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The Kentish dialect is a dialect of English spoken in and around the county of Kent in southeast England. Kentish dialect combines many features of other speech patterns, particularly those of East Anglia, the Southern Counties and London.
There are audio examples available on the British Library website and BBC sources, As with many traditional dialects in England, the Kentish dialect has been receding in recent decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, the popular media discussed the spread of so-called Estuary English throughout Kent, as a London-based dialect that was replacing the traditional Kentish speech.
The dialect of Kent has had a greater influence on the modern language than many others. When William Caxton invented the printing press, he began the standardisation of the English language; the county had more than its fair share of presses. Consequently, many of the first books to be published were by Kentish writers, and this helped spread Kent dialectal words (e.g. 'abide', 'ruck') to the rest of the country. Printed books also helped standardise spellings; those of writers in the South East often became favoured, which is why the Kentish 'left' superseded other Middle English alternatives for the word, such as 'lift' and 'luft''.
Modern Kentish dialect shares many features with other areas of southeastern England, sometimes collectively called "Estuary English". Other characteristic features are more localised. For instance, some parts of Kent, particularly in the northwest of the county, share many features with broader Cockney.
Typical Kentish pronunciation features include the following:
The dialect varies from rural Rainham to industrial Gillingham, from that of the fishermen of Dungeness to the rural High Weald and Sevenoaks . The pattern of speech in some of Charles Dickens' books pertain to Kentish dialect, as the author lived at Higham was familiar with the mudflats near Rochester and created a comic character Sam Weller who spoke the local accent, principally Kentish but with strong London influences.
The area around Aylesham in Kent has a completely different dialect, as most of the residents of the area moved from other coalfields to work at the new collieries sunk in Kent during a period when employment in mining had been falling nationally. As the miners came from areas of Scotland, Wales, and Northern and Central England, the dialect in this area has many features from the districts that the miners migrated from.
The following are Kentish words and phrases that will be more familiar to English speakers elsewhere:
Kent Archaeological Society, online dictionary of the Kentish Dialect (378 pages)
Sidney Wood's page on Kentish dialect changes in the 19th and 20th centuries
Links to Charles Dickens and Kent: