There has been much recent discussion of the extent to which features occurring in English vernaculars are either ‘global’ and thus shared across varieties or else ‘local’ and therefore particularised to discrete communities of speakers (Coupland 2003; Filppula et al. 2008). Moreover, there is research which suggests that postcolonial varieties as well as other language contact types share a set of ‘vernacular universals’ (phonological/morphosyntactic features) with child language and other English dialects that have no recent history of colonisation (Chambers 2003: 242-250). This global/local dichotomy is addressed here by devoting less space to those features of Northern Irish English which are vernacular primitives (Chambers 2003: 242) than to those that seem more widespread socially in this region. The discussion is based on a wide range of sources. As well as transcribed interview data from a regionally and socially differentiated group of native speakers, the analyses also draw on: (i) material collected during participant observation over many years in Northern Ireland from speakers whose demographic characteristics are well-known to the author; (ii) Twentieth century Folklore Narratives from the National Folklore Collection (NFC) and (iii) Nineteenth century Emigrant Letters from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) archives.
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