AUTHOR(S): Hickey, Raymond
TITLE: Irish English
SUBTITLE: History and Present-Day Forms
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
Daniela Cesiri, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of
This book seeks to present an overview of the past and present evolution of
Irish English (henceforth, IrE). The author does not address any particular type
of audience, even though it is presumably meant to be read by professional
linguists as well as dialectologists.
The structure of this monograph reflects Hickey's aims, which are to give an
in-depth analysis of the linguistic characteristics and history of IrE. In the
first chapter (INTRODUCTION), in fact, Hickey starts with the presentation of
the aims which led him to write the book, what novelties it brings in the
already available studies concerning the variety, and proceeds by describing the
terminology used to refer to both IrE (in its past and present forms) and the
geographical areas where it was/is spoken, because of the well-known cultural
and political division(s) between the North and the South of Ireland. This
chapter includes also the description and explanation of some issues referring
to the 'identity of IrE' which is strictly linked to the history of the island
and its relationship with Great Britain both in cultural and sociolinguistic
terms, and which brought also the constructions of negative stereotypes attached
to the Irish population in the recent past. To this is strictly linked the final
part of the Introduction, since it describes the present-day attitudes towards
the variety and the lack of teaching/researching projects at an academic level
which is a symptom of a substantial indifference to its existence linked also to
the non-official recognition of IrE as a language of Ireland.
Chapter Two (HISTORY I: THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH) describes the historical
events lying behind the formation of IrE as a proper variety of English: the
'official' starting point has been fixed at the arrival of Anglo-Norman
conquerors in 1169, which started also the controversial relationship between
the Irish and the English populations. The historical overview goes on to
include subsequent periods of the Irish history until the nineteenth century,
but it highlights above all the development of the variety under the growing
control of the English language and culture. In its last section, the second
chapter deals in particular with some relic forms found until the late modern
period in the south-east baronies of Forth and Bargy and in the area of Fingal
(north of Dublin), in whose local dialects linguists have traced heavy
influences and Middle English traits as well as strong elements of Irish more
accentuated than in other areas.
Chapter Three (HISTORY II: THE SETTLEMENT OF ULSTER) continues the historical
outline, in this case with particular emphasis on the socio-cultural and
linguistic situation of Ulster after the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century
plantation and the major influx given by the Scottish and their language(s).
Moreover, the chapter provides the reader with a description of the differences
and the respective linguistic features of Ulster Scots and Ulster English, which
differ consistently from the IrE spoken in the remaining southern parts of Ireland.
Chapter Four (THE EMERGENCE OF IRISH ENGLISH) seeks to describe the linguistic
features of IrE, at the same time trying to explain their emergence as
distinctive attestations, considering the cases of language contact in which the
variety was involved throughout its history as well as considering other models
and interpretations emerged in the course of different studies, such as the
retention and convergence model, evidence for grammaticalization, and possible
phenomena of creolization, each of which has its own space reserved in different
sections of the chapter, and are all included in the 'prototype analysis'
provided by the author himself, who seeks to give a certain classification to
the most frequent attestations found in IrE. The fourth chapter is, then,
concluded by two sections dealing respectively with the presentation of 'Ireland
as a linguistic area' on the model of other officially-recognized linguistic
areas, such as for instance the Baltic area, the Balkans or northern Australia,
and 'the influence of English on Irish' in which Hickey considers the linguistic
influence that a long-term contact with the English language has brought into
the structure of Irish.
Chapter Five presents the characteristics shown by PRESENT-DAY IRISH ENGLISH.
First of all, it starts considering literary representations of the variety as
those found in some of Shakespeare's characters or in some works by Jonathan
Swift, as well as those presented in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century drama.
Then the chapter continues with two sections dedicated to the description of
vernacular and supraregional IrE which are in turn followed by on overview of
the IrE sound system, the IrE found in urban centers such as Belfast, Derry,
Colerain and Dublin, by a description of the IrE lexicon and of some pragmatics
issues recently emerged, such as pragmatic markers, consensuality or vernacular
issues. The conclusion sections of chapter five deal respectively with the issue
of IrE as a second language and with the language transported by Irish emigrants.
This latter topic is linked with the following, and final, Chapter Six
(TRANSPORTATION OVERSEAS). The first section of this chapter introduces some of
the transplanted features and their 'independent' development from the original
variety. The subsequent sections contain a description of the different features
found in each of the countries in which the Irish emigrated, namely Britain,
United States, Canada, The Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.
The monograph is finally concluded by the APPENDIXES section in which the author
provides the reader with a summarizing 'outline of Irish history', a 'history of
Irish English studies', 'extracts from the KILDARE POEMS', an example of the
dialect of Forth and Bargy, a glossary of relevant terms and a final section
containing maps of the areas mostly considered in the course of the book.
This monograph is not only the summary of many publications written by the
author on IrE, but also includes results drawn from other studies and which all
contribute to a more detailed knowledge of an until now under-studied variety of
the English language. Due to the limited length of a single monograph, it
obviously condenses the analysis of many topics and of the most controversial
issues which involve some IrE features, however, the consistent section of
references gives all the necessary indications for the scholar who wants or
needs to deepen certain questions or particular aspects of IrE, in both its
present and its past days. In particular, the book is recommendable for those
professional linguists or post-graduate students who first approach this
variety. The wide range of topics and features considered, in fact, makes it
particularly suitable for a first but at the same time comprehensive approach
to the study of IrE.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Daniela Cesiri has just completed a three-year Ph.D. course at the University of
Salento, Italy, with a thesis on linguistic and discursive features of
nineteenth-century Irish folk material contained in a corpus of her own
compilation. Her main research interests include corpus linguistics and its
practical applications to English historical linguistic studies, lexicology,
lexicography and historical dialectology with a particular focus on Irish
English and its linguistic, as well as socio-cultural, interrelations with other
varieties of the English language in the British Isles.