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‘I Intend to Try Some Other Part of the Worald’: Evidence of Schwa-Epenthesis in the Historical Letters of Irish Emigrants

  • Persijn M. de Rijke
Chapter

Abstract

To date, Irish English (IrE) lacks a broad, diachronic and empirical investigation of its phonology, simply because the available material has been limited. In the Corpus of Irish English Correspondence (CORIECOR)—a collection of over 6000 texts written between the late 1600s and the early 1900s, most of which are Irish emigrant letters—many non-standard features of IrE phonology can be found. Today, schwa-epenthesis is a well-known feature of IrE, and occurs across the island in e.g. [ˈfɪləm] film and more regionally in clusters such as /rm/ and /rl/, e.g. [ˈfarəm] farm and [ˈgɛrəl] girl. Nevertheless, little evidence of epenthesis in past varieties of IrE has been presented. How common is epenthesis in CORIECOR, and does its phonological distribution differ from present day IrE?

In this paper, I examine spelling variation in CORIECOR that reveals evidence of epenthesis. By systematically and qualitatively assessing phonetic representation in letters written over a period of more than 200 years, I document possible clusters containing epenthesis, the most common words affected by the feature and the regional and diachronic development of this phonological process. This paper shows that epenthesis is well attested in the corpus and is found in a wide range of clusters (e.g. /wn/, /dr/, /ŋr/, /fl/, /rl/, /tr/, /nr/ and /rn/), but to a much lesser extent in clusters where it would be expected today.

Keywords

Epenthesis Irish English The Corpus of Irish English Correspondence CORIECOR Emigrant letters 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Persijn M. de Rijke
    • 1
  1. 1.The Norwegian Military AcademyOsloNorway

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