AS tudy of Hiberno-English by 7ODBPL


									  By Kevin O'Shea (98652541) and Stephen Armstrong (99356520).

ACL2 Corpus Linguistics Assignment

The main aim of this study is to investigate some of the differences between present-day Hiberno-English
and British English. To do this we recorded several conversations between native Irish speakers and
transcribed their conversations. With the results we were able to pick certain phrases out of our corpus that
we thought were exclusive to Hiberno-English, and were able to see if any of these expressions occurred in
the BNC. The reason why we decided to record conversations between native Irish speakers, as opposed to
analyzing texts written by Irish authors, is because we feel that the language used by authors doesn't truly
reflect the language that the people of Ireland use everyday.
There are perhaps a few things that are important to stress here. Firstly Hiberno-English is a very particular
dialect in that unlike, say, American or Australian English, it is a dialect that is strongly influenced by
another language system: Irish. Many of the syntactic particularities of Hiberno-English (though not all)
come from a process of transposing directly from Irish. Other particularities come from the type of English
that the native Irish were exposed to by the planters who were lowland Scots and from the West Midlands.
Because the way Hiberno-English came about greatly depends on a number of historical factors, we have
found it necessary to a write a brief history of events coming up to and including the time when English
was first introduced to Ireland.

The corpora we used for this study

We used the whole of the BNC. We were also able to take out about five texts out of the BNC, which we
knew were either written by Irish authors or contained Irish speakers and could analyze these using
Wordsmith tools. As mentioned above, we created our own corpus (using a Dictaphone), which contained
various transcriptions of conversations from students in DCU who were from different parts of Ireland.

The history of English in Ireland

The battle for linguistic hegemony in Ireland dates all the way back to the 12th century, when the Normans
invaded the country. They took over most of the province of Leinster and parts of the provinces of Munster
and Ulster. This Norse invasion marked the first introduction of the English language into Ireland. Even
though the language of the Normans was Norman French, the majority of them spoke English. The
language of the native Irish at this time was Irish and because of this, the Normans found it very hard to

communicate without learning any Irish themselves. English gained a stronger hold than Norman French at
first but gradually Irish pushed it into steady decline.
Even if Irish had emerged triumphant after its first battle with the English language, the plantations of the
latter half of the 16th and of the 17th century resulted in the arrival of a many English settlers in Ireland. The
'Flight of the Earls' in 1607 and the failure of other rebellions led to an influx of English and Scottish
settlers throughout Ireland.
Another huge factor in the decline of the Irish language would have been caused by the effect that the
Famine had on the population of Ireland. Over 1 million natives died throughout these tragic years and
about 1 million emigrated. Also, because the English had practically taken over the control of the country's
educational system by 1831, the Irish language wasn't allowed to be taught in the National Schools.
Nowadays it is very seldom that you come across a native of Ireland that can speak fluent Irish. Even
though the government have made the study Irish compulsory in our schools, Irish doesn't seem to be
gaining any ground on the English that we speak everyday.
All in all, we think it was this mix of the English of the planters, the strong Irish element that already
existed and perhaps the 'Old English' that the Normans brought over, which contributed to the decline of
the Irish language as a whole and the emergence of what linguists now call Hiberno-English.

Our Hypothesis
We think that it was the mix of the English of the planters, the strong Irish element that already existed and
the 'Old English' that the Normans brought over, which contributed to the emergence of the dialect known
as Hiberno-English.

The main differences between Hiberno-English and British English

   As we discussed earlier, Hiberno-English (which we'll call HE from now on) is a particular dialect of
    English that is strongly influenced by the Irish language. English is a SVO language and Irish is a VSO
    language. Because HE has links to Irish, it makes it possible to say things like: "How are ya, says I",
    where the subject and verb are inverted. We checked this in the BNC using SARA and discovered that
    only five examples exist. These came from conversations, one involved a Belfast man, two involved
    Scottish men and the other two came from the North of England. These people may not all have been
    from Ireland but they come from the same areas as the planters, so maybe the planters might have
    brought back this phrase when they visited their home countries. In Scotland they also used to speak
    Gaelic but it was a different kind of Gaelic to ours. Like us they were invaded and now speak English.

    Therefore their dialect of English is like ours in some respects and because Scots Gaelic was also a
    VSO language, you can say things like, ‘How are ya, says I”.

   Also there is a construction that is literally translated from Irish: "I'm after spending all my money".
    With the Irish translation of this being: "Tá mé tar éis a chaitheamh mo chuid airgid". I would have
    never seen anything wrong with the English sentence structure here, but I was told by an English
    person that they didn't have a clue what it meant the first time they came to Ireland.
    Although we know this kind of structure is of Irish origin, we found it very difficult to look up using
    SARA. This is because we weren’t able to enter in something like: ’after’ followed by any verb. We
    did look up, using the phrase query option, ‘after going’ and ‘after spending’, but SARA didn’t return
    any results. Thus we can conclude that there are no examples of ‘after going’ or ‘after spending’ in the
    BNC, but there maybe examples of ‘after’ followed by a different verb in the BNC. The problem is
    that either, this software doesn’t allow us to look up ‘after’ followed by a verb, or we don’t know how
    to use the software to its full capabilities.

   In Ireland we use the verb: ‘to give out’. The meaning of this verb is hard to describe, it could mean ‘to
    tell off’ in some cases: ‘The teacher gave out to the student’, but it can also mean ‘to moan|to
    complain’: ‘The taxi drivers gave out about the deregulation of taxi plates’. Again we can see another
    example of a phrase coming from Irish into HE, as the direct Irish translation is ‘tabhairt amach’,
    which takes the same role as ‘to give out’ in HE. They both have the same semantics and both verbs
    can be used in exactly the same situations.
    We tried to look up ‘gave out’ as a phrase query in SARA, and we came up with a massive
    concordance. However, as far as we could see ‘gave out’ was being used in the literal sense, i.e. ‘The
    man gave out the books to the class’. We couldn’t find any examples of ‘gave out’ as it is used in HE.

