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Oxford Dictionary Adds Bermudian Words & Pronunciation Model

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Words from Bermudian English have just been added to Oxford English Dictionary, and with an estimated 65,000 speakers, it becomes the “smallest national variety” to be represented in the dictionary.

Gombey, aceboy, acegirl, greeze and mug are among the new words added in their March 2021 update, and the word onion received a new description as being a “native or inhabitant of Bermuda.”

This appears to be largely due to efforts from Bermudian Dr Rosemary Hall, with her entry on the OED website stating, “Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working with the OED as a consultant on a set of new Bermudian English entries.

“While the addition of this batch of words is particularly exciting for me as a Bermudian, it is also a landmark moment for the OED and for World English enthusiasts. With an estimated 65,000 speakers, Bermudian English is the smallest national variety yet to be represented in the OED.”

“If you don’t know where Bermuda is, you’re not alone. Contrary to popular belief, it is not in the Caribbean, but around 1,000 miles away in the North Atlantic Ocean. Politically speaking, Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory, currently the oldest one remaining. Geographically, though, it is located much closer to the US mainland than to the UK.

“Bermuda’s location is probably one of the reasons why its dialect has been under-studied for so many years, even among scholars of lesser-known varieties of English. Linguists classify World Englishes into groups including the British Isles and the Americas and the Caribbean, and while Bermuda has links with both of these areas, it does not neatly fit into either category.

“While it’s true that Bermudian English shares a range of words and sounds with British, American, and Caribbean Englishes, it also has many unique features, meaning it’s probably most accurate to say that it’s a dialect in a category of its own.”

Dr Hall noted the “v-w interchange” saying the “sound in words like vex and when varies freely between [v], [w], and an intermediate sound,” and she also noted that “Well is a Bermudian word applied exclusively to food, meaning delicious.”

“It’s a delight to see Bermudian words and authors cited in the OED, and to see English from the perspective of this small island nation represented there for the first time,” Dr Hall said.

There were 1,400 words added overall to the Oxford English Dictionary with over a dozen of them classified as ‘Bermudian English” which has been given the acronym “BerE.”

Bermudian words added to the OED in the March 2021 update

  • aceboy, n.
  • acegirl, n.
  • Bermudian English, adj. and n.
  • chingas, int.
  • chopse, v.
  • chopsing, n.
  • go long, phrase in ‘long, adv.2
  • Gombey, n.
  • greeze, n.
  • gribble, adj.
  • mice, v.
  • mug, adj.2
  • Onion, n.
  • well, adj. and n.3
  • wrinch, v.2

The Oxford English Dictionary, also includes a very technical Pronunciation model, saying, “Many vowels in BerE are contextually conditioned, with one form before voiced consonants in monosyllabic words and stressed final syllables of polysyllabic words (hereafter VC) and another elsewhere (e.g. same-syllable voiceless consonants, nonfinal syllables of polysyllabic words; hereafter Vc).

“Some of these exhibit ‘southern Breaking’, a term employed by Wells (1982) to describe a pattern of some southern US English monophthongs having diphthongal variants in certain contexts. In BerE, KIT is Vc /ɪ/, VC /ɪjə/, but note the salient variant /iː/ before /ɡ, ŋ/ in Black Bermudian English (BBerE).”

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