burridge, R. Mesthrie, E. Schneider and C. Upton (eds) A Handbook of Varieties of English, Volume 2: Morphology and Syntax. Berlin: de Gruyter. 114-141.

Boberg, C., J. Nerbonne and D. Watt (eds). 2018. The Handbook of Dialectology. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Britain, D. 2007. Grammatical variation in England. In D. Britain (ed.) Language in the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 75-104.

Buchstaller, I. and K. Corrigan. 2011. 'How to make intuitions succeed: Testing methods for analysing syntactic microvariation'. In W. Maguire and A. McMahon (eds) Analysing Variation in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 30-48.

Cornips, L. and K. Corrigan. 2005. Toward an integrated approach to syntactic variation: A retrospective and prospective synopsis. In L. Cornips and K. Corrigan (eds) Syntax and Variation: Reconciling the Biological and the Social. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1-27.

Szmrecsanyi, B. 2013. Grammatical Variation in British English Dialects: A Study in Corpus-Based Dialectometry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.