Guide The Grammar of Irish English: Language in Hibernian Style

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Dik , Kallen, who in Kallen and , for example, provides detailed analyses of the HE systems of tense and aspect marking in the light of FG for further discussion, see especially Chapter 6 on HE perfects and on the use of do be as a habitual aspect marker. A third type of universals is those which have been claimed to pertain to the language acquisition process in general, and to second-language acquisition SLA in language contact situations, in particular. The latter originally set out to prove that differences between languages lead to significant learning difficulties.

Though it failed in this task, comparative research did manage to produce evidence which shows that, despite widely different language backgrounds, there is a certain degree of similarity in the types of errors made by learners. Since these similarities extend to both first- and secondlanguage acquisition, many researchers have argued that all language acquisition proceeds along a basically similar course. The succession of structures acquired by learners form a developmental sequence, which is largely similar across languages; typical errors committed by beginning learners are in this approach interpreted as developmental errors for more detailed discussion and references, see Odlin — As regards language contact situations, the ideas stemming from SLA studies have found particularly far-reaching applications in the study of creoles.

What has raised the question of possible universals in creole settings are the wellknown observations on structural similarities between creoles which are not genetically related and which have developed independently of each other in different parts of the world. These similarities include, e. Bickerton , Ch. In the context of HE, the SLA point of view has not yet been systematically pursued, but there are several features of HE grammar for which an explanation in terms of SLA universals is a possibility among others.

These include, for instance, the use of inversion in indirect questions see section 7. Despite the scant documentation of the grammar of HE dialects in this period, there has been little controversy about the basic historical facts surrounding the emergence of MedHE. Up till recently, the prevailing view has held that there is little if any continuity between these phases. His own conclusion, based on contemporary reports on the linguistic situation, is that MedHE continued to be one of the languages spoken among the Anglo-Irish population.

The Grammar Of Irish English Language In Hibernian Style - acbitamding.cf

Pending further research on the medieval sources it seems hard to pass conclusive judgment on the issue of continuity. What also hampers progress in this area is the sparseness of evidence from the early modern period as well. This is a problem we turn to next. This does not, however, change the fact that a second major phase in the introduction of English into Ireland began with the late sixteenth- and especially with the mid-seventeenthcentury plantations.

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Finally, despite his reservations concerning the extinction of MedHE, Kallen also endorses the broad division of the history of HE into the medieval and the modern phases. Though widely accepted, the standard account of the importance of the seventeenth century is not without its problems. Seventeenth-century roots are undoubtedly well documented as far as the phonology of HE dialects is concerned, but matters are not so straightforward in the domain of grammar. For example, Bliss himself draws attention to the earliest attestations of the various do be forms and the so-called after perfect in its present-day aspectual meaning in HE texts written about Bliss , ; see also Guilfoyle —6.

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This is confirmed by Kallen , who also notes the scarcity of other, now familiar, features in the early modern texts, including certain types of perfects. Facts like these lead one to consider the possibility that the most crucial period in the shaping-up of HE grammar, as we know it today, may be later than the seventeenth century. This will be further elaborated in the next section see also the discussion in sections 6.

Thomason and Kaufman In the Irish setting, this was without doubt the situation especially in the first half of the nineteenth century. As was noted in section 2. Bilingualism had, however, gradually started to spread, and after about the rate and intensity of language shift increased dramatically, leading to an almost complete transformation of the language situation by the end of the nineteenth century see the statististics in section 2. In the literature, the significance of the nineteenth century has been recognised, most notably, by P.

Henry Another writer concurring with this dating and terminology is Garvin, who states that Anglo-Irish owes its peculiarities to borrowings from the Irish language which took place mainly in the nineteenth century, when both Irish and English were in common use by a large proportion of the population. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the influence on HE grammar of the incipient bilingualism in the previous century. Thus, Guilfoyle, writing on the late emergence of periphrastic do as a marker of habitual aspect in HE, explains it by the rise of bilingualism in the eighteenth century Guilfoyle Further evidence of the importance of the post-seventeenth-century period, and especially of the nineteenth century, will be discussed in the subsequent chapters.

This includes data from texts written in the nineteenth century which show interesting variation in the use of, e. Adams ; Bliss, no date; Harris b. As Harris notes, the traditional criteria for dialect boundaries are based on vocabulary, vowel quality and the lexical distribution of phonemes. Harris himself proposes a more abstract typology, which focuses on differences in vowel quantity. Within southern HE, there do not appear to be equally well-defined subdivisions, and most researchers are content to point out a general division into rural and urban dialects.

Apart from this distinction, southern HE has been claimed to be relatively uniform by, e.

