The Empire Speaks Back: Northern Irish English as a Post-Colonial Dialect

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of English Literature,Language an

Abstract

There has been a resurgence of interest in English dialects within academia & outside it. The former is due to a greater focus on dialect within linguistic theory. It may also result from the wider availability of resources like: www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk & www.ncl.ac.uk/necte. Popular interest has been encouraged by BBC 'Voices' (www.bbc.co.uk/voices/) as well as a renewed political focus on the regions. There has also been pressure to recognise the validity of non-native (including post-colonial) Englishes & their literatures. The demands of these diverse audiences have been met by popular books, like Mc Bride (1993) & authoritative works such as Kortmann et al. (2004). However, in-depth, current research on specific regions in the British Isles remains rare. While the geographical/historical facts inducing dialect differences & the methodologies for investigating these are discussed at length in textbooks & journals, the former tend to concentrate on generalities & the latter on specific features. There is a lack of detailed, fieldwork-based, scholarly documentation of particular varieties. Hence, this project's main goal is to record/analyse the major dialects of Northern Irish-English (NIrE) & to situate these globally as well as within the context of other British Isles' Englishes. A secondary goal would be to use the research to raise awareness amongst non-academic audiences in Northern Ireland (NI) of their dialects' genesis/history & the impact of these issues on contemporary dialectal diversity across the region.
In addition to bringing my particular expertise to this project (see 'Publications List'), my rationale for focusing on NIrE is due to its uniqueness amongst non-Celtic British Isles' varieties. Like Welsh English, NIrE was initially learned as a second language. This scenario arose from the region's colonization by speakers of English/Scots dialects, beginning in the Middle Ages & reaching a peak during what is termed 'The Plantation Period' of Irish history. James I initiated this & he intended to 'plant' Protestants in Ulster to quell indigenous Irish rebellions. From 1605-1697, around 200,000 migrated from Scotland, continuing a tradition of migration between the regions that had already endured for generations (see Visual Evidence 1). The scheme also persuaded English settlers to colonize, hailing from urban centres like London as well as more rural areas like Norfolk. The greatest numbers by far, though, migrated from the NW Midlands. This intensive colonization process created the possibility that an innovative type of English could emerge. This new variety is characterized by: (i) novel forms; (ii) the incorporation of features drawn from the indigenous language & others caused by the mixing of Irish with the Scots/English dialects of the new settlers. Interestingly (and not uncommonly when migratory movements of these kinds arise), modern varieties of NIrE still retain this mixed heritage. Moreover, the colonization is preserved culturally in the region by ethnic divisions between the descendents of the migrant/indigene populations. Thus, Catholics celebrate events like 'St. Patrick's Day' while their Protestant neighbours commemorate 'The Glorious Twelfth' each July, celebrating the day in 1690 when King William III's Boyne victory ensured the ultimate success of the Plantation scheme. The linguistic consequences of this contact (including the correlation between language and ethnic identity in NI) are equally clear to the trained observer, though native speakers are less conscious of them. They permeate all aspects of the speech used within these communities (accent, grammar and vocabulary). Moreover, many of the features that are to be the focus of this project have travelled to regions that have been intensively settled post-colonization by NI migrants. Hence, this research will also have important implications for the study of transported dialects, which has recently become very topical.

Publications

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Description Regarding the particular research objectives originally planned for the book project to accompany this award (published as "Irish English, Volume 1: Northern Ireland" by Edinburgh University Press), I have made key contributions to our state of knowledge/understanding as summarised below:



oI provide a succinct & up-to-date account of the evolution of language in 21st century Northern Ireland that promotes an understanding of linguistic diversity in this region in the context of World Englishes.



oUsing a range of materials (including novel analyses of historical & recent census data). I present an overview of cultural/demographic/geographic aspects of NI's languages/dialects.



oI have drawn on a new database created especially for this project as well as on 19th/20th century data to offer an extensive, though accessible, description & analysis of the linguistic features that characterise these varieties.



oI have presented the first complete history of language in Ireland exclusively focusing on the North. It also pinpoints stability as well as current changes by examining dialect diversity across regional & social space.



oI have interrogated a variety of library/electronic resources to provide a critical, annotated bibliography.



oMoreover, the book focuses on a central question in the fields of dialectology/sociolinguistics in recent years, namely: "To what extent are features of English vernaculars like NIE/US either 'global' or 'local'?" My findings suggest (contra much previous research on NIE/US) that there is evidence of both forces operating.
Exploitation Route My secondary aim for the award, namely, providing KE events has also been fulfilled.



oI planned to disseminate the project findings to teachers/pupils in NI. At St. Brigid's secondary school, I provided 2 workshops, one of which focused on Chapter 4 of my Edinburgh University Press book (i.e. Irish place/personal names & dialect vocabulary) & a second which explored differences between the concepts 'dialect' & 'standard language' that drew on Chapters 2/3/4/5. I have had positive feedback on their impact from Mr Eamonn O'Hagan, the Acting Principal, who has reported that "pupils really enjoyed the workshops" & that the Head of English has "incorporated units of work focussing on accent/dialect based on the workshops into the CCEA programme for all Year 4 students."



