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Student researches our distinctive dialect

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A Bermudian student is taking an unprecedented look at the origins of the Island's distinctive dialect.

Rosemary Hall has spoken to dozens of residents and trawled through the archives as part of her extensive MPhil thesis on the evolution of “Bermudian English”.

Ms Hall was yesterday presented with $5,000 from the Bermuda Historical Society to help her to continue her studies on the topic.

The 35,000-word thesis will form the first chapter of Ms Hall's PhD on the subject, and the 26-year-old Oxford University student hopes her work will one day be turned into a book.

“No major thesis has been published on this subject since 1933, so I saw there was a void in this particular area,” she said.

“I'm from Bermuda and I'm in a position to fill that void. I also felt that I had a responsibility to fill that linguistic gap, too.

“It is a shame that attitudes towards regional dialects tend to be negative, and that one way of speaking is better than another, when language and dialect should be celebrated, especially as Bermuda's dialect is a reflection of our rich and unique culture.”

Ms Hall returned to Bermuda last Easter and conducted a series of interviews with 30 people of various ages from across the Island. She then meticulously studied the recordings, looking at accent, acoustics and phonology.

Her findings form the basis of her thesis on the subject that she recently completed for her MPhil qualification.

“I focused on older Bermudians during my field work as the first step in understanding dialect is capturing the strongest version of the dialect,” she told The Royal Gazette.

“Bermudian English is a very distinctive part of our history and our culture, and a product of it.

“I hope as part of my PhD to look more at the social meaning of our dialect and also the way dialect has changed and whether young Bermudians are speaking differently from the older generation.

“Our linguistic history is shrouded in mystery, but I hope to put Bermudian English on the map in the academic community at the same time as helping Bermudians to celebrate their dialect through collaborative projects, publications and cultural initiatives.”

The Bermuda Historical Society's education award will help Ms Hall continue to pursue her exploration of Bermuda's dialect as a PhD at Oxford University, which she hopes to complete in 2018.

The society's president, Andy Bermingham, said: “Rosemary Hall is a very deserving recipient of this award given the fascinating work she has done.

“We are very grateful to the corporation to be able to have this museum, and this award is part of our mission to encourage students to explore the county's history.”

Executive member Shirley Pearman, who is part of the committee that chooses the recipient of the biannual award, added: “Ms Hall's work will help enlighten people and we are very pleased to be a part of that.”

Talking our language: Student Rosemary Hall has been carrying out extensive research into 'Bermudian English' (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Shirley Pearman, of the Bermuda Historical Society, presents their education award to Rosemary Hall (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 05, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 05, 2015 at 3:36 pm)

Student researches our distinctive dialect

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