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They do be anxious about their speech: Performance and Perceptions of Authenticity in Irish-Newfoundland English

Keywords: Newfoundland , dialect , Newfoundland English , Ireland , Irish , Canada , Canadian English , British English , West Country , Catholic , Protestant , sectarianism , nationalism , diglossia , covert prestige , overt prestige , Republic of Doyle , lexicography , linguistic ndexing

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Newfoundland English presents current speakers with a dilemma. Canadian English functions as a prestige dialect, but Newfoundland English's 'considerable range of linguistic variation' (Clarke 2010, 16) makes covert/overt or standard/non-standard binaries unstable. Newfoundland's variety of dialects are one legacy of an ethno-linguistic sectarianism bound up in centuries-old debates about Newfoundland nationalism. Speakers may be criticized, by insiders or outsiders, in any number of ways–for having a dialect, for lacking a dialect, or for producing a dialect that is ‘wrong'. In short, the way a Newfoundlander speaks determines the speaker’s coordinates within a multi-dimensional space of difference. The comments Newfoundlanders make about other Newfoundlanders’ speech demonstrates that this process of placing is real, and that it rouses passion. In this paper, I will examine the perception of Newfoundland English as an Irish-derived dialect, and the ways ethno-linguistic Irishness has been employed to defend or critique Newfoundland's distinctiveness—or indeed, its nationhood.


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