The Celtic Englishes

The Celtic Englishes II - Reviews

The Celtic Englishes II - Englisch in den keltischen Ländern II, International Colloquium, Potsdam, September 23-27, 1998

Three years after the "pilot colloquium" The Celtic Englishes¹, linguists with a research interest in those varieties of English that co-exist(ed) with a Celtic language gathered again in Potsdam to discuss their work. Many participants of the pilot colloquium had returned, either as speakers or as discussants, and thus provided a certain continuity in the discussion. These "returnees" also pointed out a major difference between the two conferences. The first colloquium in 1995 had been intended to record the state of the art in the field, and accordingly focused on such fundamental and yet controversial questions as "Do Celtic Englishes really exist?" and "What is the proper terminology for dealing with these varieties?". By contrast, the participants of the 1998 'Celtic Englishes II' seemed to have accepted the concept ‘Celtic Englishes’ as such and simply got down to the business of describing and analysing the varieties in question.
Apart from this general unhampered approach, a regrettable reluctance to deal with theoretical matters was also noticeable. Although the organizer, Hildegard Tristram, had in her call for papers explicitly encouraged a discussion of possible theoretical models to be used in the description of the Celtic Englishes, only three papers with a theoretical focus were presented. Annette Sabban (Hildesheim) proposed a scalar model of diglossia for the Celtic Englishes, Markku Filppula (Joensuu, SF) pointed out weaknesses in the frequently-used ‘layer-cake’ or substratum model, and Andrea Sand (Freiburg) discussed the applicability of the concept of ‘hybridity’ as used within the context of post-colonial theory. No final verdict on the question of theoretical modelling could be reached. It appeared to be a question of minor importance for most researchers who prefer to pick out that which they consider suitable for their line of work and remain generally uninterested in larger theoretical issues.
A number of papers dealt with the Celtic influence on British English. Wolfgang Viereck (Bamberg) discussed early contact between Celtic and Germanic tribes in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, not only taking into account hydronyms and other linguistic evidence, but also haematological evidence which is used to identify settlement patterns. Gary D. German (Nantes, F) looked at 19th century attitudes towards the survival of Britons in Anglo-Saxon England. While it was commonly believed that the Germanic tribes completely ousted the Celts from England, recent research (e.g. by H. Härke) has shown that there must have been prolonged contact between Britons and Germanic invaders throughout England. This thesis is also the basis for Juhani Klemola’s (Leeds, GB) investigation into ‘The origins of the Northern Subject Rule: A case of early contact?’. He used such linguistic evidence as the Welsh-like traditional "sheep-scoring numerals" in support of historical and archeological data. Along similar lines, although on a purely linguistic basis, ran the argument of Erich Poppe and Ingo Mittendorf’s (Marburg) joint paper on ‘Celtic contacts of the English progressive’, which was based on a comparison of English with Middle Welsh data.
In the area of individual varieties of English with a Celtic substrate, it was Irish English that received most attention. Arndt Wigger (Wuppertal) explored the contact between English and Irish from a synchronic point of view, identifying contact-induced phenomena like code-switching and borrowing and their effect on the varieties spoken by bilinguals. With regard to the lexicon, Terence Patrick Dolan (Dublin, IR) reported on progress in ‘The compilation of a Dictionary of Hiberno-English’ and Liam Mac Mathúna (Dublin, IR) discussed the fate of Irish toponyms (i.e. retention, loan translation or replacement) during the language shifts between Irish and English. Both Raymond Hickey (Essen) and Astrid Fieß (Freiburg i.Br.) tackled the question of the Irish English aspect system. While Hickey approached the topic from a theoretical point of view, employing a speech act-based model of second-language acquisition, Fieß gave a detailed account of present perfect usage in her recordings of three generations of East Galway speakers. Karen P. Corrigan (Newcastle, GB) presented an in-depth study of so-called ‘small clauses’ with subordinating and in South Armagh English, the ‘Planter English’ spoken by English settlers in Northern Ireland, and Irish Gaelic. She showed that while the internal structure of these constructions is identical in both varieties of English, South Armagh English sides with Irish Gaelic in the assignment of possible subjects. Patricia Kelly (Dublin, IR) examined 17th century texts to gain insights in the early forms of English spoken in Ireland. She came to the conclusion that a kind of pidginized variety must have been spoken for a short period of time after the introduction of English and before the language shift from Irish to English was completed. Two papers dealt with overseas varieties of Irish English. Clemens Fritz (Landshut) analyzed the topicalization and some lexical items in the usage of Irish immigrants to Australia by drawing upon a large corpus of immigrant letters back to Ireland which cover a period from the 18th to the early 20th century. Michael Montgomery (Columbia, SC, USA), who unfortunately could not attend the colloquium himself and whose paper was read by section chair John Kirk, focused on the ‘Celtic element in American English’ and listed a number of morphosyntactic and lexical features, which could be traced back to a Celtic influence. His paper also stressed in conclusion the need for more detailed historical research to fully assess the Celtic contribution to American English.
The three remaining papers discussed other Celtic Englishes. Malcolm Williams (St.Maurice en Chalençon, F) studied the ‘Pragmatics of predicate fronting in Welsh English’, based on a corpus of talks and lectures given by John Edwards on Radio Wales as well as a questionnaire. He identified two different functions of predicate fronting: one typical for English-speakers in Wales; the other a calque from Welsh usually found in the speech of bilinguals. Robert Penhallurick (Swansea, GB) discussed the status of the variety of English spoken on the Gower Peninsula in Wales, an area with a long history of English usage. He concluded that dialect boundaries are difficult to draw and that the dynamic effects of language contact are not well represented by the ‘layer-cake-model’ of substrate and superstrate. Finally, Breesha Maddrell (Liverpool, GB) reported on the state of the ‘Recording Mann’ project at the University of Liverpool. George Broderick had predicted at the first Potsdam colloquium that Manx English would become extinct in the near future, following the demise of Manx Gaelic. The ‘Recording Mann’ project has set out to examine the vitality of this variety which is now in contact with other varieties of English such as Liverpool English or Northern Standard English, due to sociolinguistic changes on the island. The project uses a network approach to gain access to a representative sample of the population. It was reported that the recordings are well under way and one can expect the first results to appear soon.
It was not only the presentations of papers which made this colloquium a success, however. Rather, it was also the productive and insightful 30-minute discussions that followed them. Both participants and invited discussants made ample use of the generous time allotted for discussion and were able to reap the benefits which came from having feedback which contributed more than the usual ten minutes of polite questions.

Freiburg i.Br. Andrea Sand

¹See the report by Stephen Tranter in Anglistik 1996: 161-164.

(to be published in: Anglistik, ed. by Rüdiger Ahrens, Heidelberg 1999)


Edgar W. Schneider (Regensburg), Hildegard L.C. Tristram, ed. The Celtic Englishes II, in: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 50 (2002), 82-83.

Uwe Carls (Berlin), The Celtic Englishes II. Ed. Hildegard L. C. Tristram, Anglia. Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie 122 (2004), 295-297.


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