Zero suffix with the third-person singular of the simple present 
Anna-Liisa Vasko 2009c
This article aims to supplement the information given in Vasko (2010), which is a revised and extended version of Ojanen (1982).
The investigation of grammatical features in Ojanen (1982) was based on findings from interviews with 19 informants in 15 rural localities in Cambridgeshire. However, the data collected in Cambridgeshire in the 1970s and 1980s were considerably more extensive than the data investigated in Ojanen 1982.
The discussion of the non-expression of the third-person singular suffix in the simple present in this article is based on interviews with 44 speakers from 26 localities in southern Cambridgeshire. Additional evidence is drawn mainly from northern Cambridgeshire data, i.e. from the Isle of Ely sub-corpus of the Helsinki Corpus of British English Dialects, and from studies dealing with the expression and non-expression of the third-person singular suffix.
The absence of the third-person singular present-tense suffix (e.g. he know) in East Anglia is extensively documented (e.g. Trudgill 1995: 136-147; 1996b: 413, Nevalainen et al. 2001: 187-204, Britain 2001; 2002a: 615-616), and, according to Trudgill (2001a: 1), is probably the best-known morphological East Anglian dialect feature.
In his discussion of East Anglian English, Trudgill (2001a: 1, 6) presents a map (Map 1), based on the Survey of English Dialects (SED) data, which shows the extent of zero-marking on third-person present-tense verb forms.
Map 1. The area of the third-person singular zero. Map adapted from Trudgill’s Map 1 (Trudgill 2001a: 6), based on the SED material.
Trudgill notes that, of the localities investigated by the Survey, this feature is found in all of Suffolk, in north-eastern Essex, and in all of Norfolk except the Fens (cf. Wakelin 1972a: 119-120).  Trudgill (2001b: 180) further specifies that the records of the Survey show that the form occurs in four northern Essex localities, in all of the Suffolk localities, and in all of Norfolk except the westernmost, Fenland locality of Outwell. While Map 1 is based on Traditional Dialect speakers recorded in the 1950s, observations suggest that the geographical pattern demonstrated is also valid for the Modern Dialects of the 1990s (Trudgill 2001a: 1).
In another map based on the SED material, Trudgill (2001a: 10; Map 9) presents the areas of Linguistic East Anglia and the transition zone.  The transition zone was drawn on the basis of seven diagnostic features recorded in the SED material in the 1950s. One of these diagnostic features was the third-person singular -s suffix, which was used by speakers within the transition zone.
Map 2. The transition zone bordering East Anglia. Map adapted from Trudgill’s Map 9 (Trudgill 2001a: 10), based on the SED material.
According to Trudgill’s Map 9, East Anglia, from a linguistic perspective, consists of part of north-eastern Essex and all Norfolk and Suffolk apart from the Fens, whereas the transition zone bordering Linguistic East Anglia consists of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Fens plus most of the rest of Cambridgeshire, central Essex and a small area of north-eastern Hertfordshire. Thus, Cambridgeshire is not within the area of Linguistic East Anglia, but forms part of the transition zone. A closer look at the transition zone further reveals that, while practically all of southern Cambridgeshire is within the transition zone, most of northern Cambridgeshire (historically the Isle of Ely) is located outside this zone. On the basis of these two maps by Trudgill, one could draw two conclusions: in the 1950s, when the SED material was collected, (1) the area of the present-tense third-person singular zero suffix did not include Cambridgeshire (Map 1) and (2) the linguistic picture of southern Cambridgeshire differed from that of northern Cambridgeshire (Map 2; Trudgill’s Map 9).
In Elsworth (Map 3 below), the single locality representing southern Cambridgeshire in the SED, the third-person singular of the present tense of the verb occurs with the suffix -s. In Little Downham, the single locality representing northern Cambridgeshire in the SED, the verb is also attested with the suffix. This explains why Trudgill did not include Cambridgeshire in the area of the present-tense third-person singular zero suffix in his Map 1. However, these findings from Cambridgeshire in the Survey contrast with the findings in Ojanen (1982), in Vasko 2005 and in Vasko 2010 (22.214.171.124-126.96.36.199).
Here I will present further evidence of the third-person singular zero suffix in Cambridgeshire dialect speech. My primary goal is to show that the geographic distribution of the third-person singular zero suffix, which is considered a morphological feature typical of Norfolk and Suffolk, is larger than has previously been assumed. My material comes mainly from interviews with 44 speakers from 26 localities in southern Cambridgeshire. The material provided by 38 of these speakers comprises the Cambridgeshire sub-corpus of the Helsinki Corpus of British Dialects (HD). The HD is a collection of transcriptions of recordings of casual conversations, totalling some 1.1 million words, gathered in the 1970s and the 1980s by Finnish fieldworkers. Comparative evidence for the present study is drawn mainly from the Isle of Ely sub-corpus of the HD, which includes material from 52 speakers from 20 localities in northern Cambridgeshire (historically the Isle of Ely). For both sets of data, the speakers, male and female, were born between the late 19th and the early years of the 20th century. The speakers chosen were from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, as it is generally agreed by linguists that non-standard regional features occur most consistently in the speech of working-class people (e.g. Orton 1962; Trudgill 1974; Cheshire 1982: 6). For more information on the informants and details of the recording of the Cambridgeshire sub-corpus, see Vasko (2005: Appendix B ).
Map 3 shows the 26 localities in southern Cambridgeshire and 20 in northern Cambridgeshire (the Isle of Ely) in which the interviews were conducted. Numbers 28 (Elsworth) and 12 (Little Downham) were the localities visited by the SED fieldworkers.
Northern Cambridgeshire (the Isle of Ely)
3 Wisbech St. Mary
4 Wisbech Guyhirn
10 Purls Bridge
14 West Wickham
15 Shudy Camps
16 Castle Camps
22 Little Eversden
Map 3. Northern (the Isle of Ely) and southern Cambridgeshire with pre-1974 and post-1974 county boundaries.
The regions represented in the southern and northern Cambridgeshire sub-corpora are defined by pre-1974 county borders. The distinction between these two areas is now historical, since the county reorganisation of 1974 integrated Cambridgeshire, the Isle of Ely, Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough into the county known today as Cambridgeshire (British Isles GenWeb Cambridgeshire Genealogy. Extract from “Kelly’s Directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk 1929”).  The fieldwork for the Somerset sub-corpus of the Helsinki Corpus of British English Dialects was begun as early as 1969. The southern and northern Cambridgeshire fieldworkers decided to adhere to the pre-1974 county boundaries, although the fieldwork in Cambridgeshire was started later (in 1974), in order to allow easier comparison with the SED  and other earlier material, although the fieldworkers were aware that this might, to a certain extent, complicate comparisons with material which defined the area according to the post-1974 administrative boundaries (Vasko 2009: 1.2; Map 1.2).
Naturally, the definition of linguistic varieties along geographical lines and the use of the concept ‘dialect area’ are somewhat misleading. “Varieties are not tidily separated from each other, with one being spoken by a fixed, geographically identifiable group of people quite distinct from another group using another quite different set of speech-forms” (Kortmann & Upton 2004: 26). The geographical boundaries are fuzzy: a morphological difference between one place and another is usually a case of a change in the dominance of a particular structure, not the wholesale replacement of one structure by another. However, the arrangement of linguistic varieties according to geographical regions is convenient, since my purpose is to concentrate on a variety found in one particular region, i.e. Cambridgeshire.
The data from southern Cambridgeshire (henceforth C data) and northern Cambridgeshire (henceforth E data) are treated separately, in order to show more clearly the differences noted in the analysis. In the C data, a total of 469 third-person singular tokens in combination with 87 verbs was analysed. A locality-by-locality analysis showed that the third-person singular zero is a morphological feature which occurs throughout southern Cambridgeshire, although it is relatively infrequent (forming 29 % of 3rd-person singular cases). The usage is illustrated by examples such as:
Did you go and buy any of those sausages?
Oh, yes, we used to buy and do now.
Are they as good now?
Well, we got a nice butcher at Burwell, ** (the name is anonymised). He make- he make some good sausages. (Swaffham Prior)
I keep meself up and keep me daughter up = s- so she don’t have to buy none = and one o’ me grandsons what’s married. He live at Linton. (West Wickham CC)
Oh, Wednes- oh, oh, aye, I guess I- we got a baker come from that way, you see, come on- he come yesterday.
Comes from Willingham?
He come from Girton. Not very far, is it? (Lt. Eversden)
The coot = only set (i.e. StE sits)  straight. Don't go like that, does he? (Willingham SS)
(The name and initials in brackets refer to the locality and the informant, respectively.)  For more examples of the third-person zero suffix, see 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. The examples above also show the non-expression of the suffix in the first-person singular and third-person plural. In Cambridgeshire dialect speech in the 1970s (when the data for the present study were collected), a uniform zero paradigm (I live, you live, he live, etc.) of the simple present was a rule.
In addition to the present tense (used of an action or state at the moment of speaking, or of habitual action, or to express an occurrence in the near future), the zero variant is typical for vivid descriptions of past events.
A fellow come, just draw up that glass door and look through that, you know, them in ’em cla-, them three and four class. He see anybody a bit wrong, he just step in there. Treat them out (Willingham AT)
The examination of the C data further revealed that the zero variant was most frequent in a restricted area in the north-west and west (or in the south-west, if we consider southern and northern Cambridgeshire as one entity) and near the Suffolk and Essex borders. The attestations of the zero suffix in the north-west of southern Cambridgeshire are of interest, since this is an area which has other characteristics that are not shared with the rest of Cambridgeshire. One of these characteristics is the addition of the -s suffix to persons other than the third person singular (e.g. I goes).
It is unsurprising that we find the zero variant near the Suffolk border, since the zero suffix is typical of the Suffolk dialect, and contact with Suffolk speakers would be a natural linguistic explanation for the zero suffix in the east of Cambridgeshire. (For another explanation for the zero suffix in Cambridgeshire, see the discussion below.) The Suffolk zero is documented in various studies. For instance, in his description of ‘the popular East Anglian Dialect’ as it existed in 1780-1820, Forby (1970 : xl, 142) discusses the zero suffix in Suffolk (and Norfolk). In the late 1880s, Wright (1898 -1905) observes the zero suffix and illustrates the Suffolk usage with the example He open his mouth very wide about it (East Anglian Daily Times 1892). In a description of the Suffolk dialect of the 20th century, Claxton (1968: 12) states that the non-use of the third-person singular suffix is a characteristic of this dialect. Furthermore, Peitsara (e.g. 1996: 295) observes the zero suffix in Suffolk speech of the 1970s. The non-use of the suffix is also attested in the Suffolk subcorpus data of the Helsinki Corpus of British English Dialects. The usage can be illustrated with examples such as: He keep a newspaper shop, don’t deliver them (Kelsale HC) and What he do I don’t know. He = keep cows, I think (Saxmundham GM). 
The zero suffix in the region of Cambridgeshire bordering Essex might also be explained by contact with Essex speakers, since this structure is widely known as a traditional dialect feature of Essex (Trudgill 1996a, 1996b, 1998, 1999). Trudgill (1996b: 413) presents an example from Essex Ballads by Charles Benham (1960: 99-100): She look jest wholly be’tiful, she do. That fairly seem to set my heart a-fire. The records of The Survey of English Dialects from the 1950s (particularly replies to Question VI.14.14) also show the third-person singular zero suffix in northern Essex localities.
