2018 Plenary Talks

Karen Corrigan (Newcastle University)

“I don’t like feel that I would fit in in Lithuania anymore”: The linguistic identities of new speakers in Northern Ireland

2015 will be remembered as the year in which over one million people migrated to Europe, which witnessed a four-fold increase in immigrants. Northern Ireland (NI) – once synonymous with emigration – has not been immune from these seismic population shifts. Indeed, the region has experienced significant demographic and societal changes resulting not just from these unprecedented globalising migratory trends but also from the 1990s Peace Process (Devlin Trew 2013; NISRA 2014). This presentation explores the findings from the first project investigating the sociolinguistics of globalization and migration in NI both synchronically and diachronically (Blommaert 2010; Collins et al. 2009; Slembrouck 2011). The approach thus mirrors Hymes (1974: 77) since it is one that explores “linguistic phenomena from within the social, cultural, political and historical context of which they are part” (see Corrigan, forthcoming). It also describes impact initiatives that have drawn on this research as a means of promoting an appreciation for socio-cultural and linguistic ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec 2007, 2014) in a region which back in 2001 had a population that was 99.15% ‘White’ and in which ethnic divisions were strictly religious (Corrigan 2010; Hainsworth 1998; Irwin and Dunn 1997; Irwin et al. 2014; NISRA 2008; Ruane and Todd 2010).

Blommaert, J. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Collins, J., Slembrouck S. and Baynham, M. (eds.) 2009. Globalization and Language in Contact: Scale, Migration, and Communicative Practices. London: Continuum.

Corrigan, K.P. 2010. Irish English, Volume 1: Northern Ireland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Corrigan, K.P. [Forthcoming] Linguistic Communities Connected by Migratory Processes.Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Devlin Trew, J. 2013. Leaving the North: Migration and Memory, Northern Ireland, 1921-2011. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Hainsworth, P. (ed.) 1998. Divided Society: Ethnic Minorities and Racism in Northern Ireland. London: Pluto Press.

Hymes, D. 1974. Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Irwin, G. and Dunn, S. 1997. Ethnic Minorities in Northern Ireland. Coleraine: Centre for the Study of Conflict.

Irwin, J., McAreavey, R. and Murphy, N. 2014. The Economic and Social Mobility of Ethnic Minority Communities in Northern Ireland. http://www.migrationni.org/databasedocs/doc_3631974__economic_and_social_mobility_of_ethnic_minorities_ni-full.pdfLast accessed 20th February 2018.

Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency (NISRA). 2008. Population and Migration Estimates Northern Ireland 2007- Statistical Report. http://www.nisra.gov.uk. Last Accessed 20th February 2018.

Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency (NISRA) . 2014. Key Statistics Summary Report. http://www.nisra.gov.uk/census/2011/results/key-statistics.html. Last Accessed 20thFebruary 2018.

Ruane, J. and Todd, J. (eds.) 2010. Ethnicity and Religion. London: Routledge.

Slembrouck, S. 2011. ‘The sociolinguistics of globalization and migration’, in Johnstone, B., Kerswill, P. and Wodak, R. (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Sociolinguistics, 153-164. London: Sage.

Vertovec, S. 2007. ‘Super-diversity and its implications.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies 30(6): 1024-1054.

Vertovec, S. 2014. Super-Diversity. London and New York: Routledge.


Robert McColl Millar (University of Aberdeen)

Marginal Scots, past and present

Marginal can be analysed in a number of different ways. Some may feel that marginalindicates something or someone unimportant, someone or something who can easily be ignored. This paper analyses varieties of Scots which might be considered geographically or socially marginal, demonstrating how consideration of these varieties may help us to understand better the development and present state of ‘mainstream’ varieties.

The Northern and Insular Scots dialects will be examined as ongoing entities. A central irony will be considered: in terms of speaker numbers and intergenerational transfer these varieties are probably the ‘healthiest’ Scots dialects; their phonologies in particular demonstrate histories which are at least unusual in comparison with other varieties (with the exception, perhaps, of Ulster Scots). Some concentration will be given to the Black Isle dialects.

While Scots is not a ‘Celtic English’, some varieties of Scots exhibit considerable Gaelic influence. Varieties of this type are often produced in fiction, but other, often striking, evidence can be found in other sources. Another substratal influence, by its nature marginal, is considered: the dialects of the Scottish traveller communities. Employing in particular the writings of the late Stanley Robertson, the means by which contact has influenced these dialects, along with the effects a peripatetic life might have on language, will be investigated.


Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh (with Mark McConville, University of Glasgow)

‘Risk-free’ corpus planning for Scottish Gaelic? Collaborative development of basic grammatical norms for 21st century speakers

The 2013 ‘Dlùth is Inneach’ project involved a public consultation with Gaelic speakers across Scotland on ‘corpus planning’ for the language (i.e. standardisation and codification of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.). Some of the conclusions from this research were:

(a) The dominant language ideology amongst Gaelic speakers is ‘retrovernacular’, with younger speakers in particular wanting to acquire the rich traditional Gaelic still spoken by the last generation of Gaelic-dominant bilinguals born in the 1940s and 1950s.

(b) There is a pressing need for a comprehensive descriptive grammar of this traditional Gaelic, which will also prescribe and codify basic norms for 21st century users of the language.

(c) The development of these basic grammatical norms should be undertaken by an official body that has popular, scientific and political legitimacy, i.e. a collaboration between recognised ‘model’ traditional speakers, linguistic experts, and stakeholders from Gaelic education, broadcasting etc.

In response to these conclusions, Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the national Gaelic development board) established a Comataidh Comhairleachaidh Cànain (Language Advisory Committee) in 2015, consisting of six model traditional speakers each of whom has significant experience in some domain of Gaelic development. In order to support this body through a pilot phase, the Bòrd also funded the LEACAG project (Leasachadh Corpais na Gàidhlig – Gaelic Corpus Development). This project has been led by Glasgow University over the last two years, in collaboration with colleagues at Edinburgh University and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

One of the core aims of LEACAG has been to help the CCC codify some initial basic norms for Gaelic grammar. This work has involved four phases:

(1) consultation with professional users of Gaelic to identify the dozen or so aspects of usage which professional users think need particular attention

(2) consultation with traditional speakers living in strong Gaelic-speaking communities to establish their views and practices with respect to these aspects of usage

(3) research using Corpas na Gàidhlig to establish the way writers of Gaelic have approached these aspects of usage since 1950

(4) collating and filtering all of this evidence to codify some basic grammatical norms in collaboration with the CCC.

This talk will discuss the progress we have made on the collaborative codification of basic norms for Gaelic grammar. As we move forward into the ‘implementation’ phase of this corpus planning process, we hope that this collaborative approach, incorporating not just corpus research but also working directly with Gaelic professionals and traditional speakers, will allow us to achieve what Fishman (1991: ‘Reversing Language Shift’), termed ‘risk-free’ corpus planning which actively helps rather than hinders the revitalisation of the language.