THE Dialects spoken by the rural communities in the counties of England are the foundations of the English language. A sound foundation is as necessary for a language as for a building, and though it may not have the finish and decoration of that which is subsequently built on it, it would be ungrateful to forget its existence, and unwise to overlook its importance. Of course these dialects have not remained absolutely in their original forms, though it is remarkable how little the old speech has changed in those districts whose remoteness has saved them from modern influences. Somerset is a large county and there are many variations of the dialect. The following remarks refer to the east central district, where from the southern slopes of Mendip to the south eastern boundary, and to the river Parrett in the west, there is a considerable measure of uniformity, and the old speech is less affected by pre-Saxon and post-Saxon influences. These observations refer to the county of Somerset, but in some respects they may be applicable to other counties. Their object is to rectify certain misconceptions and stimulate interest rather than to claim any technical qualities. There are sixty-nine words in the Lord's Prayer:sixty-four of them are Anglo-Saxon. The dialect of Somerset is Anglo-Saxon, and to give some idea of its origin it is necessary to take a brief survey of the early history of this part of the country. During the Roman occupation, Somerset was inhabited by two races, the Brythons and the Belg‘, generally spoken of collectively as the early Britons. These people were eventually conquered, though not exterminated, by the Saxons, who remained their masters until they, in turn, became the serfs under the Normans. It is generally agreed that the English language derives little from the Romans, in spite of the fact that their occupation lasted more than 300 years. In support of this theory, a Somerset man will always avoid using words of Latin origin if he possibly can, but when he does, he probably pronounces them wrongly and uses them in the wrong sense. If he wants to say an old man has kept all his faculties, he is quite likely to say 'He've a-kep all uz fallacies.' This doesn't mean that he is ignorant of his own language, but of a foreign one, affected by a comparatively small number of people who received their education in the monasteries. The introduction of words and phrases from other languages has not always improved our own, and it is often unnecessary. It is quite good to say, 'I bin looken out var'ee,' as 'I've been expecting you' (ex = out, specto = I look). Rural life and occupations change very little, and simple language is sufficient for simple needs. The Danes did not influence the language in Somerset very much, though recently a Danish word like plough may have superseded the older word zool. The Saxon invaders came over in clans, each clan speaking a separate dialect of the same language, and the county dialects still mark, roughly, the districts in which each settled. In Somerset they drove the British westwards, not all at once, but in stages, and this is why the dialect west of the Parrett has more Celtic in it. In eastern and central Somerset, the language became practically Anglo-Saxon, but in the west the process was gradual, and when after many years it was adopted, it was spoken with a Celtic accent. This is very marked in the Devonshire 'U'. The conquest was one of absorption rather than extermination, and a considerable number of British remained on the land as serfs under the Saxons. So we find many agricultural words in the dialect are Celtic, such as ted - to shake out hay, bastick - a basket, wo - command a horse to stop, fagot, matock, etc. This combined language is the Anglo-Saxon of Somerset. Much the same thing happened when the Normans came. Animals, while alive on the farms, were looked after by the Saxons, who continued to speak of them in their own language as cows, calves, sheep, swine, etc. When killed, the fresh meat was monopolized by the Normans who substituted their own names, b uf, veau, mouton, porc, and so it has remained, beef, veal, mutton, pork. There is one exception, the salted flesh of the pig, for which the Normans probably had no use, was the food of the serfs, and they called it bacon, from the Angl-Saxon becken - a beech tree, because the flesh of pigs fed on beech-mast is firm, and makes good bacon. The dialect is not, as some people suppose, English spoken in a slovenly and ignorant way. It is the remains of a language - the court language of King Alfred. Many words, thought to be wrongly pronounced by the countryman, are actually correct, and it is the accepted pronunciation which is wrong. English pronounces W-A-R-M worm, and W-O-R-M wyrm; in the dialect W-A-R-M is pronounced as it is spelt, Anglo-Saxon W-E-A-R-M. The Anglo- Saxon for worm is W-Y-R-M. Polite English pronounces W-A-S-P wosp; the Anglo-Saxon word is W- -P-S and a Somerset man still says WOPSE. The verb To Be is used in the old form, I be, Thee bist, He be, We be, Thee 'rt, They be. 'Had I known I wouldn't have gone', is 'If I'd a-know'd I 'ooden never a-went'; 'A' is the old way of denoting the past tense, and went is from the verb to wend (Anglo-Saxon wendan). Infinitives are often formed by the addition of y; 'I can thatch' is 'I d'thatchy'; 'I must go and milk' is 'I must milky'. When well spoken, the dialect is pleasant to listen to. It is well suited for expressing the subtle humour and simple philosophy of the lovable people who use it, and in whose minds and speech, treasures of the past which would otherwise be lost, are preserved.