The third-person singular zero area does not reach as far as northern Cambridgeshire (historically the Isle of Ely) in Trudgill’s Map 1. Thus, the zero variant was not a characteristic of northern Cambridgeshire, according to the SED evidence from the 1950s. Evidence drawn from the northern Cambridgeshire (the Isle of Ely) data in the Helsinki Corpus of British English Dialects (HD), which was collected some twenty years later, confirms that the zero suffix is not typical of the speech of this area, although it is occasionally found, especially in the south of this area. Analysis further shows that the zero suffix occurs mostly in the interviews of the speakers who use both zero and the suffix in free variation, as illustrated by examples 6 and 7.
They come and see you pretty often, don’t they?
My cousin come from out the Fen further afield at up here, He comes around every day = like to see we’re all right (Lt. Downham)
So the boss, he- he come down, he comes down (Witchford EB) 
However, the data are too limited to allow any far-reaching conclusions. A total of 205 verbs were investigated, out of which only 19 were in the simple present. Of the total of 94 third-person singular tokens, only 14 were zero tokens. 
Although the data of the HD are relatively limited, especially with regard to northern Cambridgeshire (the E data), we can say that the geographical area of the zero suffix does not extend to the far north of Cambridgeshire. This finding is in accordance with those of David Britain in his research on Fenland English. Britain (2002a: 615-616) suggests that a cluster of dialect boundaries lie between King’s Lynn (in Norfolk) and Wisbech (in northern Cambridgeshire), including that of the third-person present tense -s, which is absent in King’s Lynn and present in Wisbech. Wisbech is located in the north-east corner of northern Cambridgeshire. Findings from the northern Cambridgeshire (E) data of the HD confirm that third-person singular present-tense marking is a morphological feature in Wisbech and in the villages nearby. The geographical distribution of the third-person singular suffix and the area where use and non-use of the suffix are in free variation are shown in Map 4.
Map 4. Third- person singular -s/-es suffix (blue) and area of variation between the -s/-es suffix and the zero suffix (green) in Cambridgeshire.
To explain the absence of the third-person singular -s from Cambridgeshire, we must look at the history of the suffix -s and the appearance of the zero form at an earlier stage of the language. The zero form has been a feature typical of East Anglian English since at least 1700 (Trudgill 2001b: 182). In Norwich, in Norfolk, the zero form of the third-person singular might have occurred even earlier. Trudgill’s (1996b, 1998, 2001b) research on East Anglian English suggests that this form was the result of language contact with refugees – speakers of Dutch and French – in Norwich in the 16th century. Trudgill (2001b: 183) further suggests that the form is a contact feature which developed as a result of the large number of these non-native speakers who failed to master the person-marking system of English verbs. Adult language contact is well known to lead to simplification and regularisation (Trudgill 1996b: 421), and the loss of -s is therefore not surprising. The success of the zero form was promoted by the circumstances: the refugees from the Low Countries arrived in Norwich at more or less the same time as the new -s form arrived from the North and Midlands; in the competition between the older -th form, the newer -(e)s form (which originated in the North and is first attested in the Northumbrian dialect in the 10th century (Nevalainen et al. 2001: 188)) and the zero form used by the non-native speakers, it was the typologically simpler zero form that was successful (Trudgill 1996b : 421; 2002: 142).
In Cambridgeshire speech of the 1970s, the third-person singular zero form may be a result of language contact with speakers from Norfolk and Suffolk. It is highly probable that the zero form spread from Norwich to the whole of Norfolk, and from Norfolk to Suffolk, where it has been in use at least since the late 18th century, according to Forby (1970: 142). In his History of Cambridgeshire, Conybeare (1906: 237) notes that in the 1750s there were weekly carriers from Cambridge to Norfolk (Lynn, Norwich and Yarmouth) and Suffolk (Bury St. Edmunds, Haverhill, Ipswich and Newmarket). Thus, in Cambridgeshire, the occurrence of the zero form in the third- person singular may be a result of contact with Norfolk and Suffolk speakers whose own language was marked with the zero form.
