“Believe My Word Dear Father that You Can’t Pick Up Money Here as Quick as the People at Home Thinks It”: Exploring Migration Experiences in Irish Emigrants’ Letters

  • Nancy E. Avila-LedesmaEmail author
Original Paper


This paper aims to investigate the conceptualisation of migration experiences in the personal correspondence exchanged between Irish emigrants to the United States, Australia and New Zealand and their significant others in Ireland between 1840 and 1930. In doing so, the study proposes a corpus-pragmatic examination of the words land and situation in order to elucidate the various ways in which the concepts of migration, enhancement of social standing and belonging are linguistically and pragmatically constructed in epistolary discourse. Using the Word Sketch function on Sketch Engine corpus tool, the quantitative analysis involves examining the collocational behaviour of land and situation in both datasets. Secondly, a qualitative examination of the linguistic patterns is conducted in order to compare and contrast migration experiences in Australia/New Zealand and USA and ascertain the extend to which specific migration experiences influenced Irish emigrants’ emotional attitudes towards departure and life abroad. The collocational analyses of land(s) and situation(s) highlight two main themes in the Australian letters: (1) settlerism and the search for restoration of social status and (2) the role of letter writing as a means for sense-making. In contrast, the USA data unveils a contradictory and rather negative image of America that couples with an acute homesickness. Finally, the study discusses the pragmatic functions homesickness may have served to encourage or discourage emigration in rural Ireland.


Irish emigrants Letters Corpus pragmatics Migration experiences Land Situation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English PhilologyUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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