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Linguistic Change in Galway City English

A Variationist Sociolinguistic Study of (th) and (dh) in Urban Western Irish English

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Arne Peters

This volume is a novel approach to the corpus-based variationist sociolinguistic study of contemporary urban western Irish English. Based on qualitative data as well as on linguistic features extracted from the Corpus of Galway City Spoken English, this study approaches the major sociolinguistic characteristics of (th) and (dh) variability in Galway City English. It demonstrates the diverse local patterns of variability and change in the phonetic realisation of the dental fricatives and establishes a considerable degree of divergence from traditional accounts on Irish English. This volume suggests that the linguistic stratification of variants of (th) and (dh) in Galway correlates both with the social stratification of the city itself and with the stratification of speakers by social status, sex/gender and age group.
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6. Discussion and conclusions

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6.  Discussion and conclusions

This chapter concludes the study by summarising the results and by discussing them with a view to their broader significance. It also identifies the limitations of the present study and discusses how these limitations could be addressed in future research on Galway City English.

There is a stereotypical perception both amongst linguists and non-linguists that speakers of Irish English in the Republic of Ireland never have the standard fricative realisations for the variables (th, dh) in words such as them, then or think in vernacular speech. Instead, these speakers have been found to use dental and alveolar plosives, contributing to the widespread belief that fricative and plosive realisations of (th, dh) are mutually exclusive, meaning that speakers of Southern Irish English always have plosives where Standard British and Standard American English always have dental fricatives, unless the speakers make a conscious effort at using the standard. However, a pilot study conducted in the Bóthar Mór/Bohermore area of Galway City in 2008 (Peters 2012) yielded four generationally stratified working-class women who had solid shares of both fricative and plosive variants of (th, dh) in different speech styles, with younger women having more fricatives and older women having more plosives. This apparent mismatch between the traditional perception of (th, dh)-variation in Southern Irish English and the data from the pilot study, which gave rise to the notion of a possible change in progress, led to the extended analysis of (th, dh)...

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