Eye Dialect

I've just started a complete read of Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books and I have been fascinated by her usage of eye dialect. I'm amazed that I have never come across this linguistic term before, to describe the use of nonstandard spelling for speech, to draw attention to pronunciation. 

Eye dialect is the representation of regional or dialectal variations by spelling words in nonstandard ways, such as writing wuz for was and fella for fellow. This is also known as eye spelling. The term eye dialect was coined by linguist George P. Krapp in "The Psychology of Dialect Writing" (1926).

"...the spelling is merely a friendly nudge to the reader, a knowing look which establishes a sympathetic sense of superiority between the author and reader as contrasted with the humble speaker of dialect."
— George P. Krapp, The English Language in America (1925)

In Sayers' Whose Body? the author uses eye dialect to distinguish between characters of different classes and professions. Mr Thipps, or little Mr Thipps, as he is always referred to has a habit of dropping his aitches when confused and alarmed and using "reely" a lot. Lord Peter's social status, on the other hand, is made clear, by his habit of leaving the final g off a word: "interestin' what".

Once I started thinking about authors' use of eye dialect, I realised just how common it is in novels. Charles Dickens probably uses eye dialect more than any other writer. In Bleak House Jo, the crossing sweeper's use of language is made clear:

"...there wos other genlmen come down Tom-all-Alone's a-prayin, but they all mostly sed as the t'other wuns prayed wrong, and all mostly sounded as to be a-talking to theirselves, or a-passing blame on the t'others, and not a-talkin to us."

Enid Blyton was a mistress of eye dialect and PC Goon and his nephew Ern, in her Mystery books are a masterclass in its usage. Goon's endless use of his catch phrase "clear-orf" and Ern's "swatised" and love of "portry" are classic examples of eye dialect, as they give us clues to the social standing of different characters.

From the position of 2019, some aspects of eye dialect seem horribly archaic and snobby, but fascinating, in spite of this. I am now finding myself looking out for it, in everything I read!