   In our corpus containing the spoken data of Irish students, we see that instead of saying 'he says', the
    subjects are using the verb 'to go' instead of 'to say' i.e. "he goes to yer man". This seems to be a
    regular occurrence in spoken texts and we found that it is not exclusive just to Irish speech. We
    searched for ‘goes,’ and ‘goes.’ in the BNC using SARA and discovered about twenty occurrences.
    Most of these examples came from conversations, and a good few of these conversations involved
    Irish, Scottish, and North English people. Whereas we young, native Irish people would frequently use
    the verb ‘to go’ instead of ‘to say’, the BNC contains thousands of examples of ‘he says’ compared to
    only twenty examples of ‘he goes’. Thus we think that the BNC is insufficient for our study of HE, as
    it doesn’t contain enough examples of everyday speech.

   There is a pronoun system in HE. Some people distinguish between the second person singular and
    second person plural pronouns by saying ‘yous’ or ‘youse’ and ‘ye’. We checked this in the BNC using
    The occurrence of ‘youse’ was very limited, it only occurred 23 times in the whole BNC. When we
    checked the source of the occurrences we discovered that the place of publication had been in either
    Edinburgh or Glasgow. There was also a London source in the use of ‘youse’. In the queries from the
    London source we found an Irish connection. The names Rory and Mallachy occurred along with the
    use of ‘youse’, which hints at an Irish connection.
    We found similar results when we examined the occurrence of ‘yous’. Most of the material was from a
    spoken text, and was mostly spoken by Scottish and Irish people but also people from Midlands
    England or Northeast England. Also the majority of these people seemed to be from working class
    The occurrence of ‘ye’ was much more frequent than ‘youse’ and ‘yous’. There were too many
    occurrences to examine individually, but a brief analysis did reveal that the occurrence of ‘ye’ in a
    spoken context did originate with Scottish and Irish people and if it was not in a spoken context then it
    seemed to occur in an Irish context alongside Irish names like ‘Paddy’.
    These findings seem to support our hypothesis. We know from personal experience that the use of
    ‘youse’ or ‘yous’ is more frequent in Ulster, Dublin and Wexford than in other parts of Ireland. The
    Scottish influence in Ulster explains the use of ‘youse’ and ‘yous’ there. As for the Dublin and
    Wexford connection, Medieval English survived only in the English towns i.e. in Fingal (Co. Dublin)
    and the Baronies of Forth and Bargy (south-East Co. Wexford). Could the use of ‘youse’ and ‘yous’ be
    a throwback to this form of Medieval English?
    In the rest of Ireland people tend to use ‘ye’ more frequently. This is a form of the Old English, which
    would have been brought over by the Normans and is still used today by many Irish people.

   Our own corpus revealed that when talking about a woman Irish people tend to refer to her as ‘yer
    one’. Upon examination of this in the BNC we found that the people who used ‘yous’ also used the
    term ‘yer one’. This occurred in conversations between people from Midlands England and Northeast
    England. The people were named Raymond, Claire, Kate, and there were a couple of others involved
    too. They seemed to be people from working-class backgrounds, possibly of Irish descent? We found it
    interesting that this conversation cropped up twice in our analysis.
    Also when Irish people talk about a man they refer to him as ‘yer man’. We found three occurrences of
    this in the BNC, two in a spoken Scottish context and one from originating in London. Again we have
    a Scottish connection. We also found a few occurrences in the corpus we created.

   A major difference between HE and Standard English is the use of ‘usen’t’ in HE. ‘I usen’t do my
    homework in school’, as opposed to ‘I used not do my homework in school’ or ‘I didn’t used to do my
    homework in school’. There are no occurrences of ‘usen’t’ in the BNC, but as native HE speakers we
    know for a fact that it is used. Whereas there are occurrences of ‘used not’ and even more occurrences
    of ‘didn’t used to’. If a concise corpus of spoken HE was created then we are sure that there would be
    frequent occurrences of ‘usen’t’.

   Another phrase, which is particular to speakers of HE, is ‘do be’ or ‘does be’. ‘I do be washin’ me hair
    when he rings me’. This term ‘do be’ occurred once in the BNC by a speaker from Midlands England
    ‘does be’ did not occur at all. Again this supports our hypothesis i.e. the influence of planters from
    Britain on spoken HE.


We both found this assignment to be challenging yet very interesting. At the same time we feel that our
study is inconclusive, as we did not have enough HE based corpora. The corpora of supposed Irish origin
was written in Standard English. HE occurs mostly in the spoken form, as do most dialects of English, and
we only have access to a few spoken texts in the BNC.
It is very probable that Hiberno-English became a dialect of English due to the many political issues and
cultural changes in Ireland starting from the time the Norsemen invaded to the present day. There are loads
of different dialects of English in Ireland and it is almost impossible to describe each and every aspect of
HE. There are many phrases and words that we didn’t look up as there are simply too many.

Many words are literally homeless. They live in the careless richness of speech, but they rarely appear in
print. When they do, many readers are unable to understand them and have no dictionary where they can
discover their meanings. The language therefore lives freely and spontaneously as speech, but it lacks any
institutional existence and so is impoverished as a literary medium. It is a language without a lexicon.
(Paulin 1984: 186.)

You could spend your whole life studying the various aspects of HE and still not come to a valid


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