English in Ireland: A complex case study

Tony Crowley

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 English in Ireland: A complex case study

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics


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This article investigates English in Ireland in order to identify the factors involved in the relationship between language and social change, based on the idea that a linguistic change is a social change and social change is always embedded in language. This unique example of linguistic and social change has been shaped by colonialism and the responses to it. Nevertheless, a discussion of the Irish case will allow for an assessment of the complexity of the linguistic situation in Ireland, as well as the identification of factors which may have a key role in other cases of linguistic change such as legal prescription and proscription, economics and cultural hegemony. The article examines Irish polyglossia, the Gaelicization of the invaders and the eclipse of the English language between 1200 and 1537, and policy and practice with respect to Anglicization in 1537–1800. It also looks at the demise of the Irish language and the consolidation, spread, and hegemony of English between 1800 and 1922.

Keywords: English; Ireland; Irish language; linguistic change; social change; colonialism; polyglossia; Anglicization

Article.  5076 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Cognitive Linguistics

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