oAt St. Anne's primary school, I provided a dialect heritage & identity/diversity workshop for pupils aged 8-9 & another for those aged 10-11. The class teachers (Ms. Clarke & Ms. Kennedy) have provided the following feedback: "These lessons proved to be an excellent introduction to our learning theme of diversity in the local & wider community (Strand 2 of the Personal Development & Mutual Understanding (PDMU) programme). Pupils thoroughly enjoyed the experience which was fun, age appropriate & a great catalyst to further learning in this area."



oI also agreed to deliver a keynote lecture at the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) which I did on 18/10/09. The lecture was very well attended by an audience of academics - largely outside my own discipline - as well as non-academics (see my response to 'Outcomes - Invitations to give keynote presentation'). As such, it fulfilled my objectives of engaging adult members of the wider public. Dr Brian Lambkin, Director of CMS, has noted in his most recent report to the Centre's Management Committee that: "The feedback received was extremely positive, both in respect of the subject matter & Professor Corrigan's clear and lively exposition, which made excellent use of maps, diagrams & audio materials."
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description The findings have informed scholarship in the field of Irish English studies and the research has been cited by others.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description "What's in a Dialect?" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A newspaper article.

A newspaper article in the "Irish News" written by Simon Doyle and describing the findings of "Irish-English, Volume 1" in terms suitable for the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description 'From Oral to Digital Culture: Applying IT to the Analysis and Preservation of Our Dialect Heritage' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Public Lecture at an Innovation Dublin Festival Event.

A Public Lecture at an Innovation Dublin Festival Event celebrating the launch of the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive, Newman House, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, November 12th, 2010.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description 'Historical Migration from Scotland and Northern England to Ulster: The Impact on Society and Language' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact A keynote lecture at the Ninth Literature of Irish Exile Autumn School

'Historical Migration from Scotland and Northern England to Ulster: The Impact on Society and Language', A Public Lecture at the Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh, October 18th, 2008.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description 'Irish Accents in Film' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact KE Event at St. Anne's Primary School. The talk sparked a lot of disucssion on the day and subsequently between the pupils and classroom teachers.

At St. Anne's, I provided a dialect heritage & identity/diversity workshop for pupils aged 8-9 & another for those aged 10-11. The class teachers (Ms. Clarke & Ms. Kennedy) have provided the following feedback: "These lessons proved to be an excellent introduction to our learning theme of diversity in the local & wider community (Strand 2 of the Personal Development & Mutual Understanding (PDMU) programme). Pupils thoroughly enjoyed the experience which was fun, age appropriate & a great catalyst to further learning in this area."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description 'You Say Fair Faa Ye And I Say Fáilte Romhat: Northern Irish English As A Language Contact Variety' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A Keynote at the Newcastle Postgraduate Conference

Paper reporting project findings to the Fifth Newcastle University Postgraduate Conference, 23rd March 2010.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description (1) 'What's in a Name?' (2) 'Dialect and Standard Language' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I provided 2 workshops, one of which focused on Chapter 4 of the "Irish-English, Volume 1", book and the other which focused on Chapters 1-3.

I ran 2 workshops focusing on findings from: "Irish-English, Volume 1":

(1) Place/personal names & dialect vocabulary)

(2) Differences between the concepts 'dialect' & 'standard language'.



I have had positive feedback on their impact from Mr Eamon
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Invitations to visit overseas HEIs: Awarded a Royal Irish Academy Fellowship to be undertaken at the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, UCD 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The fellowship permitted me to augment the research programme begun during the leave by exploring new methods for testing the major tool of syntactic theory, namely, the grammaticality judgment tasks analysed in Chapter 3 of the book. In particular, I advanced the research by testing the extent to which speakers in the Republic of Ireland have the same or different views with respect to key features thought to disambiguate the dialects of the Republic from those spoken in Northern Ireland. As part of the award, I supervised two doctoral researchers who assisted with the fieldwork & I provided them with training in best practices regarding the ethical collection/storage/analysis of dialect data. The award also included talks by them and me to a wide range of different postgraduate and academic audiences.

This visit involved training of postgraduate students at University College, Dublin. The most able of these also participated with me in a research project which was subsequently disseminated via a conference presentation and a chapter in an edited work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Sure It's All in the Way That We Speak 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact An article in the "Belfast Newsletter" on "Irish English Volume 1" by Darryl Armitage.

A newspaper article outlining the main findings of the "Irish English, Volume 1" monograph for a non-academic audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description The Empire Speaks Back: Northern Irish English as a Post-Colonial Variety 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A keynote lecture

This keynote lecture was delivered at the 'Ninth Literature of Irish Exile Autumn School' at the Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh on 18 October 2008 and was entitled "The Empire Speaks Back: Northern Irish English as a Post-Colonial Variety". It exp
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Variationist Corpora Online, University of Glasgow. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

I gave a paper on 'Confessions of a corpus creator: What I know now and wish I'd known then' at a Symposium on Variationist Corpora On-Line, University of Glasgow, 22nd-23rd May 2009. There were additional invitations to speak and write on this topic as a result of people hearign this one.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009