Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Orality in Written Texts. Using Historical Corpora to Investigate Irish English 1700-1900

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Orality in Written Texts. Using Historical Corpora to Investigate Irish English 1700-1900

Article excerpt

Orality in Written Texts. Using Historical Corpora to Investigate Irish English 1700-1900.

Carolina P. Amador-Moreno

London: Routledge, 2019. 211 pp.

ISBN: 9781138902346

Any comprehensive study of a language requires deep insight into its structure and the paths and turns that the language has taken and which have conditioned the output we come across, both in its present state or in any, remains from the past. Far from being monolithic, a language owes its plurality among other factors to social contexts, regional boundaries, time, political constraints, and individual speakers along its history. Thus, the history of a language is the history of its varieties and subvarieties: a massive jigsaw puzzle where most of the pieces are missing and the extant ones are not always neat and clear. An attempt to reconstruct the past is essential in order to achieve a better understanding of the present, and the best historical linguists can do is to contribute by bringing out some of these extant pieces and shedding some light on them.

Orality in Written Texts. Using Historical Corpora to Investigate Irish English 1700-1900 is such a scholarly contribution, through which the oral language, one of the biggest gaps in the historical puzzle, can be dimly lit. This study is a snap shot that contributes to make up the incomplete picture. The general approach of the book shares some of the principles of micro-history, making everyday common events, such as private letters, the object of study. In doing so, the author, like micro-historians, holds a microscope rather than a telescope in her hands, bringing together elements of social, cultural and language history. Again, as in micro-history, the ultimate aim is to look for the answers to greater historical questions. In this work the author's contributes with some new pieces to the English language puzzle.

Corpus Linguistics is the methodological framework for the analysis, and it is mainly carried out using "A Corpus of Irish English Correspondence" (CORIECOR), currently being compiled by Carolina Amador-Moreno and Kevin McCafferty. The corpus consists of emigrant letters, mostly of a Northern Irish origin, from c. 1800 to 1900. The data extracted from this corpus are compared to those extracted from other corpora such as "The Corpus of Late Modern English Texts" (for British English) or the "Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing" (for Scottish English) among others. The focus of the study resides in structures that portray an oral component in the linguistic output of Irish emigrants in Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and UK, and some of their relatives and friends in Ireland.

The book is divided into seven sections, three of which treat the theoretical approach to the subject, three more, the corpus analysis, and the last one is a three-page section of concluding remarks. The introductory chapter sets the context for the analysis that will be carried out in the second part of the book. Here, the general aim of this study is established: to explore how written correspondence can provide evidence of how oral Irish English was used in the past and how speech-like features can be recorded in these writings. The analysis carried out is justified by an extensive and thorough theoretical background. The main focus falls on historical sociolinguistics, historical pragmatics, letter writing, and their application and processing through corpus linguistics.

The second chapter deals with other areas which are essential to carry out any sociolinguistic analysis: the historical context in which the letters were written is scrutinised and issues about Irish migration and its relation to education and literacy are discussed. Likewise, as another element of the matrix, the author addresses in this block the linguistic situation of Ireland and the relation of Irish English with Irish, its Celtic neighbour.

Chapter three focuses on assessing the role of letters for research into the history of a language as a complement of other more traditional research sources. …

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