LINGUIST List 11.1925

Wed Sep 13 2000

Sum: Irish Written English

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Geoffrey Sampson, Irish Written English

Message 1: Irish Written English

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 13:16:27 +0100
From: Geoffrey Sampson <>
Subject: Irish Written English

For Query: Linguist 11.1904

I am very grateful to half a dozen people who have responded to my query
about whether independent orthographic/usage norms for written English
had developed in the Irish Republic since political independence. The clear 
consensus was that they have not; that insofar as particular usage
standards are recognized or taught they remain standards emanating from
Britain -- though a couple of people mentioned that there might be less
awareness of such rules in Ireland, or greater willingness to deviate
because of "the freedom which comes of playing with something not one's
own". More than one respondent commented on seeing shop signs which
included apostrophes in plural nouns -- but there is nothing particularly
Irish there, the same thing happens in Britain and evidently in the USA too.
(Why the apostrophe is such a difficult punctuation mark to learn to use 
correctly is another issue!)

Some respondents asked, perhaps hopefully, whether I was working with
a corpus of Irish English. The answer is no; I am currently working with
the hundred-million-word British National Corpus, but this happens to
include a handful of texts originating from the Irish Republic. (I suspect this
was an error by the BNC compilers, since the BNC is intended to represent
the English of the UK.) One of the things we are doing is looking at
deviations from usage norms; I wanted to avoid counting things in the Irish
texts as that, if in fact the norms taught in Ireland are different.

For anyone who would like an electronic corpus of written Irish English,
one respondent mentions that Raymond Hickey of the University of Essen
( has recently produced one.

Prof. Geoffrey Sampson

School of Cognitive & Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, GB

tel. +44 1273 678525
fax +44 1273 671320
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