On the other hand, the zero form may have existed in Cambridgeshire before the 17th century (when it was introduced to Norwich, according to Trudgill). This early appearance of the zero form both in the North and in East Anglia might be explained by the presence of a large Scandinavian population in the Danelaw area (Kristensson 2001: 71-78).  Cambridgeshire  became part of the Danelaw area after the Treaty of Wedmore in 878, when the region was ceded to Danes. During the Danish occupation of the 9th century, there was military and political organisation in the Cambridge area. In the 11th century, Cambridge was burnt and Cambridgeshire was ravaged by Danes (Conybeare 1906: 59, 65, 77). Danish and Scandinavian influence in general is noted in various works. For instance, The Fenland Past and Present, a natural history of the Fenland by Miller & Skertchly (1878), includes a few pages on (supposed) Danish words in Fenland speech (89-91), as well as a list of words of Scandinavian origin occurring in the neighbouring counties, Lincolnshire and Norfolk (126-131). A History of the Fens by Day (1954) repeats the list of Danish words by Miller and Skertchly, adding ten more words and a number of place names. Thus, there might be another contact-based explanation for the emergence of the zero form in Cambridgeshire, namely contact with Danes and other Scandinavians.
The idea that the zero form might have appeared early in Cambridgeshire as a result of contact with Danish and other Scandinavian (e.g. Norwegian) settlers is supported by the geographically extensive distribution of the zero form outside Norfolk and Suffolk. According to Holmqvist (1922: 136), Wright (1905: 297) and Wakelin (1972: 119 -120), the regional distribution of the zero variant once covered far more ground than just East Anglia and the North. Wright asserts that the -s is “often dropped, especially in the South Midlands, eastern and southern dialects.” Wakelin notes that “uninflected forms are characteristic of the south-west (Somerset, Wiltshire, Cornwall, Dorset)” in addition to East Anglia.
The idea that, after its early appearance as a result of contact with Danish and other Scandinavian settlers in the area, the zero form was particularly successful in southern Cambridgeshire might be further supported by the fact that, before the drainage of the Fens (which began in the 17th century but was not completed until the 19th), Cambridgeshire was relatively isolated (Conybeare 1906: 252). In addition, the river Cam and the river Ouse have had a great effect, both socially and economically, on the history of the county of Cambridgeshire. Map 5 shows Cambridgeshire and the rivers Cam and Ouse.
Map 5. Cambridgeshire and the rivers Cam and Ouse.
In the 1970s, the flooding of both rivers was still recollected. For instance, a speaker from Willingham told the local interviewer:
Do you remember where that were = bursted once. You can’t see it now ‘cause since the flood they altered it (Int.: Mm.) … Well, that bursted there and … the river went there and finished up up agin Haddenham Engine. … He (refers to a researcher studying the history of Cambridgeshire) said that he got all this history = so-called way from Ely somewhere (Int.: Yes) and he said er = a hundred year ago (Int.: Mm) there were ten feet o’ water (Int.: Mm) on where you’re working now.
Conservative dialect norms are retained in socio-geographically isolated areas. Before the Fens were drained, the marshes, together with the flooding Cam and Ouse, prevented active inter-communication with other regions. This might explain the preservation of the linguistic tradition (though isolation by physical or social factors cannot be the only factor in such preservation), especially as the zero form is typical in a limited area in south-west Cambridgeshire (Cambridgeshire here including the Isle of Ely) which might be characterized as a relic area.
The use of the -s suffix in the far north of northern Cambridgeshire might reflect the survival of the originally northern -s suffix in this once very isolated fen area. The survival might also be partly due to the fact that the inhabitants had generally had connections with speakers in the regions north of their own area rather than to the south. Conybeare (1906: 237) describes the weekly connections to Northamptonshire (Kettering and Northampton) and Lincolnshire (Stamford) in the 1750s. The use of -s suffix is also attested in the area bordering northernmost Cambridgeshire. According to Britain (2001, 2002a), the -s suffix is a feature of Fenland English.
Although a more detailed discussion of the zero form and its ultimate origin must be left for further research on more extensive data, especially from northern Cambridgeshire, this study has extended our ideas of the geographical distribution of the zero suffix in the third-person singular of the simple present, showing that the form is present outside Norfolk and Suffolk, the counties usually presented as zero-suffix regions.
