Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

A Corpus-Based Approach to Contemporary Irish Writing: Ross O'Carroll-Kelly's Use of like as a Discourse Marker

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

A Corpus-Based Approach to Contemporary Irish Writing: Ross O'Carroll-Kelly's Use of like as a Discourse Marker

Article excerpt


This paper analyses in quantitative and qualitative terms the representation of the discourse marker like in contemporary Irish English writing. A common feature of contemporary spoken English, the discourse marker like seems to have made its way into the English spoken in Ireland, as portrayed by contemporary Irish authors such as Paul Howard. Howard, whose narrative can be taken as an example of oral writing, has been acclaimed by critics as having an exceptionally fine ear for Dublin English, but what is this acclamation based on? The paper argues that the findings of corpus stylistics (comparative frequencies, distributions, etc.) document in a more systematic way what literary critics and readers may intuitively deduce. By analysing the syntactic and pragmatic behaviour of like in Howard's fictional discourse, this paper aims to show the value of the combination of computer methodology and literary interpretation in evaluating the representation of fictional dialect.


Irish English, dialect, discourse markers, like, stylistics, Irish writing.


Este artículo analiza en términos cuantitativos y cualitativos la representación del marcador del discurso like en la literatura irlandesa contemporánea. El marcador de discurso like, muy característico del inglés hablado en general, parece haberse abierto camino también en el inglés de Irlanda, tal y como recogen autores irlandeses contemporáneos como Paul Howard. Howard, cuya narrativa se puede tomar como ejemplo de escritura oral, ha sido aclamado por los críticos por su excepcional oído para retratar el inglés que se habla en Dublín. ¿Pero en qué se basa exactamente esta aclamación? Este trabajo sostiene que los resultados que aporta la estilística corpus (frecuencias comparativas, distribuciones, etc.) nos pueden servir para documentar de una manera más sistemática lo que los críticos literarios y los lectores pueden deducir intuitivamente. A través del análisis del comportamiento sintáctico y pragmático del marcador like en el discurso literario de Howard, este trabajo tiene como objetivo mostrar el valor de la combinación de métodos (estilísticos y computacionales) a la hora de evaluar la representación del dialecto ficticio.


El inglés de Irlanda, dialecto, marcadores del discurso, like, estilística, literatura irlandesa.


The study of texts has benefitted greatly from corpus linguistics through the development of a number of sophisticated linguistic and statistical techniques that provide the basis for empirical analyses (see Adolphs, 2006). Although the application of statistical analyses to the study of literary texts is not new (see for instance Halliday, 1971), the use of these techniques for literary analysis is becoming increasingly popular (Adolphs and Carter, 2002; Culpeper, 2002, 2009; Hori, 2004; Leech, 2008; Scott, 2006; Semino and Short, 2004; Stubbs, 2005). Sinclair's claim that computer-assisted analyses can offer a more objective view of language than that achieved by intuition alone (Sinclair, 2004) is indeed relevant for the study of literary texts, which has given rise to the growing field of study known as Corpus Stylistics (a discussion of the link between corpus linguistics and literary stylistics is offered in Mahlberg, 2007b). At their plenary address to the Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS) Conference in Nottingham in 2006, Stockwell and Wynne drew attention to the fact that, despite the pessimism with which it was initially received by some scholars, the general field of Corpus Stylistics satisfies the demand for empirical evidence, and allows for transparent and systematic means of interrogating literary critical positions (Stockwell and Wynne, 2006). Indeed, as Louw argues, any intuition readers, investigators or critics may have in relation to a particular creative text, "is either corroborated or revised by the evidence provided by the corpus" (Louw, 1997: 243). …

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