Chapter published in:Keeping in Touch: Emigrant letters across the English-speaking world
Edited by Raymond Hickey
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics 10] 2019
‘[S]eas may divide and oceans roll between but Friends is Friends whatever intervene’
Emigrant letters in New Zealand
Present-day New Zealand English is a relatively homogenous, uniform variety with little regional variation (Gordon and Trudgill 2004: 448), but just over 150 years ago, various different English dialects could be heard in Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud. One of them was Irish English. The present chapter follows three Irish emigrants on their journey to New Zealand and looks at how their language changed over the span of several decades by looking at the letters they wrote to keep in touch with their families. Some of these letters show Māori loan words, or Australian/New Zealand colloquialisms, while other letters also indicate some morphosyntactic variation over the years. This small-scale study therefore contributes to investigations looking at individuals’ language change in the rise of colonial varieties of English, and it can provide evidence for theoretical frameworks of new-dialect formation (e.g. Trudgill 2004; Schneider 2003, 2007).
Keywords: Irish English, New Zealand English, new-dialect formation, language change, emigrant letters
Published online: 28 November 2019
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