The next seminar in the Northumbria Institute of Humanities seminar series will take place on Wednesday 7th December at 4pm UK time online. The seminar will be delivered by Professor Karen Corrigan from Newcastle University. The talk is titled ‘ Old Letters from America and New Sounds from Europe: How Migration Reshapes the Linguistic Realities of Multilingual Societies’

All welcome! 

The talk will be taking place online. Email Rola Naeb for a link to join:

Title: Old Letters from America and New Sounds from Europe: How Migration Reshapes the Linguistic Realities of Multilingual Societies.

 McLaughlin (1994: 3) declared the island of Ireland historically to be an “emigrant nursery” on account of the extensive population movements from the region induced by colonization, famine and conflict from the 18th century onwards. The compulsion to emigrate had concomitant effects on the widespread language shift on the island from Irish to English since that was the majority language of the receiving countries (Corrigan 1992; Ihde 1994; Nolan 2020). Today, like much of the rest of Western Europe, the region has developed instead into an “immigration kindergarten” (Corrigan 2020: 119). 2015 will be remembered as the year in which over one million people migrated to Europe, representing a four-fold increase in the number of immigrants since the previous year. As a result, Northern Ireland (NI) (where this research focuses) has experienced significant demographic and societal changes resulting not just from these unprecedented globalising migratory trends but also from the dividends of the 1990s Peace Process. An important consequence is the degree to which the region has become ‘super-diverse’ in Vertovec’s (2007, 2014) terms. Although Northern Irish English is the main language of 95.4% of the population, Polish is now the second most widely spoken language (20,100 speakers) nudging Irish, the indigenous language, into fourth place (6,000) after Lithuanian (9,000) (2021 Census). This presentation explores the findings from the first project to investigate the sociolinguistics of globalization and migration in NI from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives (Collins et al. 2009; Blommaert 2010; Slembrouck 2011). The approach thus mirrors that of (Hymes 1974: 77) since it is one that explores “linguistic phenomena from within the social, cultural, political and historical context of which they are part.” 

It examines ethnographic interviews with immigrants (aged between 5 and 19 years old) from elsewhere in Europe and further afield. The recordings document attitudes to local community norms as well as the immigrants’ own linguistic repertoires and daily language practices. The experiences of these contemporary populations are then compared with the language ecologies (Haugen 1972) of Ulster emigrants captured in the Corpus of Irish English Correspondence (1750s-1920s) (McCafferty and Amador-Moreno 2012). They also experienced what it was like to enter a new community and be exposed to different ethnic, sociocultural and linguistic norms to the point where they sometimes considered themselves “turned American” (Corrigan 2020: 324). I will argue that there are points of synergy and divergence between both groups of ‘new speakers’ (O’Rourke and Pujolar 2015) that offer really valuable insights into the sociolinguistics of globalization and migration. 


Blommaert, J. 2010. The Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cambridge University Press. 

Collins, J., Slembrouck S. and Baynham, M. (eds.) 2009. Globalization and Language in Contact: Scale, Migration, and Communicative Practices. London: Continuum. 

Corrigan, K.P. 2020. Linguistic Communities and Migratory Processes: Newcomers Acquiring Sociolinguistic Variation in Northern Ireland. Berlin & New York: de Gruyter Mouton. 2 

Corrigan, K.P. 1992. “I gcuntas Dé múin Béarla do na leanbhain”: Eismirce agus an Ghaeilge sa naoú aois deag (“In the name of God teach the children English”: Emigration and the Irish language in the nineteenth century). In P. O’Sullivan (ed.), The Irish World Wide – Vol. 2: The Irish in the New Communities, 143–161. Leicester/New York: Leicester University Press & St. Martin’s Press. 

Haugen, E. 1972. The Ecology of Language. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Hymes, D. 1974. Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Ihde, T.W. 1993. The Irish Language in the United States. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey. 

McCafferty, K. and Amador-Moreno, C.P. 2012. ‘A corpus of Irish English Correspondence (CORIECOR): A tool for studying the history and evolution of Irish English.’ In B. Migge and Ní Chiosáin, M. (eds.), New Perspectives on Irish English, 265-288. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 

McLaughlin, J. 1994. Ireland: The Emigrant Nursery and the World Economy. Cork: Cork University Press. 

Nolan, B. 2020. Language and Identity amongst Irish Migrants in London, Philadelphia and San Francisco, 1850-1920. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh. 

Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency. 2022. Main Statistics for Northern Ireland Statistical Bulletin – Language, September 2022., accessed 20th November 2022. 

O’Rourke, B. and Pujolar, J. 2015. ‘New speakers and processes of new speakerness across time and space.’ Applied Linguistics Review 6(2): 145–150. 

Slembrouck, S. 2011. ‘The sociolinguistics of globalization and migration.’ In B. Johnstone, Kerswill, P. and Wodak, R. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Sociolinguistics, 153-164. London: Sage. 

Vertovec, S. 2007. ‘Super-diversity and its implications.’ Ethnic and Racial Studies 30(6): 1024- 1054. 

Vertovec, S. 2014. Super-Diversity. London and New York: Routledge. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s