Department of English

Current Projects

A new perspective on French Historical Phonology ― What loan words in Breton can tell us

Anders Jörgensen

The project will attempt to shed new light on the history of French. In spite of at least 150 years of research, there are still many unsolved problems in French language history. This is particularly pronounced for the “dark period”, roughly 400-1100 AD, when we have no or very few texts written in the vernacular (Latin remained the written language). Furthermore, it is typically difficult to obtain information about the non-literary dialects of French due the fact that they were usually not written down. However, there is a way of getting access to information about these matters. I will approach these problems from an unusual angle, namely by looking at the French loanwords in Breton. Breton is the Celtic language brought to north-western France by migrants from Cornwall and Devon in the 4th-6th century AD. The fact that Breton was spoken side by side with French resulted in massive linguistic influence from French to Breton. This extensive linguistic influence will also be studied from a theoretical point of view. I am specifically going to focus on the many hundreds of loanwords. These loanwords represent an untapped source of information about French at the time of borrowing. I will collect, analyze and date the many hundreds of French loanwords in Breton. This will ultimately provide us with a new perspective on the historical phonology of French.

This project is funded by the Swedish Research Council during the period 2015-2018.

Religion and identity in Ireland after the Union: The poet as interlocutor?

Niamh Ní Shiadhail

The significance of the function of the Irish-language poet as interlocutor and interpreter of contemporary events, as well as the importance of manuscript and literary culture to the maintenance of a Gaelic Catholic identity, is well-established to the end of the eighteenth-century. However, very few studies of nineteenth-century literature have been completed to date. Although no longer composed by a literary elite, this vernacular literature reflects the linguistic, social and political flux during this period.

This project seeks to investigate Irish-language poetic responses to three historical movements of the 1820s and 1830s, each of which heightened tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities at both local and national level: 1) the Second Reformation; 2) the campaign for Catholic Emancipation; 3) the Tithe Wars. In examining the poetic responses to these events, the study aims to better understand popular attitudes to these movements and how they moulded the poets’ perceptions of the identity of their own community and that of the ‘Other’. Beyond these initial aims, a study of this nature will also provide insights into the function of Irish-language poets and poetry in the nineteenth century; and into the importance of a bilingual print-script dialectic to the vibrancy of the literary tradition.