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Mummerset is a fictional English dialect supposedly spoken in a rustic English county of the same name.[1] Mummerset is used by actors to represent a stereotypical English West Country accent while not specifically referencing any particular county.[2]

The name is a portmanteau of mummer (an archaic term for a folk actor) and Somerset, a largely rural county.[2]

Mummerset draws on a mixture of characteristics of real dialects from the West Country, such as rhoticism, forward-shifted diphthongs, lengthened vowels, and the voicing of word-initial consonants that are voiceless in other English dialects. Word-initial "S" is replaced with "Z"; "F" is replaced with "V".[1] It also uses perceived dialect grammar, replacing instances of "am", "are" and "is" with "be". The sentence "I haven't seen him, that farmer, since Friday" could be parsed in Mummerset as "Oi ain't zeen 'im that be varmer since Vroiday".[1]

Some speakers of East Anglian English have objected to media portrayals of characters from that area speaking in "a strange kind of stage Mummerset", as in the TV adaptation of P.D. James' Adam Dalgliesh novel Devices and Desires.[3]

In literature[edit]

In Shakespeare's King Lear, Edgar speaks in Mummerset before he fights Oswald in Act IV, scene 6:[4][5]

Good gentleman, go your gait, and let poor volk pass. An ’chud ha’ bin

zwagger’d out of my life, ’t would not ha’bin zo long as ’tis by a vortnight. Nay, come not
near th’ old man; keep out, ’che vor ye, or Ise try whether your costard or my
ballow be the harder. ’Chill be plain with you.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Thomas Burns McArthur, ed. (2005). Concise Oxford companion to the English language. Roshan McArthur. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280637-6. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b "definition of Mummerset". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  3. ^ See for example "Television Diary: A broad question of a proper accent", The Stage and Television Today, 28 February 1991
  4. ^ Laurie E. Maguire (January 5, 1998). Textual Formations & Reformations. University of Delaware Press. p. 331. ISBN 9780874136555. Retrieved 13 Nov 2012.
  5. ^ Ulrike Altendorf and Dominic Watt (2004). Kortmann and Schneider; et al. (eds.). A Handbook of Varieties of English. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110175325. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  6. ^ "William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of King Lear. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14". Retrieved 6 November 2011.