 In this article, I will present a revised and extended version of the first part of the paper entitled “Cambridgeshire Speech: Variation in a Transitional Area”, which I presented at The Thirteenth International Conference on Methods in Dialectology, Leeds, UK, 4-8 August 2008.
Wakelin (1972a: 119-120), basing his evidence on the SED material (for example, SED VI.14.14 she wears the breeches), observes that uninflected forms are characteristic of East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex) and some localities in the south-west (Somerset 13, Wiltshire 2, Cornwall 5/7, Dorset 1).
 Trudgill's Map 9 is based on Trudgill's Map 8, a composite map of seven diagnostic features that distinguish the area of East Anglian English from the Midlands.
 The original aim of the Finnish fieldworkers was to create a corpus consisting of enough continuous speech to provide material for the study of dialectal morphosyntax, and thus to supplement the Leeds Survey of English Dialects, which focuses mainly on phonological and lexical data (see http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/corpora/Dialects/history.html).
 The use of set instead of the StE sit is now considered dialectal or vulgar (OED, set v. 5 a). The verb set was attested as a dialectal form for sit in the SED material. In Cambridgeshire, it was attested in the imperative form se down (with or without the glottal stop between se and down, SED VIII.3.3).
 In the transcriptions of Cambridgeshire dialect speech (and in those of Suffolk speech) the following conventions are used:
= (the equals sign) indicates a break in speech that occurs where it is not expected, i.e. not at natural punctuation boundaries;
’ (an apostrophe) indicates the dropping of a word-initial syllable or sound (as in ’tatoes for potatoes, ’em for them), the dropping of a word-final sound (as in th’old for the old). In the transcriptions of Suffolk dialect speech an apostrophe also indicates the simplification of a word-final consonant cluster (as in stan’ for stand).
* The people referred to are anonymised by replacing their names with asterisks, one for each syllable of the name.
 The interviews for the Suffolk sub-corpus were transcribed by Kirsti Peitsara, University of Helsinki.
 The limited number of the third-person singular and zero tokens in the approximately 137,000-word corpus of northern Cambridgeshire speech reminds us of the necessity for large corpora when studying morphological and syntactic features. The relatively small number of third-person singular tokens in the northern Cambridgeshire data when compared with the approximately 240,000-word southern Cambridgeshire sub-corpus is only to be expected. In both sets of data, the limited number of zero tokens and the infrequent use of the simple present in general can further be explained by the type of the interviews. The interviews were free in form and the informants could choose the topics they pleased. They usually talked about events that happened in their youth or during their working life, and in narratives of past events it was natural to use constructions such as the simple past and the present and past perfect.
 In Britain’s studies, the data comprise recordings of casual conversations with residents of the fen Boroughs of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk in Norfolk, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire (based on the post-1974 county boundaries) and South Holland in Lincolnshire. The ages of the speakers fall into two groups: 45-65-year-olds and 15-30-year-olds. In addition, in the Archived Chatteris data speakers were born around the turn of the 20th century. All informants fall into the broad category of ‘working class’ (Britain 2002b: 26).
 The Danelaw is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the “Danes” held sway and superseded those of the Anglo-Saxons. The term is used with geographical meaning by modern historians. The areas that comprised the Danelaw were in northern and eastern England. The Danish laws held sway in the kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia and in the lands of the Five Boroughs of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln. The Kingdom of East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but later the Isle of Ely also became part of the kingdom. The boundaries of the region are vague, however. The Danelaw arose from the Viking expansion of the 9th century, although the term was not used to describe a geographic area until the 11th century (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danelaw). From 886 onwards, the Danelaw consisted of the area east of a line running roughly from Chester to London, and from 991 till 1016 England was under Danish rule (Crystal 2001: 25).
 Cambridgeshire is here taken to include the Isle of Ely, which became a division of Cambridgeshire as late as 1826.
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