Chapter published in:Keeping in Touch: Emigrant letters across the English-speaking world
Edited by Raymond Hickey
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics 10] 2019
‘Matt & Mrs Connor is with me now. They are only beginning to learn the work of the camp’
Irish emigrants writing from Argentina
The history of Ireland has been shaped by emigration. During the most intensive period of migration, many Irish travelled to North America, but considerable numbers were also destined for other parts of the world, including Latin America. During the nineteenth century, Argentina became one of the Latin-American destinations, with 40–45,000 Irish emigrants settling there (Murray 2004). Many of those settlers kept in touch with family and friends through letters that can now be studied for linguistic purposes. The letters, which are part of the Corpus of Irish English Correspondence, provide interesting insights into how Irish English (IrE) was preserved in a non-English speaking environment, sometimes for generations. The descendants of these settlers gradually switched to Spanish, and transfer features from Spanish are attested in the corpus.Taking a historical sociolinguistic perspective, this chapter analyses the presence of some IrE features in the correspondence produced by the Irish-Argentines, and it raises some issues in relation to how borrowing can be an indicator of the creation of new language identities in an post-colonial context. The chapter also draws attention to the value of emigrant letters for the study of language variation and change.
Keywords: Irish English, language contact, private correspondence, emigrant letters, Corpus of Irish Engish Correspondence, Irish emigration, Irish Argentines
Published online: 28 November 2019
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