English in Ireland: Development and Varieties

Adams 56 , Barry and Bliss, who emphasises the homogeneity of southern HE as follows: […] perhaps the most remarkable feature of the present-day AngloIrish dialects is their relative uniformity. Yet in the three southern provinces, at least, there are fewer basic differences than one might expect. Bliss a—19 Bliss explains the uniformity in terms of the prevailing method of the transmission of English: In areas where Irish has been long lost, Irish influence is still strong, because English has been handed down from teacher to pupil in unbroken tradition since the days when Irish was still spoken; and in areas where Irish has only recently given place to English, the English used is very conservative, because the language of the teachers was itself conservative.

Bliss a The influence of Irish can be said to extend even into northern HE: Harris b notes that traces of it can be found to varying degrees in most types of northern HE, and particularly at the syntactic level.

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Besides the method of transmission, one can point out other factors which have contributed to the levelling of differences especially in southern HE. Thus Thomason and Kaufman mention the numerical strength of shifting speakers as a factor which explains why Irish-influenced English is spoken not only by descendants of Irish speakers but by descendants of English-speaking settlers.


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The sheer pressure of numbers, they suggest, may well have overridden the lack of any positive motive on the part of the English settlers for adopting the Irishinfluenced dialect of the indigenous population. Whatever the factors explaining the relative uniformity of especially southern HE dialects are, it is clear that possible differences at the grammatical level are best described as ones in degree rather than kind.

This is not to say that there are no qualitative grammatical differences between HE dialects; the discussion in the following chapters will reveal several such differences between the most Irish-influenced south western rural dialects, on the one hand, and the eastern dialects, and especially urban speech, on the other. However, generally speaking, we are here dealing with dialect continua rather than with discrete dialects, each with their own distinctive grammars.

What complicates matters even more is the significance attached to the choice of term by some scholars. Another scholar subscribing to the same terminology is Moylan An alleged advantage of this term over Anglo-Irish or Hiberno-English is its neutrality. It already has a certain tradition within the field of study and also seems established enough in the more general linguistic literature and international usage. The other terms, too, will occasionally appear in references to other studies, and of course, in citations from authors who use them.

In order to fulfil its objectives, this study is corpus-based, i. The primary data come from a tape-recorded corpus of present-day HE speech. The composition and nature of the material is described in section 4. The earlier stages of HE grammar are examined on the basis of a variety of sources, including manuscripts and literary or other texts depicting earlier forms of HE vernacular. The former consist mainly of letters written by Irish people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


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  4. An account of the early HE sources and their usefulness is given in section 4. Because of the often complicated nature of the issues relating to the origins of HE features, no single source is adequate to provide the evidence needed; therefore, I have had to compile, or make use of, databases or corpora representing other than Irish varieties of English. The earlier stages of English English form an important point of comparison, and for that purpose I have used the diachronic part of the machine-readable Helsinki Corpus of English Texts see section 4.

    Another essential aspect is the possible use of similar syntactic features in present-day British English BrE dialects. To complement the picture obtainable from the rather scant literature on this area, I have compiled machine-readable corpora and databases from some existing sources comprising a number of BrE dialects. These are described in detail in section 4. A third point of comparison is formed by the varieties of English spoken in the other Celtic lands, most notably in certain parts of Scotland and Wales.

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    Scots, Scottish English, and American English are examples of this category. This corpus represents four broadly defined varieties of southern HE: the rural dialects spoken in Counties Clare and Kerry in the south west of Ireland, the rural dialect of the eastern county of Wicklow, and the urban speech of Dublin City. Further description of the dialect areas is given in section 4. The corpus consists of openly recorded, yet fairly informal, interviews with 24 elderly persons: 6 from Clare, 5 from Kerry, 7 from Wicklow, and 6 from Dublin.

    All but three were males. The combined length of the recordings is some 20 hours, which amounts to a total of approximately , words of text excluding the contributions of the interviewers. The recordings were carried out in various stages in the late s and early s by several people, including myself, who was responsible for about 60 per cent of all the recordings and for all of the fieldwork in Kerry.

    This material was supplemented with two similar interviews conducted by a journalist working for R. The Dublin material was similarly supplemented with two interviews obtained from the same Department; they were collected in and by two persons working for the so-called Urban Folklore Project, organised by the DIF. See Appendix 1 for further details.

    In the interest of minimising the effect of various extra-linguistic factors, the level of education and social status of the informants were about the same. None had received any more than National School education. All informants from the rural areas worked, or had worked, most of their lives in the traditional profession of farming, including sheep- and horse-keeping, cattle-breeding, etc. One was a retired fisherman, having first started as a docker at the Dublin Port.

    The ages of the informants ranged from 50 to 95 years at the time of recording , but most were in their sixties or seventies. However, their parents or at least grandparents had all had Irish as their first language.

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    By contrast, the informants from Wicklow and Dublin had little or no knowledge of Irish; only the youngest of the six interviewees from Wicklow had studied it at school, whereas a few of the Dubliners had received some instruction in Irish. A more detailed description of the language situation in the areas investigated is given in section 4. The form of the interviews was relatively free.